Unconference Basics — Step 5: Work On Where

“Where” Criteria

The location for an unconference depends on what type of event core team and participants want to have. Because this type of participant-driven event is all about conversations and not about one-to-many presentations, it typically works better to have smaller rooms than a traditional conference setting has, and having a lot of break-out areas for impromptu small group discussions is also helpful.

venue criteriaHere are primary criteria for the organizing team to evaluate and prioritize. Every unconference is slightly different, and gathering spaces vary widely. The core team has to make primary choices, then figure out which venues are available for the first-choice event date and the back-up date. My recommended top unconference format and venue criteria are:

  1. One-day event or two-day
  2. Number of participants expected or registration max
  3. Big main room and bunch of smaller breakout areas for sessions and social activities
  4. Internet access and WiFi
  5. Bathrooms and power outlets
  6. Venue total cost (in-kind sponsorship preferred!)
  7. Meals provided or participants leave to get food
  8. Parking, handicapped access, and public transportation
  9. 24/7 venue access
  10. “Camping” available at venue
  11. Tables, chairs, projectors, screens
  12. Creative space

Needs and Wants

Figure out what type of event you want to have, separate your venue criteria into Needs and Wants, then compare each of the venues (that are available on your primary and back-up dates) versus that Needs and Wants list.

unconference circle

Creative and informal spaces work best for unconferences

If several good venue choices are available, the best choice may be one whose owners are willing to provide the venue as an in-kind sponsorship. That solves a lot of problems, and if there are no significant drawbacks to venues offered gratis, I’d likely select an in-kind sponsored facility.

The other venue criteria I put high value on is the creativity and informality of the building. If I had a choice of an interesting old building with lots of rooms for small groups to meet in, I choose that one over most brick-and-glass corporate office buildings or hotel / conference centers.

conference center

Traditional conference center shouldn’t be first choice for your unconference venue

If you have several good choices, just pick the one that seems most likely to enable the most successful unconference for your type of group.

The next post in this unconference series will take a look at publicizing and promoting your event.

[In order to keep this post reasonably short, I just presented bullet point criteria for the unconference venue. I’m going to add another page to this blog for Unconference Basics, and will expand on each of the venue criteria on that page. When Unconference Basics page is available, I’ll link to it from this post. — BWaldron]


Posts in this “Unconference Basics” series:

Events Wrangling Basics For Unconferences
Unconference Basics — Step 2: Build Core Team To Get To Next Level
Unconference Basics — Step 3: Confirm Key Participants And Supporters
Unconference Basics — Step 4: Work On When
Unconference Basics — Step 5: Work On Where” — today’s post
Unconference Basics — Step 6: Start Publicizing
Unconference Basics — Step 7: Begin Personal Invitations
Unconference Basics — Step 8: Organize Equipment
Unconference Basics — Step 9: Organize Supplies
Unconference Basics — Step 10: Run The Unconference
Unconference Basics — Step 11: Follow-up After The Unconference


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