Later this month and further into the summer Touch Design will be hitting the road again taking our conference stand to this year’s two gatherings of Commscamp. As this event is billed as an ‘unconference’ maybe we should say we are taking our ‘unstand’ as most features of a traditional conference do not apply as Commscamp follows the open space route. This of course is right up our street. As open space practitioners ourselves, having facilitated at many such events and with a future NHS trust staff engagement open space event being planned, we are very much at home with this more relaxed, creative and dynamic format.

What is an unconference? As the organisers of Commscamp explain: “It’s an event where the agenda is decided on the day by the attendees themselves. No more boring PowerPoint on subjects you’re not interested in…. If a traditional conference is someone saying ‘here’s the problem and how we did it’ then Commscamp is ‘here’s the problem, how do we tackle it?’ “

We are gold sponsors at this year’s two Commscamps – taking place in Manchester for the first time as #commscampnorth on April 27 and #commscamp running in Birmingham on July 14. We’ve been involved in helping support the events for several years now and it is a great honour and privilege to be able to link up with the good people who volunteer to put on the unconferences for public and voluntary sector communicators. The discussions are always interesting, some of the innovative new approaches being carried out are often worth learning from, and the ‘best cake’ award is certainly worth competing for and sampling. Our baking has never quite matched the Mary Berry standard but the quality of food at these events is often worth savouring – and that includes the traditional pre-event curry.

If you have tended to stick to ‘traditional’ conferences over the years we would urge you to give the unconference style a try. As sponsors it certainly seems that the NHS and local government communicators attending seem to get more out of it than the standard seminars and presentations that are generally served up. The one issue though is likely to be the difficulty of getting hold of tickets. Commscamp tickets tend to get snapped up as quick as the first day release of Glastonbury so do your research and planning and hopefully, if you haven’t got a ticket for this year, we’ll be able to see you there in 2018. Not many people remain unconvinced about unconferences after attending. The mixture of learning and sharing and offering your own advice and opinions can make formal conferences feel a little ‘one-way’ in comparison. Anyway, we love Commscamp and hope to catch up with all our old friends and make some great new contacts in Manchester and Birmingham very soon – see you there.

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