UKGovCamp is an unconference. There is no agenda, no keynote speaker and no pre-organised talks or workshops. The people who turn up decide the shape of the day. This post explains how this works and what help is available.

How we collectively decide

The only things we know in advance are that there will be:

  • 40 sessions during the day (5 parallel sessions of 45 minutes each in 8 different rooms)
  • a meeting for everyone at the start of the day to decide what will happen in each session

At the start of the day we’ll ask people to stand up and tell everyone what they’d like to talk about (known as ‘pitching’). We’ll ask people in the audience to indicate if they’re interested in each topic, so that we can estimate what size of room will be needed for each session.

The only rule about pitching is:

  • your pitch must last less than 30 seconds (the shorter the better, generally speaking)

Good pitches tend to:

  • be very short
  • contain 1 clear question or issue
  • be well rehearsed in advance

We’d like you to pitch a session

We’d like there to be a really diverse, interesting range of sessions. This makes UKGovCamp work for everyone.

If you want to talk about something other people will want to talk about it too. So step up and pitch.

Everyone has an equal right to pitch a session. There’s no hierarchy at UKGovCamp, it belongs to all of us. We make it work together. So please pitch even if you’re new to UKGovCamp or unconferences in general.

What happens in a session

Each session takes place in a meeting room. We have various sizes of room available.

There will be a table and chairs, and one of our volunteers will be there to take notes. The assumption is that everything happens in the open, so if you don’t want to be quoted in the notes please make sure you say that clearly.

We don’t provide any other equipment for sessions, so if you want post-it notes, flipcharts or anything else you need to bring those yourselves.

What makes a good session?

Each person will have their own ideas about what makes a good session. There are a few themes that tend to come out in discussions about this though.

Good sessions tend to:

  • have someone who introduces the session and gets things going
  • have a clearly defined scope / question(s) and some discipline about sticking to it
  • encourage discussion, with a chance for everyone to participate – they are not meant for product demonstrations, sales pitches, lectures, diatribes or monologues
  • include a few minutes at the end to close the session down, rather than just running out of steam / time
  • generate ideas for things people can do after camp

If you’re considering pitching a session and have things to say yourself, consider asking someone to act as facilitator. We’ll have a few volunteers on hand on the day who will be able to do this for you, and failing that your fellow govcampers may be willing to help.

What to do if you need some help

Need help thinking through your idea? Let us know if you want a chat about your pitch, or some help refining your ideas. We’re happy to help with a phone call or hangout in the runup to the event. Or ask people on Twitter using the #ukgcX hashtag and / or @UKGovCamp twitter handle. There’s also a Slack channel at govcamp.slack.com for people who are coming along (go to slack.gov.camp to get an invite). Our Facebook page is at www.facebook.com/ukgovcamp

Want to propose a session but don’t fancy pitching? If you have an idea for a session but don’t fancy standing up in front of everyone, then we have some volunteers on hand to pitch on your behalf. Let us know if you’d like some help either in advance or when you arrive.

How we’re going to help on the day

UKGovCamp isn’t just for extroverts and people who have been coming along for years – it’s for everyone who turns up and wants to take part.

We want to actively encourage people who haven’t pitched before and people who feel nervous doing so. We’re hoping that this post will help. We’re also planning to do a couple of things on the day.

1 pitch per person, at first: Some people are bursting with ideas. We don’t want to constrain anyone, but we do want to include as many people as possible. So pitchers will queue as usual, but we’re going to ask each person to pitch only 1 idea until everyone else has had a go. After that we’ll invite a second round of pitches. Sometimes we ask people to merge sessions if they are very similar and / or we’ve run out of slots, so we can cover as much as possible of what you want to talk about.

Help with pitching and facilitating: We’re going to have volunteers on hand who can pitch on your behalf if you feel nervous and volunteer facilitators to run sessions.

Let us know in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook if you think there are other things that make for a good pitch or a good session, or if there are other things you think we (or you) could do to help.

6 comments

  1. You can check out what happened at last years Govcamp, where the #ukgc16 session pitches were filmed https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jc7J6QIpbJQ

    Reply
  2. Great intro – thanks, Sarah, and your co-creators!

    For those that prefer a video to watch, you could try watching the first half hour or so of the excellent BlueLightCamp 2012: #blcamp . It was livestreamed by John Popham ( http://www.johnpopham.com ), and the recording is still available here: http://bambuser.com/v/2556394 and here: http://bambuser.com/v/2556451 . There are some well-known faces in the intros, there is mention of #UKGovCamp as inspiration and sponsor, and there is copious reference to cake!

    I’m working on a blog post (if it gets written and published I will provide a link in a subsequent comment) which gives a bit more detail, and indicates when in the 40 minutes or so of video the most informative bits are – but if you have time, and have never been to an unconference/govcamp before, I recommend these videos in their entirety – I found (rewatching today) that some of the pitches would still make pretty good sessions at #UKgcX, and also that some things have completely changed since 2012!

    Reply
  3. Comment from Jonathan Flowers

    It has in the past occurred to me that a way of overcoming the nervousness implicit in pitching would be a Twitter frenzy for 15 minutes on a specific hashtag – announced on the day – with a “pitch in one tweet” rule and the number of likes informing the size of the room! … Too introverted?

    Reply
  4. Ah, I can’t take the credit for this. This is the work of the lovely @janethughes a fellow #ukgcX organiser

    Reply

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