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How to Prepare for the Unconference Part of the #hcsmca Symposium

February 20, 2016

Are you ready for the National #hcsmca Symposium? What do you need to know? Start by reading How to Unconference #hcsmca Style.

Unconferences are events run by participants. Attendees submit topics, set the agenda, lead the sessions and create an environment of innovation and productive discussion.The unconference part of the day is divided into 4 parts (See the program):

  1. Building the Wall – Instructions & introducing the challenges & making new ones
  2. Discovering Solutions – Breakout sessions (50 min.)
  3. Consolidate & Formulate Your Ideas – Action plan (40 min)
  4. Solutions Exchange – Report back (2 minute presentations)

1. Building the Wall

This is where attendees set the agenda. On the wall there will be the 12 challenges that you submitted and voted for in the week leading up to the conference. There’s also room for more sessions. If there’s a burning question or challenge that you would like to lead, add a wildcard challenge on the day of the symposium. 

Principles of an unconference

  • If you submit a topic, you lead the discussion.
  • The people who show up to your session are the right people.
  • Whatever happens is what was meant to be.
  • The ideas put forward are the right ideas.

Law of two feet: Follow your interest. If you find yourself not learning or contributing at any time, move to a discussion where you can learn and contribute.

Once the sessions have been presented and wall is built, participants will go to their session locations.

2. Discovering Solutions

In this 50-minute session, the facilitator will

  • Ask you to introduce yourself with your name only
  • Elect a note take and timekeeper
  • Restate the session topic and what s/he hopes to get out of the session. Frame it in the form of a question to the group (1 minute)

Read more about facilitating an unconference session in this #hcsmca Symposium – Facilitator Quick Reference and 10 Tips for Unconference Facilitators.

The facilitator will keep the conversation moving and ensure that everyone has a chance to speak. Participants should “speak up and step back,” meaning share your idea and then let others speak. Be careful not to dominate the conversation.

Note taking is a key part of documenting the outputs of the symposium. If you’re elected to be the note taker, be creative. You can take notes on a flip chart, sticky notes or electronically in Google doc, Google Draw or other document-sharing application. Notes will be archived and shared publicly after the symposium.

Wrap up the session at 12:30. After lunch, you’ll return to your group to create the action plan.

3. The Action Plan

In this 40 minute session, your group will reconvene to set out a plan of action.

To help plan your next steps and prepare your report to present back to everyone, each group write a postcard to themselves. Imagine receiving this postcard sometime in the future (the group sets the date). Keep your action plan reasonable and doable.

  •  Where did we start?  (Describe the world as it is today)
  •  Where are we now? (Describe what it will be in the future.)
  •  How did we get here? (What happened? What steps did you take to get to the future state?
  •  Who led this effort? (What group/person/network led the charge?)

See this sample postcard to the future from an event from 2014.

Sample-Postcard to the future

Thank to Marlies van Dijk, RN, MSc to this sample and her unconference wisdom.

Choose a person from your group to report your action plan back to all the symposium attendees.

4. Solutions Exchange

With everyone back in the main room, each group has 2 minutes to present their action plan.

As Pat Rich said, this is #hcsmca’s not so hidden agenda. These action plans will usher #hcsmca into it’s next phase of social collaboration and innovation.

For the final word, Kathy Kastner shares what to expect at an unconference in 3 Cs.



3 Comments leave one →
  1. Michael Martineau permalink
    February 20, 2016 6:44 pm

    Best of luck. You will be in my thoughts. Wish I could be part of it.


    On Sat, 20 Feb 2016 at 15:16 Colleen Young wrote:

    > Colleen Young posted: “Are you ready for the National #hcsmca Symposium? > What do you need to know? Start by reading How to Unconference #hcsmca > Style. Unconferences are events run by participants. Attendees submit > topics, set the agenda, lead the sessions and create an environ” >



  1. 10 Tips for Unconference Facilitators | Colleen Young
  2. National #hcsmca Symposium Blog Roundup | Colleen Young

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