What is the Unconference and What’s in it for You?


You may be well versed on Unconferences, or it might sound like a buzzword that means absolutely nothing to you. 

We’re here to help. 

Even better, we’re hosting our first Unconference on 16 November as part of CTO Craft Con Winter 2022, and you’re invited. But before you panic about what to expect, here’s our guide to the Unconference so you’ll be fully prepared to join in November.

What is an Unconference?

In most cases, a conference is run by the organiser, who decides on the framework, for example, the theme, speakers, agenda, date, and location. The beauty of an unconference is that the tables turn and you as attendees make the important choices about the content. Others call it an open space, but the same principles occur regardless of the title. It’s an empowering event where attendees make the choices and drive the day

We select the date and times, and you suggest agenda items and topics in the shape of responses to a Call for Thoughts before the event. 

The first part of the Unconference will be Lightning Talks that come from those Call for Thoughts and the ones selected by the CTO Craft team for the schedule, and then we’ll move into a series of Roundtable events led by expert facilitators where you’ll have the chance to talk about a variety of subjects from the 3 days in greater depth and make new connections by networking at the same time.

It’s more open

Often conferences present a format of speakers and presentations where attendees listen and ask questions during set question and answer segments. However, the Roundtable discussions are open at Unconference, rather than being dominated by a single speaker. This way, everyone has the opportunity to speak and offer input and opinions.

In this respect, it’s a more informal setting, but it requires attendees to come armed with ideas and be prepared to speak up and interact with the group.

It also provides a unique opportunity to build leadership skills by hearing from – and networking with – industry experts alongside the collective experience and expertise of the CTO Craft Community.

What will the CTO Craft Unconference look like?

Our Unconference is an opportunity for you as attendees to share your perspective on what you’ve learnt during the conference, support your fellow Community members, and even give speaking a try in a low-stakes, fun environment.

There will be Lightning Talks curated from the Community, as well as Roundtables on a variety of topics, as well as other networking activities:

What is a Lightning Talk? 

After a brief introduction, we’ll kick off the Unconference Lightning Talks. Lightning Talks are punchy talks that focus on specific points.

The talks have a predetermined time limit. In our case, they will be 15-minutes with a 5-minute buffer before the next to take into account any Q&A and switch over for the next speaker.

The talks will be selected from a Call for Thoughts that will go live on Monday 7th November, one week before the opening of the conference. The CfT will be open until 18:00 on the second day of the conference, but we’ll remind you about this nearer the time.

Why should you host a Lightning Talk?

For leaders, Lightning Talks are a brilliant way to practice getting your point across in a short timeframe. They are a valuable tool to introduce new topics, share experience and expertise and sharpen your content and delivery.

If you have a talk topic idea that you think our Community would love to hear or you want to offer a counter viewpoint to something you’ve heard at the conference, then this is the opportunity. If you haven’t done a lot of speaking but would like to have a go in an accommodating and encouraging environment where others will support you, then this is your chance!

How to prepare for hosting a Lightning Talk

Know your subject! Whether you’re using slides or not, you need to plan the points you want to cover and know your title, main points and conclusion. If you can sum up your idea in one sentence, have it ready and be clear about your opinion and how you clearly focus on the key elements.

This quote helps to sum up the concept, “Think of this process as mapping the landmarks on a journey, focusing on the most important elements to guide your audience to their destination without getting lost along the way.”

We’ll give you more information closer to the event about how to submit a Call for Thoughts.

What if my Call for Thoughts isn’t accepted? 

On this occasion, we have limited space on the schedule. But don’t worry, we’re also looking forward to future conferences and your talk might be exactly what we’re looking for! If that’s the case, we’ll let you know and keep in contact ahead of our next event in May 2023 … 

And if you think your idea could be perfect for our CTO Craft Bytes or CTO Craft blog, just get in touch with us for a chat as we’d love to hear your ideas!

Our Unconference will be a great opportunity to turn an empty schedule into one that is relevant and informative. You’ll work collaboratively with the other attendees to decide on the topics. And this offers balance to our CTO Craft Conference as you’ll be able to break away from the realms of the traditional conference format and manage the agenda and content with your fellow Community members. 


Don’t miss our one-day Unconference and additional two-day CTO Craft Winter Conference from 14th – 16th November. Get your ticket here now!

If you or your CTO / technology lead would benefit from any of the services offered by the CTO Craft community, use the Contact Us button at the top or email us here and we’ll be in touch!

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