Topics: HRExaminer, John Sumser, More2Know, by John Sumser


Reactions and Highlights from #TRULondon3

TRU London

At the bottom of this piece, you’ll find a list of all of the memories and reflections published about the The PCRecruiter Unconference (TRU) London event held last week. (It’s a combination of several other lists but mostly Martin Couzins‘.) There are thirty seven (and arguably a couple of others). That’s one article for every five people who attended the event.

The material ranges from the marginally related commentary to the launch of a series of musings about the future. Lots of breathy reviews and a few powerful insights. For the most part, the extraordinary volume of material showcases the problem with social media and the unconference movement. Making room for a broad range of viewpoints creates an editorial problem. As interesting as each of the thirty seven pieces are, there is no reason that anyone should read them all. I’ve bolded my favorites but wouldn’t suggest that those posts give a comprehensive view.

The world is waiting for the best method to wade through multiple streams of similar content. My own obvious bet is the HRExaminer model which pairs a strong editorial voice with a curated selection of seasoned industry experts.

Just to qualify myself a bit, I’ve been around the unconference scene since the beginning. I helped with the planning and led a track at the first ever unconference in the industry in January, 2007. (Jeff Hunter gets the credit for pulling that together). By the summer of 2007, we’d begun delivering the Recruiting Roadshow, an unconference like event that we took around the United States (ten cities in 18 months). The downturn did the Recruiting Roadshow no favors. The idea evolved to Recruitfest in 2008 and 2009.

Since the 2009 Recruitfest, there’s been an explosion of small group centric events that you might consider unconferences. Without question, Bill Boorman and the TRU Events series are among the leading lights of the Talent Industry’s unconference scene.

Here are a few of the common difficulties of the unconference scene:

  • At its essence, the unconference scene celebrates the wisdom of the crowd. Experts are sidelined in favor of conversation managers.
  • The approach doesn’t always work very well. Conversations tend to drift to the lowest common denominator. They are apt to be hijacked by an Ali G clone who gets the rhythm of the conversation but not the content.
  • In a larger setting, the flaws of an unconference would be fatal. When Ali G’s twin sister repeatedly disrupts the track conversations, it’s nearly endearing. No more than 20 or 25 people are inconvenienced at any single point in time. If the rooms held 10 times as many people, there would be real havoc involved.
  • The ad hoc nature of session design is another one of the endearing features of an unconference that won’t scale. With decisions being made on a moment to moment basis, the very definition of being a track leader includes having thick skin. Your session may or may not happen as advertised or when advertised. Larger settings involve bigger egos and require more thorough planning.

In spite of these weaknesses, most of which create intimacy at the expense of size, the unconference movement is clearly focused on

  • A Democratic Conversation: Rank doesn’t merit respect in this setting. The distance between expert and non-expert is intentionally minimized
  • A Fluid Agenda: As the conference unfolds, ideas are spawned, new sessions invented and plans are thrown in the can. Spontaneity is the hallmark of an unconference.
  • Breaking the Facilities: Few places were designed for a conference that is a perpetual series of breakout sessions. Unconferences always have facility issues because they break new ground.
  • Discovery of New Facilities: From the re purposing of comedy clubs to the use of novel institutions, Unconferences are able to embrace offbeat facilities.
  • Room for new talent: Unconferences always feature people who couldn’t get an audience elsewhere. They are becoming the new career path.
  • Integration of Vendors: In these informal settings, much weight is given to participants with a clear world view. This favors vendors who are ghettoized in other settings.

From the outside, last week’s TRULondon conference must have looked like a swarm of bees in search of a queen. The crowd ebbed and flowed around a series of underground bunkers in the CIYT Hotel in Banglatown on London’s East side.

By day, Banglatown is a sea of Pan Asian eateries that stretches for many blocks. On weekend nights, it’s a rave scene. While i has the feel of the streets of New Delhi, the residents are generally third generation immigrants. The tiny bit of rough and tumble left in the neighborhood is all there for the tourists.

Somewhere between 120 and 200 HR, and Recruiting industry folks wedged themselves into the sub basement of the hotel in a windowless series of rooms and foyers. They consumed about 35 tracks of information from a cadre of presenters, experts, raconteurs and entrepreneurs. You could feel the passion (particularly when it was passing for real knowledge).

The tracks themselves ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime. At one end of the spectrum, old war-horses held court and opined the strong views of elders. At the other extreme were conversations that barely merited their allotted time led by the passionately uninformed.

This is what a marketplace of ideas looks like. The individual is respected and allowed to wade into the game. Boorman’s approach bears refinement but is headed in the right direction.

Here are the write ups:

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