This page is continuously updated to reflect the latest developments.

2018 Highlights

What are some of the key facts about this year’s event?

  • 70+ attendees from 25 countries across 5 continents (see full list below)
  • Great mix of virtual facilitation skills and prior experience (expert, intermediate and newbie)
  • 5+ warm-up activities (Monday through Thursday, see session plan for details)
  • Unconference – you create the agenda! (Friday & Saturday)
  • Promising first list of potential unconference session topics
  • Regular rate ends October 18
  • IAF members get 30% off (check the member section of the IAF website to find the discount code)
  • Low-income options available
  • Register today!

More details below!

Background

What is the Online Facilitation Unconference (OFU)?

The Online Facilitation Unconference (OFU) is a learning exchange on the art and practice of facilitating in virtual environments. It is a community-driven event that brings together people from the public, private and non-profit sector from around the globe whose work includes, or who have an interest in, facilitating online.

OFU is a place to share, learn, make new connections – and have fun!

What is an unconference & how does it work?

OFU is an unconference. While traditional conferences come with a pre-determined schedule, an unconference allows the participants to create the agenda on the fly based on who shows up and what their interests are. In a nutshell, participants bring their questions and topic ideas and – in collaboration with their peers – suggest, schedule and host the sessions and workshops that meet their needs.

Unconferences require attendees to put in a bit of extra work, but the results can be magical.

How much time is involved as an attendee?

You can spend as much or as little time as you like. Based on past experience, the average participant tends to attend a handful of sessions over the course of the entire week. Sessions can vary in length but usually take anywhere between 45 and 90 minutes.

What do you mean by “virtual environments”?

“Virtual” refers to any process or experience that takes place outside a strictly in-person context. At OFU, we explore the methods for delivering facilitation using any tool, technology or channel that provides virtual venues, for example phone conferences, online chat, video conferencing, virtual reality, augmented or hybrid in-person processes and events.

Who’s organizing the event?

The event is run by the Center for Applied Community Engagement, LLC, a private institute and social enterprise based in San José, CA (USA) serving the growing professional field of community engagement and public participation practitioners from around the globe through market research, content publishing, industry events and other services.

What’s the history behind OFU?

In 2013, a group of people took this idea, which had been brewing for a while, and decided to run with it. Within a few short weeks, the first OFU was held.

In 2014 and 2015, OFU was organized by San José, CA-based digital engagement consultancy Intellitics, Inc.

In 2017, the Online Facilitation Unconference was moved under the ownership of the Center for Applied Community Engagement, LLC.

2018 will be the fifth event.

About the 2018 event

When does the event take place?

OFU 2018 will take place October 15–21, 2018 – once again alongside and as part of International Facilitation Week, which is being hosted by the International Association of Facilitators (IAF).

What’s the schedule?

More details will become available the week prior to the event, but here’s a rough overview of how the week will unfold.

From now through October 15, you are welcome to:

  • Read this FAQ page to learn more about the event
  • Tune into the conversation on social media (see links below)
  • Think about topics you’d like to cover (either as a knowledge sharer, or knowledge seeker, or both)
  • Tell your friends and colleagues
  • Find out what areas of interest registrants have on their mind (sign up for our newsletter, and we’ll tell you)
  • Register for the event

Early in the week of October 15-21 (Tuesday through Thursday), you will have an opportunity to:

  • Attend one of several welcome mixers to get any questions answered, meet a first few of your fellow participants etc. (see session plan for details)
  • Join the online forum to introduce yourself, meet fellow participants, and discuss session topics
  • Attend one or more pre-scheduled warm-up sessions to help get your creative juices flowing (see session plan for details)
  • Add your sessions to the schedule

Later in the week of October 15-21 (Friday and Saturday), we hope you will:

  • Attend the unconference sessions
  • Add more sessions to the schedule (hey, it’s an unconference)

After the week is over, you can:

  • Explore on the session notes
  • Add your own notes and materials to the website
  • Read the conference report
  • Share your feedback and ideas for OFU 2019

We will announce specific times or windows for most of these activities shortly so you can plan ahead. Thank you for your patience!

Are all the sessions delivered in real time? Can I dip in and out or catch up later?

Yes, all sessions tend to be offered live (via some synchronous form of communication, e.g., Zoom, WebEx or the like). In theory, sessions could also be run as an asynchronous conversation (e.g., on the online forum we will set up), though not sure if we have seen too many of those in the past.

We encourage all session hosts to record their sessions and make them available afterwards. However, some sessions won’t get recorded due to various reasons (e.g., because they contain sensitive conversations). In that case, we encourage hosts to at least share a brief write-up or any other notes or materials they can make available that would give others an idea what was covered and help them explore the topic on their own.

Based on our experience, the average unconference attendee will make it to a handful of sessions. We will try our best this year to get participants to

a)  populate the unconference session plan as early in the week as possible, and

b)  stick to the recommended session windows

so as to make it more likely for more participants to be available for more sessions.

Tickets

How much do tickets cost?

A regular ticket costs $49. Our early bird rate is $29 (good September 24 through October 10).

Students, retirees and other low-income people can attend for only $15.

For everyone else, including people from developing countries, we offer a “pay what you wish” option. We strive to be inclusive and don’t want anyone to miss out on the event due to cost burden. As of October 12, roughly 5% of our registrants have taken advantage of this opportunity, and we are excited to have you all!

Members of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) receive a 30% discount. Please check the member section of the IAF website for details (login required).

How do I register?

Please go to our Eventbrite page to purchase your ticket.

Intended audience

Who should attend?

Anyone with an interest in facilitating in virtual environments is invited to join.

Do I have to be a professional facilitator in order to attend?

No.

While a good number of our attendees do facilitation for a living, many others come from other backgrounds and perform the functions of convener and facilitator as part of their regular job or event outside their day-to-day work.

Do I have to have prior experience with virtual facilitation or technology?

No.

Whether you are a complete newbie or already and expert – anyone with an interest in online or virtual facilitation is welcome.

In the past, OFU has always attracted a broad range of expertise levels (beginner, intermediate, expert, and everything in between). Thanks to the unconference format, everyone can contribute to the best of their capabilities!

Who are the attendees?

The people who show up at OFU wear many hats. Here are just a few of the job titles we saw at OFU 2017 (in alphabetical order):

  • CEO
  • Coach
  • Collaboration engineer
  • Community organizer
  • Community strategist
  • Consultant
  • Director
  • Facilitator
  • Founder
  • Head of school
  • Independent scholar
  • Organizer
  • Planner
  • Program analyst
  • Program coordinator
  • Senior product manager
  • Trainer
Where are attendees from?

Every OFU event to date has drawn an international audience. In 2017, we brought together 125+ attendees from more than 30 countries from all around the world.

This year is shaping up to be no different. As of September 22, we expect to welcome participants from the following countries (nationality and/or current place or residence):

  • Australia
  • Bangladesh
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • Dominican Republic
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • India
  • Italy
  • Malaysia
  • Mexico
  • Netherlands
  • Portugal
  • Russia
  • Singapore
  • South Africa
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Thailand
  • Turkey
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

Format, agenda & schedule

What is an unconference?

Unconferences are events run by participants. Attendees set the agenda for what’s discussed, lead the sessions and workshops that fill the schedule, and create an environment of innovation and productive discussion.

We’ll provide a online place for collecting notes and report backs from all sessions. Every session should have at least one notetaker assigned at the start of the session. That way, everyone can benefit from the conversation.

What is the agenda for the week?

A handful of introductory sessions will be scheduled ahead of time. These will take place earlier in the week (most likely Tuesday through Thursday).

The unconference portion of the event will take place Friday and Saturday.

The agenda for the unconference will emerge based on who shows up and what interests they bring to the table. We will provide an online venue where attendees can suggest potential topics, find collaborators, negotiate session times and add them to the schedule.

Who can propose session topics?

Anyone can suggest a session topic, wether it’s something they want to share or present or whether it’s a question or challenge they’d like to see addressed.

Venue

Where will the conference be held?

Online Facilitation Unconference (OFU) is a virtual event.

In terms of online meeting venues, we will provide a central space (invite-only for registered attendees) where people can introduce themselves and plan the schedule together.

Regarding individual sessions, it will be up to the session leads to choose which channel works best. In the past, people have used a wide variety of tools depending on topic, group size, where they are based etc. (e.g., Zoom, Skype,WebEx, Adobe Connect, phone conference). We’ve also had people make their tools available for others on occasion.

SPONSORSHIPS

Are corporate sponsorships available?

Yes, we’re offering one simple package for corporate sponsors this year, priced at $400. This offer is ideal to technology providers in the online facilitation space or other service providers and trainers.

What’s included?

OFU18 sponsorship includes the following:

  • 3 tickets to OFU18
  • Ability to host a demo session at a time of your choosing anytime during the week of October 15–21, 2018 (we recommend mid-week, Wednesday through early Friday, before the unconference kicks in)
  • Listing on all OFU18 materials (website, conference report, key email announcements and OFU newsletter), incl. sponsor name, description, logo, and URL
  • Social media mentions (at sponsor sign-up, during the unconference, and during follow-up)

Sponsors are highly encouraged to have their teams join the unconference to share their insights.

Stay informed

Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates via email. This is a very low-volume list that’s active for only a few weeks leading up to the event and mostly inactive the rest of the year.

You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or join our LinkedIn group.

Contact

My question isn’t covered here. How can I get in touch?

Please shoot us an email to let us know any questions, ideas or concerns. Thanks!