I attended the Boston unConference for the first time last week at the Hynes Convention Center.  I had heard great things from friends about how it was different from other conferences, but was curious to see it for myself.  I can’t stress this enough: the level of accessibility was unlike any other event I’ve been to.  I was really impressed with the quality of the sessions, how approachable people were, and how well executed the whole event was.

Maybe I’m just horrible at attending events, but I usually struggle to introduce myself to mentors.  I usually only see them speaking on stage, or if they’re not up on stage, they’re being swamped by throngs of people before/after their panel or speech.  You’re nuts if you think you’ll be able to stand out from a crowd lined up to ask a question.  How are you supposed to make a good impression when dealing with this:

Mark Cuban and Eisner at SXSW

Good luck asking Mark Cuban a question

I got pretty lucky.  Here’s the list of people I got 1:1 time with:

  • Bill Warner
  • Bob Mason
  • Jeff Bussgang
  • Laura Fitton
  • David Beisel
  • Jeff Kaplan

I got pretty lucky, in that my ticket was sponsored by North Bridge (thanks you!), so I paid a fraction of the $250 ticket price.  Because I was sponsored, I was able to sign up for individual sessions with many of the people above.  I was able to catch others in between meetings and talk with them for 15-20 minutes about what I’m working on.  I think the main difference between this event and my other experiences is that these people weren’t overwhelmed by crowds of people clamoring for their attention.  For next year’s conference, I would definitely recommend applying to be a sponsored entrepreneur, or volunteering as a connector.

Will I attend next year?  You bet.  While I was able to speak with many people I had been trying to meet for awhile, there were many others that I didn’t get to because I ran out of time.  Who else was there?  Check out this report about the unConference mentor attendees to see who was there.

I didn’t even touch on the sessions held during the day.  I think the unConference is a great format – the speakers have to “pitch” their idea to the whole conference in the hopes of drawing attendees.  This way, the speaker has to have an idea for what they’d like to discuss and are incentivized to have a productive session.  I’d love to see this format at more of the conferences I attend.