A Participant-Driven Conference?

May 23rd, 2011

A flexible, participant-driven conference that has no agenda? The One Show’s Creative unConference, which took place recently, once again proved it’s possible. The day’s events favored discussion and interaction over talking-head presentations. Any registered participant at the conference could lead a session on any topic they chose. And that’s exactly what Tribal DDB Associate Creative Director Eric Schlakman did.

The unConference featured roughly 40 breakout slots (about eight per hour) where attendees were invited to float around and choose sessions that interested them. Eric posted his discussion on the Agenda Wall with the title, “How to Bake a Frittata: Expanding Your T-Shaped Creativity.”

“There’s a lot of talk about T-Shaped creatives today,” Eric explained, referring to the increasingly popular notion that employees should be interested in many things but do one of them very well, “which is why I find it important to take classes and get involved with activities outside of work to expand the top of my T. I didn’t intend to lead a discussion at the unConference, but seeing all of the incredibly talented people in the room made me curious about what other people in the industry are doing to stay sharp and draw out their Ts.”

Eric also asked the group if the “T” shape was the correct one, suggesting that “an Atari symbol with a roof on it” might be more valuable since those people would try to involve their knowledge base to expand their main focus over time.

The group agreed that different specialists are needed to create the best final product, which moved the conversation towards deliberating “the new creative team.” The group quickly took to debating who should be paired together during briefs. Possible combinations included copywriters, art directors, designers, user experience designers, planners, technologists and others with creative roles in modern agencies.

“I never thought 50 minutes would go by so quickly,” commented Eric. “I loved how lively the discussion was, and wish there had been more time to hear what each and every person was doing outside of work to stretch his or her T.”

What have you been doing to build your T? Do you agree with the T-shaped notion? What’s your vision for the new creative team? Leave your opinions in the comments section below.


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