MASSAPPEAL: Since theMassTLC unConference format launched four years ago, attendance hasmore than tripled. “It has worked out very, very well,” saidMassTLC CEOTomHopcroft.“People have tons of energy, and all sorts of side meetings happen all throughout the day in addition to the expertmeetings.”
The one-on-one sessions were therefore sched-
uled on site, using old-fashioned paper, markers, and the Hynes Convention Center’s walls. When the experts arrived at the beginning of the day, they picked up their preprinted name card with three 20-minute time slots on it, and stuck it up on the expert/entrepreneur wall according to the hour slot during which they chose to mentor. Entrepreneur attendees were given three differ-
the 2011 unConference. While it would seem only natural that a high-
tech industry event would use a sophisticated attendee-matching software program to schedule those kinds of appointments, that didn’t happen at the 2011 unConference, Hopcroft said, for two good reasons.First, MassTLC wanted to ensure that the experts—unpaid volunteers—were phys- ically present at the event.“The other thing is,” he said, “you might be a robotics company and we might use all the logicwecan to say you should be with aCEOof a very successful robotics compa- ny—butmaybe you are having amanagement or a funding issue.Youdonotknow, until you get into these conversations and into their heads, what the issue is.”
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ent colored stickers, and gathered at the wall at 8 a.m., where they could access “a book of bios” of the experts, Hopcroft said, although “they kind of knew who their top half-dozen or so pickswere.”Entrepreneurs affixedred stickers with their name on it to the card of the expertwhowas their first choice for a meeting. The colored-sticker system prevented those participants who were closest to the wall from being the only oneswhogot all three of their choic- es.“Thisway,”Hopcroft explained, “everyone gets a reasonably good chance” of meeting with the experts they want. And if not, they likely had the chance to meet
up with them informally throughout the confer- ence. “We ask the experts to stay for the day,” Hopcroft said, “because we think that is worth- while.”
where microphones are set up, and read off their session topic. In the first three years, when there were fewer attendees, MassTLC created a large grid on pieces of paper on the center’s walls—called the agenda wall—with 30 rooms written across the top and four or five time slots down the left-hand side. Session leaders would pickthe proper- sized room (the num- ber of people each room could accom- modate was indicated on the grid) and a time slot, and stick their session name written on the card stockon the wall. With so many
more attendees in 2011, the room row was getting to be 30 or 40 feet long, so the wall was organized by hour: a 10 o’clock wall, an 11 o’clock wall, and so on. Everyone could then see at a glance at what time and in which rooms sessions on topics such as mobile, robotics, and funding would be held.
Michelle Russell is editor in chief of Convene.
Innovative Meetings is sponsored by the Irving, Texas, Convention and Visitors Bureau, www.irvingtexas.com.