The Changelog BONUS – Sustain Summit 2018 with Allen "Gunner" Gunn


Sure. We model these events – I’m a chronic frequent flier, and we often say that we model agendas to be somewhat like airplane flights. There’s a sort of taxing and take-off phase, we try to spend as much of our time at cruising altitude as we can, and then we try to “Bring it in for a landing.”

What we did last year, first thing out in the morning was really try and explore some foundational topics, and let people sort of move between a bunch of conversations, at their own pace, in their own sequencing, to sort of understand different facets of sustainability, different analyses of sustainability, and just really start to build some shared understanding.

[00:04:10.14] The bulk of the day was spent in participant-driven sessions. What we mean by participant-driven sessions - we ask folks when they register “Hey, what do you actually want to get out of the event?” and we build a soft agenda slate from those topic suggestions, and then at the event we try to get folks in real-time to come up with additional topics that they would like to see addressed.

We don’t use terms like “unconference.” Those terms are sadly overused and have taken on less and less meaning over time, as everything has been called an unconference. What we try to do is say that it is participant-driven, in that we try to source the material from participants, and we prioritize – if you will indulge the notion that these events are knowledge markets, we’re focused on the knowledge consumers, not the knowledge producers.

Many conferences have what I call a “rich get richer” paradigm. Keynoters keep on keynoting, panelists keep on paneling… It’s the usual suspects class hierarchy. What we try to do at these events is identify where the learning needs are, the growth needs, and the folks that have ideas they could use some help building out, and try to resource those conversations.

We try to bring loving supply from knowledge supply-side, toward those that are looking for answers around sustainability, around project growth and maintenance and governance. In doing it that way, we try to setup sessions that are themselves outcome-oriented. Part of why we say “no slides” is slides are a fail before they start, because they assume the so-called presenter knows what those in the room want to hear… And once in a while, they might get it right. But most of the time, they tend to over-share, over-deliver, over-saturate brains.

We try to set up sessions formats that are more transactional and that are more question-driven, where we orient facilitators, we give them some basic ground rules, so that they feel empowered and understanding the plan, but we try to emphasize to them the need to, first off, find out why people came to your session, find out what they really wanna know, and try to center the session focus around what they came for, not what you think they should get. That fundamentally transforms participant experience.