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by Jonathan Vatner | February 01, 2011

2010 EventCamp East CoastThe structure of most educational meetings is almost exactly the same: lectures and panel discussions, theater- and classroom-style seating, and almost zero audience participation. Connections happen by chance, and unless attendees are extroverted and learn by sitting and listening, they come away with very little.

However, as a growing number of forward-thinking meeting professionals are proving, conferences can be better. "Unconferences" are formats that make meetings interactive, engaging and a whole lot more fun. Although unconferences have been around for years, the formats are being implemented more frequently than ever.

"The reality is, most people are not happy with the traditional conference experience anymore," says Adrian Segar, a particle physicist, tech guru and the author of Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love. "When it was the only option, they grinned and bore it. Now they don't have to do that anymore."

There are many types of unconferences; what follows are two of the best.