Create an “Online Unconference” or “Open Space” Event

Create an “Online Unconference” or “Open Space” Event

Unconferences and Open Space events are exciting alternatives to standard conferences.  They are highly interactive, simple to set up, and they are happening around the world with increasing frequency.

Unconferences and Open Space events have important differences, but the main characteristic of each is that they let participants shape the agenda by deciding which topics will be discussed in which breakout sessions.  The primary role of the host/facilitator is to get the word out with an invitation and then to welcome everyone and explain the process.  Here’s more info about Open Space by Michael Herman, one of the very generous thought leaders in that community of practice.

Compared to standard conferences, there are several advantages to letting participants decide which topics should be discussed:

  • participants feel empowered
  • discussion topics are more timely
  • the event is easier to plan

QiqoChat makes it easy to organize online unconferences, because it has a built-in tool for live audio & video events with breakout rooms.  Each breakout room has collaborative notes, screensharing, and a way to embed other collaborative online apps.

Sabrina Apitz shares her lessons learned after creating an online unconference using QiqoChat +Mural + Google Docs

Pre-Conference Momentum

Although the day of the unconference is the most exciting part, you can built momentum by letting participation begin 2-3 weeks ahead of time.

For example, you can invite people for 1-2 lunch hour chats or a happy hour chats.  Hold the happy hour in the same space where you will hold the unconference so that people get familiar with moving around.  With Qiqo, you can show/hide different rooms at different times, so you can create some specific rooms just for the happy hour.

During the Unconference

During the unconference, everyone will join the main room when they arrive.  There are 10 simultaneous breakout rooms by default, and you can have up to 100 breakout rooms.  Each breakout room can have up to 300 participants each.  If you need more than 300 people in your opening circle, please email and we can increase that to 500 or 1000 for you.

Each room comes equipped with an embedded tool for collaborative notes called EtherPad.  If you have more than 50 people in a room, we recommend replacing EtherPad with Google Docs.

In the main room, you can create a simple structure listing all the rooms and time slots and let everyone add their topic in the appropriate time slot. Everyone else can jump to the appropriate breakout room when the sessions begin.  Example:

Screen Shot 2021-01-29 at 1.51.42 PM

We recommend that one of your volunteers remains in the main room at all times to welcome any latecomers and answer any questions.  If a participant makes a human connection right at the beginning, they will feel great.

As the admin of your event, you can quickly set click “Admin Options” and then “Set Topics for Breakouts”. Simply paste in the topics that are active during that hour; the topics will be applied to each breakout room to make navigation easier.

We also recommend creating some empty rooms that serve as “overflow” spaces in case any sessions run over time and they need to move to an empty space; each space is already connected to a Zoom meeting.

To create create a dynamic networking space, you can also embed SpatialChat (screenshot below) into one of your breakout rooms. Contact us at to rent a SpatialChat room from us for $25 for your event.

You can embed SpatialChat to create a dynamic networking experience.


You can maintain momentum after the unconference by using free “circle” on QiqoChat.  A circle is a shared online space where your members can access some simple, shared, collaborative tools.  For example:

  • peer-to-peer weekly newsletter,
  • written/email conversations,
  • articles & blog posts, and
  • additional live events scheduled by your participants (optional)

Create a free circle here. We provide Qiqo circles for free, so that when your participants are ready to meet again for another online event, you’re more likely to host it on Qiqo, and that’s how we make money. It’s a win-win!

Additional Resources

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