The Unconference Eyebrow Wax

Unconference on Outside HR

On Sunday, I arrived home from the HR Evolution Unconference held in Chicago, IL.  I spent the last 3 days reading and commenting on no less than 30 video posts, blog posts, and photo blogs detailing the event.  It was a whirlwind of conversations, bacon, social media, and HR all rolled into a two day event, and I loved every minute of it.

The Unconference Eyebrow Wax

Unconferences themselves are a new frontier for many especially an event such as this.  HR Evolution 2 boasted an additional 80 new attendees compared to the first HR Evolution held in Louisville last November.  Unconferences are a gamble, a very loose set of rules and structure with only suggested topics and tracks that are audience and attendee driven.  Conversations are not scripted, powerpoints are not encouraged.  The direction is dictated by participants who drive the session with facilitators along for the ride.

An unconference can be scary.  It’s a new territory and adventure sometimes filled with pain, confusion, and buyer’s remorse.  Like any new idea, it can be painful when our security and structure that we have come to know and rely on is ripped away.

I served as co-moderator for a session alongside my friends and colleagues, Craig Fisher and Charee Klimek discussing the topic of being Outside of HR.  Like any good unconference session, it took on a life of its own.  The conversation was fantastic and in my opinion, flowed outside the topic.  That, however, is the beauty of an unconference.  No surveys or session reviews are needed.  Participants speak up and transform the discussion or move on to the next. It’s the Darwinian theory of a unconference.  Eat or be eaten.  Evolve and survive.  Not unlike the discussion that stemmed from our closing session urging us to move beyond the echo chamber.  Evolve or be eaten.

The new takes getting used to.  We digest, deconstruct, and evaluate the change reinventing ourselves and our thoughts, and over time we adapt enjoying the process.  So much so that we come back for more.  We come to anticipate the uncomfortableness, the pain, and change pushing ourselves to a new place.  And we like what we see.

This new place is where we measure all others, a standard or bar that has been raised.  Since attending my first unconference (Recruitfest!) almost a year ago, it is what I have used to measure and evaluate all others both traditional and nontraditional conference events including my own.

If evolving was easy, it wouldn’t be an HR Evolution.

Thanks to the attendees, facilitators, lurkers, and HR Evolution unconference planning committee.  You rocked it!

Posted in

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

Reader Interactions


  1. Charee Klimek says

    Great post Jessica and it was a real pleasure to facilitate with you!

  2. Steve Boese says

    Excellent observations Jessica. I appreciate how you emphasized that change and evolution is uncomfortable and at times will be messy and even contentious. It was great to see you again and look forward to the next time, hopefully soon.


  1. […] 3 Tweets Recruiting and Boolean Search Webinar 3 Tweets The Unconference Eyebrow Wax | Blogging4Jobs On Sunday, I arrived home from the HR Evolution Unconference held in Chicago, IL.  I spent the […]


Pin It on Pinterest