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The Conference That Isn't: No Panels, No Keynote Speakers - At the NorTech Innovation UnConference, Attendees Are in Charge

Companies mentioned in this article: NorTech

CLEVELAND, July 16, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Imagine going to a conference without an agenda. No topics have been determined. No keynote speakers have been invited. No presentations or panel discussions have been arranged.

Why would you attend such an "unconference?" Because it's the most engaging, empowering and productive way to exchange innovative ideas.

And that's exactly what the NorTech Innovation UnConference is all about.

On September 24, 2014, Northeast Ohio's most innovative entrepreneurs, executives and inventors will come to the state-of-the-art Cleveland Convention Center for a fully participant-driven "unconference."

Business leaders, academics and investors will pitch and convene breakout sessions on topics that matter most to them - all tied to the theme of innovation within Northeast Ohio's technology-focused industries. These industries include, but are not limited to, advanced energy, biotech, flexible electronics, IT, software and water technologies.

"So much of life and work is overly structured that it doesn't give us, or our ideas, the room to run and grow freely," says entrepreneur Joshua Kauffman, who has facilitated unconferences around the world. "By contrast, the unstructured, high-energy environment of the UnCon amplifies everyone's ideas."

At the beginning of the UnConference, Kauffman will help attendees refine their ideas for discussion and emphasize two basic rules: 1) Nobody is giving a presentation - the UnCon is all about conversations; and 2) If a session doesn't inspire you and you're not contributing, get up and find a different one.

"Innovation is a group process," Kauffman says. "To be innovators, we need to support each other as we take turns pushing boundaries."

The UnConference is the first of its kind in Northeast Ohio's thriving technology community and offers a rare opportunity for entrepreneurs to gather to have an unfiltered exchange of innovative ideas.

"We believe our region, which is nurturing a culture of innovation, is ready for the UnConference," NorTech President and CEO Rebecca Bagley says. "The event will put a spotlight on Northeast Ohio's tremendous innovation capacity and allow the region's most creative minds to exchange their expertise on groundbreaking trends, technologies and business approaches."

In addition to creating the "UnAgenda" on the spot, UnCon attendees will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one, for 20 minutes, with an impressive line-up of mentors, including former Priceline CEO Jeff Hoffman, venture capitalist Mark Kvamme and Monte Ahuja, chairman and CEO of investment company Mura Holdings LLC. (The growing list of mentors is available at

"The UnConference is about making meaningful connections that empower creative thinking and take businesses to the next level. What could be more exciting than that?" Hoffman says. "I love the format and can't wait to have thought-provoking discussions with Northeast Ohio entrepreneurs and business leaders in various industries."

"Northeast Ohio is a place where manufacturing expertise meets cutting-edge technologies," Ahuja says. "This event captures the innovative spirit of this region and provides an unprecedented opportunity for unfiltered, unrehearsed exchanges of ideas that can accelerate the pace of innovation."

The UnConference idea has already captured the imagination of Northeast Ohio's business community. So far, 22 organizations, including Medical Mutual, Rockwell Automation and AT&T, have signed on as sponsors and many more have expressed interest.

"Even as we celebrate our 80(th) year providing Ohioans with quality health insurance, we know that we must continue to reinvent ourselves in an effort to develop products and services that allow us to better serve our customers," Jared Chaney, Medical Mutual's executive vice president of sales and marketing, says. "The UnConference is the perfect venue to explore innovative ideas that can help us do that."

Much of this creative exchange will take place in the breakout and mentoring sessions, but also in the hallways and the reception areas at the Convention Center. The UnConference starts at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, September 24.

The night before, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., NorTech will hold its annual Innovation Awards gala to celebrate groundbreaking technologies made in Northeast Ohio and to recognize innovators who are pushing the boundaries within their businesses and across different industries. The awards gala will also be held at the Cleveland Convention Center.

Registration for both the NorTech Innovation Awards and the UnConference is now open. Individual Innovation Awards and UnConference tickets are $75 and $175 respectively. A combined ticket is available for $225. Register today at

Members of the media on a reporting assignment can attend free of charge. For more information about the UnConference and to set up interviews with organizers, mentors and attendees, contact Christian Taske, director of communications, at 216.640.8224 or

The UnConference is presented by:

NorTech is a technology-focused organization that strengthens Northeast Ohio's economic vitality by accelerating the pace of innovation in the region.

NorTech is using its expertise in emerging industries to provide companies of all sizes, higher education and research institutions, and individuals of diverse backgrounds with new opportunities for collaboration that create jobs, attract capital and have a long-term, economic impact.

NorTech also connects with government leaders and other influencers to raise the visibility of Northeast Ohio's technology assets, position the region as an innovation hub and attract resources.

The UnConference is sponsored by:

    --  Medical Mutual
    --  Dix & Eaton
    --  Rockwell Automation
    --  AT&T
    --  Valtronic
    --  AlphaMicron
    --  BioEnterprise
    --  FirstPower
    --  Kent Displays
    --  Lubrizol
    --  MAGNET
    --  NewSpring Capital
    --  Smartshape
    --  Fay Sharpe
    --  Case Western Reserve University
    --  Kent State University
    --  Lorain County Community College
    --  Northeast Ohio Medical University
    --  The University of Akron
    --  Crain's Cleveland Business
    --  Smart Business
    --  ideastream

Media Contact:
Christian Taske
Director of Communications