• What is BIL Conference

    Most of you have heard of TED or watched the talks online, but do you know about BIL, the quirky, populist, unconference taking place near by? Open to the public and fully participant powered, BIL features a wild mix of technologists, scientists, artists, hackers, and those with a passion for community awareness.

    BIL emerged from a community of people who aspire to change the world for the better- everyone is on equal standing and we meet to share ideas, problems that need solving, and discoveries we are excited about with a quite diverse national and international crowd. Our attendees are our speakers and our speakers are our attendees and in true unconference style, attendees are responsible for shaping the conference itself through their participation.

    BIL Conference in under Creative Commons licence.

  • Organize a BIL

    Would you like to organize your own BIL? Go for it! Here are some helpful tips and resources for making it happen:


    There are no “rules” for organizing a BIL. We just ask that your event, if it uses the BIL name, conform to a few BIL guidelines:

    • Naming convention – “BIL:location year”. Year is usually left off if this is the first one in that location. Examples: BIL:UK 2009 and BIL:Tuscon. To make it less confusing, “BIL year” is reserved for the original BIL which follows TED (BIL2008 and BIL2009).
    • Free and open to all. We understand some BIL’s will have limited space, but attendance should not be limited to certain people. Example: If there was a BIL:Texas A&M University limited to only A&M students, this is not a true BIL. The most egalitarian way (we’ve found) to limit attendance is first-come, first-served, and giving priority sign-up to speakers and sponsors.
    • Share content with the world. Try your best to record as many of the talks as possible so we can share them through the BIL Conference website (more on video below). Also encourage attendees to tag photos on social networks so they’re easier to find, and to write blog posts. Try to get as much information from the event out to the world.

    Web Presence

    You’ll want a website to gather organizers and share information with attendees.

    • A wiki works great for unconferences. Create a site on PBWiki or a page on the BIL Conference Wiki
    • If you want “http://[your conference].bilconference.com, send an email to Bill Erickson and he’ll set it up for you. You can build your own website on that subdomain, or…
    • Use our pre-built BIL Conference WordPress theme. WordPress works great for managing a site, and it’s what we use for most of the BIL sites. We can provide you with the theme from the 2009 BIL Conference and you can put it on a subdomain (mentioned above) or a domain your purchase.
    • Make a Facebook Event so it can spread through your network.

    Once you have a page created somewhere, please email Bill Erickson so he can add you to the list of Upcoming Conferences on this site.


    Finding a location should be your first priority. Be reasonable with your estimate of attendees, and remember that a packed small room is better than an empty large one. If there’s a nearby university, invite them to sponsor by providing space.

    If you’re still gathering the community and don’t feel ready for a full BIL, try holding mini-BIL’s at a coffee shop or restaurant every month with a few speakers, along the same lines of Refresh or DorkBot.


    One of the major benefits of the first BIL’s being next to TED was that we knew great speakers would already be in town. We invited friends who were speaking at TED to BIL, and that jump-started our speaker signup.

    Use your personal network to find high-quality speakers to seed the list. Then, open speaker signup to your community. This way you never have a blank page of speakers, it sets the bar high, and helps share the types of talks the speakers should prepare.

    Also, try to leave room open for speaker signup the day of the event. This will allow attendees who are inspired by the great speakers to give a talk of their own.

    Here are some Speaker Guidelines that you should share with speakers.


    Not everyone will be able to make it to your BIL. One of your priorities should be to try and record as many of the talks as possible. Use UStream or Seesmic to record the talks with a laptop and post them online. Ask attendees to bring video cameras to document the talks and demos, and upload them to sites like Youtube or Vimeo. Try to find sponsors willing to cover the cost of recording the talks in exchange for their logos in the video.

    Once you do have video uploaded somewhere, we can embed it in the BIL Conference website.

  • Kindred Conferences

    These are conferences or events which BIL wants to help promote. If you’d like your event or conference listed here, please check the guidelines.

    Kindred Guidelines

    We’d be happy to promote conferences and events that are in the same vein as BIL. These show up as blog postings on the front page, and are listed in a sub-section of the Conferences page.

    We’ve picked a set of standards for which conferences to promote through this channel. This might seem odd, given that we’re an ‘open’ conference, and we’re open to suggestions. The reason behind the curation is to maintain focus. Bear in mind we encourage participants to promote their causes through other forums.

    Our rough decision metric

    1. The conferences should be hosted by academic or non-profit institutions.
    2. BIL doesn’t mind capitalism, but this isn’t the appropriate venue for promoting events which are profit oriented.
    3. The conferences should address large-scale problems or causes.
    4. BIL is trying to make the world a better place, and we want to promote ideas which will have a big impact.
    5. The conferences should generally be apolitical, i.e. not dominated by one political party over another.
    6. BIL wants all parties to engage in discourse, and strongly political party conferences are too conceptually homogeneous for our tastes.
    7. Promotion does not mean BIL agrees with any particular viewpoint, just that we feel the topic warrants debate.
    8. BIL has no position. BIL promotes discussion and action, but does not advocate any particular course of action.
    9. Being on the ‘promote’ list requires a majority vote between Tyler Emerson, Bill Erickson, and Todd Huffman.

    BIL participants are welcome to promote any event they want through their own channels, but this particular channel is curated. The decisions are made on the above rules, and on whether the event

    fits an undescribable ‘certain something’ BIL is going for. A decision of yes or no also depends on the context — we might not choose something because we’ve seen a lot of similar things lately and feel the topic is adequately covered.