BIL and TED’s Excellent Conference Adventures

TED offers “inspired talks by the world’s greatest thinkers and doers” … with registration – sorry, membership – starting at US$6,000.  (You can see some old talks online, though, and some of those are excellent.)

Not exactly inclusive.  So in response, BIL has been created.  BIL is …

an open, self-organizing, emergent, and anarchic science and technology conference.

Nobody is in charge.

If you want to come, just show up.

If you have an idea to spread, start talking.

If someone is saying something interesting, stop and listen.

Unconferences like this are really interesting idea.  I’ve been to plenty of academic ones, and this sounds well worth doing as an alternative.  (Via BoingBoing.)

When I had a management hat on, I was responsible for running an internal conference for a bunch of about 30 academics and researchers.  It was the one forum where (almost) everyone in the group could talk to (almost) everyone, for two days in the year. I was always keen to minimise the amount of preparatory effort required of the group, while maximising the opportunities for cross-fertilisation of ideas and group bonding.  We tried out all sorts of formats – traditional academic papers, works in progress, panel discussions, workshops, technology fun sessions, and even a great everyone-talks-for-five-minutes day.  (At least, I thought it was great: the feedback was variable.) Of course, the best networking was over coffee, lunch and tea, so allowing plenty of time for those was a fundamental part of the plan.

It was almost but not quite an unconference.  The two main differences were (a) the attendees were a tightly restricted group and (b) we discussed the format in advance as a group, but I had final say on who talked, when and on what.   I think it’d be fun to try more of an unconference approach to the next time we do something similar in our new grouping.

… although I’m wary of saying ‘fun’ because one thing I did learn was that it’s really hard to call something ‘fun’ as a manager and not thereby rob it of all excitement and enjoyment.

(And should Grainne, Patrick and Martin be listening, no, that’s not me volunteering to organise it.)

Author: dougclow

Data scientist, tutxor, project leader, researcher, analyst, teacher, developer, educational technologist, online learning expert, and manager. I particularly enjoy rapidly appraising new-to-me contexts, and mediating between highly technical specialisms and others, from ordinary users to senior management. After 20 years at the OU as an academic, I am now a self-employed consultant, building on my skills and experience in working with people, technology, data science, and artificial intelligence, in a wide range of contexts and industries.

2 thoughts on “BIL and TED’s Excellent Conference Adventures”

  1. Oh Doug – goo onnn you know you want to really 😉 My vote is for an alternative two-day walking conference somewhere nice!!

  2. Having done it for four or more years I know I don’t want to, really. 🙂

    A two-day conference somewhere nice would definitely get my vote too!

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