I’ve covered what was good about BIL. I’ve covered what was bad about BIL. Now that BIL has announced that they are indeed planning a conference for 2009 to run parallel with TED down in Long Beach, I think that some things should be addressed to make it successful in the future.
1) There needs to be a leader
While the whole spontaneous organization concept seems great, it’s ultimately going to topple as more people get involved. Plus, there just needs to be a go-to person when things come up. By default, the guys who just tossed this whole thing together became that, but they really need to take a firmer hand or all the wannabe Alpha Geeks are going to try to bash and claw their way in to running it.
2) Respect the Speakers
The biggest issue was that during talks, there was a constant stream of people getting up and down, going in and out, and just not sitting still. These talks are 15 god damned minutes. If you can’t sit still for that long, then just don’t come. As a general rule, people should observe the fact that if they’re in there when a talk starts, they need to remain seated.
3) Filter the Speakers
Again, it’s a great idea to have an open forum for people to talk about whatever, but some of these talks were just bizarrely out of place like the motivational talk by Lexi Bright and Jonathan Sheffi. Equally out of place was what was basically a sales pitch for this digital pen thing. This could still be decided by the public though as each speaker could “pitch” their talk up on the website, then the public could vote on the ones to go up. But, going back to point one, there would be leaders that could override public opinion if they feel something gets in or out unfairly.
4) Dump the Conceptual “Art” Bits
Sure, they always seem like a good idea when you talk about them, but the reason conceptual art never works is that it can only exist in the realm of the concept. Acting on a conceptual art idea ends up with lame results as Yoko Ono and all her disciples have proved over the years. That damned pictionary game forced a lot of people out of the room because they kept claiming, “participation is mandatory!” and in the end it netted little but some laughs and delaying the schedule nearly a half hour. Keep this kind of thing at Burning Man. Keep the ideas at BIL.
5) Rework the Schedule
Having four talks an hour that are 15 minutes long isn’t realistic. I mean, it is in theory, but in reality, the schedule just runs in to itself too much. Having three 15 minute talks per hour with a five minute break in between gives enough fluff time so that if someone is just a few minutes over, they can be and if people need to come in or out of the hall, they can, or lastly, people can have some setup time without having to get in the way of the other person on stage. This may mean cutting down the amount of speakers, but then again, it also could mean a more focused conference which takes in to account points 2 and 3.
6) Get some solid drink and food sponsors
Bottled water is all profit and marketing. You can find any number of makers who would gladly donate a pile of it to the event. Just the same, food can be found as well. I don’t know where the food and drink came from, but it was definitely cool that it appeared. I just think that that burden could be taken off of multiple people and put on corporate backs.
7) Charge an Attendance Fee
Yeah, I know, it’s not a popular idea as everyone wants it to be free, but as Marla Singer said in Fight Club in regards to why she went to group help meetings, “It’s cheaper than a movie and there’s free coffee.” I think that a fee would get rid of a lot of the people “being” at the conference. It makes it more structured (which again, I know is not a really popular idea) and more professional. Additionally, it adds in to the coffers to help put on the event, even if it’s just $20 per person which I’m sure all of us could afford who were there as opposed to the $6,000 for TED.
And that’s about it for me. There are all kinds of other things like having wifi ready to chairs to power to bathrooms to anything else, but these are all simple logistical things that are easy to work out. There are some core, structural items for BIL that need to be addressed if it’s to be successful and give TED a little shake to show that it’s not the only game in town.