Posts Tagged unconference

Healthcare’s Excellent Adventure

BIL:PIL logoThis past weekend saw the inaugural launch of BIL:PIL in San Diego, a two day healthcare innovation conference following TEDMED. The first question people tend to ask is actually not about healthcare at all, but rather, who’s Bil? Those of us who were around in the late 80s usually get the tongue-in-cheek reference to “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” and, not surprisingly, it is that same spirit of wacky innovation that you find at the BIL gatherings.

late the night before...

Midnight chalking the sidewalk.

Like many social media phenomena, BIL:PIL is entirely “user-generated.”  All the organizers, like myself,  freely volunteer their time to envision, coordinate, and manage the event and the talks are presented by unpaid and unsponsored speakers from across the healthcare industry and country. We leveraged several internet technologies to spread the word using our Facebook page with almost 400 fans, an editable schedule with a mobile interface (moBIL) to register the talks in real time, and live streaming of the event on the BIL:PIL site to bring in over 700 unique visits.

Rampant twittering on the hashtag #bilpil further spread content to the entire following of each tweeter – some with over 3,000 names on their list! However, it wasn’t just the technology that made the event a success, it was the content and, moreover, the mission that engaged people.

BIL:PIL is about progress, sharing ideas in healthcare through technology, and the shifting paradigm of health ownership to the consumer. For example, Scott Johnson of the Myelin Repair Foundation talked about how his frustration with the industry’s lack of planning and progress to develop a cure for MS led him to create his own research foundation. In 5 years, and with only $20M investment, his team has been able to develop more targets than some of the largest and best staffed organizations in the world.

Maren & Todd

Me and Todd Huffman, one of the founders of BIL.

Even huge industry organizations like BIO came to support the event and spread their message. One of their new programs called “I Am Biotech” aims to garner public support for the biotechnology industry despite a constantly changing political landscape, the struggling economy, and misconceptions about the science of biotech. BIL:PIL provided a forum to spread the word across a network of active individuals already engaged in the healthcare discussion.

This was just the first of what will be an ongoing series of events. In fact, for next year there is already talk of hosting BIL:PIL on both sides of the country on the same dates with live casting and video walls set up at each venue. Without a doubt, healthcare is on on the path to become way more EXCELLENT!


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Designing a Healthcare Unconference

As social media approaches adolescence its hallmark of “spontaneous user generated content” has also spread into all kinds of seemingly unconventional places like the world of conferences…that have been morphed into UNconferences. I’m always a bit surprised at how few people have actually heard of an unconference since the concept has been around for a few years now, I’m guessing it will become more mainstream in years to come.

Our friends at Wikipedia describe it as a “facilitated, participant-driven conference” which basically means and bunch of people show up at a designated place for a specific topic and spontaneously decide what the presentation topics are going to be. And yes, most of the time this results in pandemonium as participants jockey to get their talks in the larger, better-equipped rooms. But the net of an unconference can be far more productive as almost all participants are actively engaged in the content and structure of the event.

So, I’m working on one of these things. For those familiar with the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conferences with their highly polished presentations, invitation-only guest list and $5,000+ participant fees; the free unconference analog is called BIL (as in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure notoriety). And for the medical fanatics out there, a special TED was formed called TEDMED with pretty much all the same parameters as TED. It only makes sense to provide an all access and free BIL:PIL unconference as a community-driven forum for current and aspiring healthcare thinkers to share and collaborate. This October (30 and 31st) will be the first BILPIL to be held right after TEDMED in San Diego.

BIL:PIL logoThe BIL:PILLers are a bunch of scrappy healthcare renegades with a surprising amount of clout. We secured the San Diego State University BioScience Center and already have an impressive list of speakers willing to come and talk about whatever healthcare related topic they feel is relevant at that moment. This healthcare innovation unconference will bring together over 200 entrepreneurs, health professionals, technologists, and laypeople to describe the future of healthcare.

I’ve been working on the cat-herding part of the project but also managed to design the identity for the conference (within the brand parameters established by the original BIL franchise). I also created a visualization of the key content areas we hope to attract people to speak about :BIL:PIL Topics

Check out the site at, register and help “set healthcare free” with us this October!

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