Original BiCon Guidelines

The BiCon Guidelines as originally passed (unanimously!) at the plenary of BiCon 16 in Cambridge, September 1998.

Before being taken to the DMP, they were first discussed at an earlier session – Ian's notes and the changes made to the original draft:

Original draft of the BiCon Guidelines, with notes from Ian


BiCon Guidelines

These guidelines define what BiCon should be and what BiCon organisers are expected to do. If organisers feel they can't fulfil any of these requirements, or want to change them, they should say so when they volunteer to run the event at a BiCon plenary.

A. What BiCon is and what it should contain

  1. BiCon is the UK national bisexual conference or convention. (We're bored of arguing about which.)
  2. BiCon should be open to all bisexuals, their friends and allies, and anyone with a positive interest in bisexuality.
  3. BiCon is run by volunteers, and should ideally be run by a different set of people and in a different place, from year to year.
  4. Groups running BiCon may be of any structure, but should be explicit about how they are organised. [1]
  5. BiCon should happen annually, generally between June and October and should be at least a two day event, including a Saturday. [2]
  6. BiCon should contain at least one plenary at which decisions about future BiCons can be made. [3]
  7. BiCon should contain at least one programme stream of workshops/sessions, where smaller groups of people can participate. Workshops should largely be run by volunteers from the bi community, and BiCon should never be taken over by professional speakers or facilitators. [4]
  8. No national or local bisexual group or organisation should be denied the opportunity to run a session (ideally no-one should be denied this, but there may well be a lack of space or time).
  9. There should be at least one party or social. Ideally there should be social events throughout BiCon.
  10. It should be possible for people from the bi community to sell their own bi related materials (zines, t-shirts, badges etc). [5]
  11. Deadlines should be made clear. Ideally extra space should be provided for last minute items.
  12. There should be chill out space. [6]

B. Access and anti discrimination issues

  1. BiCon should allow women only or men only workshops, although it is not obliged to provide them if there are no offers.
  2. BiCon should accept transgender people as being of their chosen gender, this includes any single gender events. [7]
  3. BiCon should have an anti harassment policy. People who persistently harass others for any reason including sexually, racially, or on the grounds of sexuality, should be required to leave.
  4. BiCon should be made accessible as possible to people on low incomes by means including a variable price scheme/sliding scale.
  5. BiCon literature should give a clear description of the level of disabled access available, and provision for people with disabilities should be a major consideration.
  6. BiCon should do its best to be accessible to parents of young children by providing child care facilities.

C. Financial

  1. BiCon should produce detailed accounts within three months after the event. These should be published and be made readily available to interested parties. [8]
  2. If BiCon makes a surplus, this should be passed on to future BiCon organisers. If the surplus reaches a higher total than is needed to run the next BiCon it should be donated to other appropriate organisations. Decisions about donations should be made at a BiCon plenary. [9]

D. Feedback and decision making

  1. There should be ample opportunity for attendees to give their views of BiCon. There should be a feedback form for the benefit of attendees and future BiCon organisers. [10]
  2. Decisions about who should run future BiCons, Bicon surpluses, and any changes to these guidelines should be made at a BiCon plenary.
  3. Plenaries should be minuted and the results reported in BCN and on uk.bi (or their equivalents) and be readily available. Where it impossible to keep such decisions for BiCon they should be put up for discussion in these forums. [11]

Passed at BiCon 16 final plenary: 6th September 1998


[1] For instance previous BiCons have been run by collectives, by a core group with helpers, and by dictatorships with helpers.

[2] For the last nine years BiCon has been a three day event. Generally on a Friday/Saturday/Sunday, but once on Saturday/Sunday/Monday (on a bank holiday) and once on a Thursday/Friday/Saturday (because it was in a Methodist Hall). Anyone wanting to run an event of longer than three days (plus early events the previous evening) should check with a BiCon plenary.

[3] Traditionally decisions have been made at the final plenary, but it has been pointed out that this is often too late for people who need to catch the last train home. There is also a lot to be said for ending on a positive note, with a closing ceremony of some kind, so an earlier decision making plenary would be very welcome.

[4] We do mean taken over. Professionals are very welcome to run workshops, appear on panels etc, though we should think hard before paying them unless we can afford to pay all our facilitators, but we don't want, for instance, HEA [the Health Education Authority] to say 'here is ten thousand pounds, now you have to do it our way'. Not that that's terribly likely…

[5] That doesn't mean BiCon organisers are obliged to sell things for people – that would be far too much work. Anyone wanting to sell anything should be prepared to at least work a shift on the merchandise stall. BiCon will not normally be liable for stolen or mislaid merchandise (though we've usually managed to make the figures add up.

[6] Chill out space in any space where BiCon attendees can sit down outside of organised sessions. This includes a bar, cafe or lobby (if it has enough seats), but should preferably be for BiCon only.

[7] Transgender has been defined in slightly different ways by different BiCons. This clause is mainly meant to cover people who are living as their chosen gender.

[8] Readily available means that copies should be sent out on request and on receipt of an SAE.

[9] BiCons are not obliged to budget to keep the whole of any surplus that they are given, but they should bear in mind that venues these days are asking for deposits in the order of £2000, and should try and leave enough for future organisers to pay a deposit.

[10] In 1999 we will be putting forward the additional guideline that organisers should write a short report for future organisers. BiCon 1999 has undertaken to do this.

[11] We don't mean that all plenaries should be written down in detail, but all decisions should be recorded, along with any significant opposition.

Tom's guide

[ Originally published by Tom Limoncelli as 'The Ultimate Guide to Bisexual Conferences' at biconf.org. This is a lightly edited version of the last known draft, dated 1st September 2003.

One interesting point of difference between UK and USA bi events is that the latter's access issues points include a 'scent-free policy' – even BiPOL's first national US bi conference in 1990 had that[1]And an earthquake policy, given that it was in San Francisco! – but it's never been seen as an issue that needs addressing in the UK, perhaps because to this nose anyway, no-one at BiCon wears noticeable perfumes. ]

Conferences change the world. In particular, they empower the dis-empowered.

The first conference I went to was the GAAMC (Gay Activist Alliance of Morris County) conference in 1988 or so. It was a one-day affair with dozens of workshops. It was amazing. To be in the same place with 100 other disenfranchised people was so empowering that it was a large part of why I am an activist today.

Another conference I went to a lot was the Usenix Technical Conference. This is a computer conference unlike any other. This is a conference where the people creating the next generation of computers meet and share their work. It's not a well-known conference, mostly because it's a "best kept secret" to keep the riff-raff (people that wear business suits) out. While not a economically disenfranchised group, these conferences certainly helped relieve the "outcast" feeling that technical people lived with before the dot com revolution.

In future years I would find myself creating the Tri-State (NY, NJ, CT) Bisexual Conference. I co-chaired the first, and third, and fourth, advised the second and fifth. I helped plan other meetings, large and small. I sat on the Program Committee for Usenix conferences, and coached the 4th International Bi Conference (NYC) in 1994.

With every conference I found common themes: confusion, burn-out, lack of planning.

Oh, and I also helped plan some conferences which I won't mention, because they weren't very successful. However, those are the most valuable to me, because I learned the most.

So after the impressive first North American Bisexual Conference in Vancouver, Candada (2001), I promised to write down everything I wish people had told me before I started getting involved with creating conferences. That's why this book now exists.

Conferences change the world. Conferences educate large numbers of people in a short amount of time. More importantly they build community. People make connections and friends that last much longer than conferences. Countless projects and many organizations have been created by people that would never have found each other if it weren't for conferences. This is true in the bisexual world, the computer world, the gay world, the science-fiction world, the lesbian world, the Pagan world, and so on and so on.

Interestingly enough, that's not why people attend conferences. Keep this a secret: people attend conferences in hopes of meeting people (friends, lovers, whatever) but unbeknownst to them, what they get out of a conference is usually education, self-improvement, and empowerment. That's the way of the world. So advertise "you'll meet lots of people" but plan on expanding their minds. The mind is like a parachute, it only operates when open.

Planning a conference can eat your life. Make sure you have a good stress relief mechanism (spouse or significant others). Have a co-chair and a core-team of volunteers. Make sure you don't try to single-handedly create the conference.

I can't say that I wrote this book. I only wrote down what other people have taught me, and what people have submitted for inclusion. In particular, Alan Hamilton's article on budgeting and Will Marcott's sample financial report. I hope to update this book quarterly (isn't the web great?) based on the input I get. I would love if everyone that ran a conference were to submit a chapter on what they've learned, thus making this a "living document". Please send your suggestion, chapter, or even a small paragraph to (email deleted).

I honour you. I honour you for the work you are about to do. Conferences change the world. There is no better thing that someone can do. Thank you.


The Most Important Chapter (Key dates)

This chapter is about the key dates that should be used to drive all your other plans. If there is a single more important thing you can learn about conference planning it is they timing of the milestones listed in this chapter.

There may be concepts in this chapter that won't be explained until future chapters. That's ok. We'll get to them.

A milestone is a tangible task such as signing a contract or mailing out an advertisement. Milestones usually have a single deadline.

As conference co-chairs your primary job is to keep all the volunteers focused on the tasks at hand. Use these milestones to do that and you'll be very successful.

As conference co-chairs your primary job is to keep all the volunteers focused on meeting these deadlines. As conference co-chairs your primary job is to keep all the volunteers focused on meeting these deadlines.

Here are the key milestones who's deadlines are most critical:

  1. Location Contract Signed
  2. 'Save This Date' Announcement
  3. 'Call For Workshops' Announcement
  4. 'Registration Form' Mailing
  5. Registration Cut-off
  6. The Conference Itself

Hard date starts the wheels in motion

Before you have a signed contract you only have a 'soft date' (like 'In the summer of 2005, somewhere in central New Jersey'). Once the contract is signed, you have a 'hard date' (like '3pm Aug 4, 2005 until 5pm Aug 8 at the Ramada Inn on the New Jersey Turnpike exit 7.'). Your contract will specify down to the minute when you must be gone (don't forget to allocate clean-up time!)

You can't advertise the conference until you have a hard date. If you do, Murphy's law will assure a date change and everything will get confused. Some well-intentioned person will duplicate zillions of the flyer with the old date, and make sure that this incorrect flyer is well-stocked everywhere they travel. Ugh.

You can't book workshop presenters, keynote speakers or entertainers until you have a hard date. These are busy people and they can't commit to working "the summer of 2005". They will only talk to you if you can specify a hard date. Until you have a hard date, you won't be taken seriously.

The majority of your volunteers won't enlist until there is a hard date. Would you volunteer for a conference that you can't attend? Having a hard date means the volunteer can verify with their family, employer, spouses, parents or whoever that they will be able to attend. Only after that point will they volunteer to help.

You need to announce the hard date as absolutely early as possible. This lets people mark their calendar before other events have filled it in. People need to take vacation time, which usually has to be approved by their employer months in advance. If this is an international conference, the date must be announced 2 years in advance as people need time to save for the added expense.

To make all that happen, get the contract signed as soon as possible.

The "Save This Date" announcement

As soon as you have a hard date you must announce the conference. However at this time you don't have any idea of how much registration is going to cost, who the keynote will be, the detailed schedule, the workshops, and so on. Those things take forever to work out. If you wait for them you'll find yourself making the big announcement after it is too late for people to schedule vacation time, etc.!

Therefore the moment you have a signed contract, send out a 'Save This Date!' announcement. It only needs to include the bare essentials: what attendees need so they can set aside that date in their calendar (but not register), and spread the word to potential workshop presenters so they can send in workshop proposals.

This announcement should be one page and include:

  • The start and end date, and year
  • The location
  • The title and (if you have it already) the theme
  • Request for volunteers
  • A list of typical workshops (with a note that this is not set in stone)
  • On the back: A "Call For Presenters" messages.

As we said before, workshop presenters are busy people, so they need advance warning of the date. They need a month or two to submit their proposals, and you need a month or two to select which presenters you will use and which you will decline. That's four months total! If you need to give people at least six month advance notice to make vacation plans, we're talking nearly a year advance notice!

To help you get this announcement out as soon as possible, it's a good idea to have a sub-team draft the announcement while the core team is finding the location, negotiating the contract, and getting the contract signed. The draft announcements should leaving key items blank until the contract is signed. If you can mail the "Save This Date" packet within 7 days of signing the contract you're great!

If you are caught for time, you can send out the "Call for presenters" message separate from the "Save this date!" mailing. If you are really, really, really caught for time, you can at least send out a 8-10 line email with the title, date, and location. Make sure all announcements include a web site address. If anything, people can bookmark that URL and refer back to it as you fill in the details.

To make all of this happen, make sure you are ready (or almost ready) with your announcement when the contract is signed.

Registration Deadlines

The final topic of this chapter is about the deadlines for registration.

Did you ever wonder why conferences offer a discount for early registration? Pre-registration costs less than "at the door" registration? Conference organizers don't offer these discounts because they are nice people. Each discount offered is for a specific reason.

Most discounts are to encourage early registration. The more people that register early, the easier the organizers can plan for food, space and other issues.

Very early registration is done to get initial funding. This funding may pay for future mailings and publicity. Suppose site may require a 10% deposit when the contract is signed, 20% more a bit before the conference, and the remainder the day of the conference. The first deposit may be paid for with the profits from last year or a loan from an "conference angel" (who may be an organization or a person). The next deposit is paid for with the early registrations. The remaining deposit is paid for with the pre-registrations.

People don't take advantage of a pre-registration discount if the discount is too small, or if it must be paid too far in advance. If pre-registration saves them $10, there's little reason not to register at the door. If the only discount is offered by registering two months early, people will forego the discount.

Here's a discount scheme that I like:

At the door:Unregistered attendee arriving at the conferenceFull price
Pre-registered:post-marked 7 days or more before con15% discount (but at least a $15 dollar savings)
Early Registration:post-marked 2 months or more before con30% discount
Super-duper Early Registration:post-marked 9 months or more before con50% or more discount

Most conferences have discounts for student and/or low-income attendees. Often this is the same price as the pre-registered rate if the person registers at-the-door, or the early-registration rate if the person pre-registers.

Summary

In summary:

  • Sign the contract well in advance
  • Send out the "Save This Date!" announcement as soon as the contract is signed
  • Send out a "Call for workshops/papers/participation" soon after the contract is signed, possibly combined with the "Save This Date!" announcement
  • Send out the registration forms as soon as they are ready, well in advance of the conference
  • Set discounts to effectively encourage early registration.

The Timeline

In grade school we all learned that a story typically has a beginning (which sets the stage), middle (which introduces the obstacle or conflict), and climax (which resolves everything). A conference is similar. Things move slowly at first, then activity builds, finally the conference itself happens and (ta da!) it's time to go home, thanks for attending.

Is this your first conference that you are planning? If it is, you are at a disadvantage because you haven't seen the over-all timeline that is involved in creating a conference. This chapter hopes to solve that problem. If this isn't your first conference, this chapter serves as a guide or checklist.

The previous chapter dealt with the most important dates to drive home the idea that those deadlines are the most important. However we recommend that you plan out a timeline based on all the milestones and deadlines listed in this chapter (you can revise it as time goes on, but you have to start somewhere).

It is important to write this timeline down and share the information with all volunteers. Put it on a "for committee members" section of your web site. It is a communication tool. It communicates the deadlines that you, the co-chairs, need to meet to make this conference a success.

Here are the various tasks that typically happen:

Initial Concept

"Hey, let's have a conference"

The only advertising you can do is, "Please join and help us create this conference."

Initial team

The end-result of this team is to get a site location and sign the contract. However, they can't do that until they've picked a purpose, title and theme. The purpose of the conference may dictate which sites are visited when making the selection.

Sets the timeline.

Contract Signed

"Save This Date!" sent out

Detailed Schedule Created

This is where you plan the details of each day. For example, "Opening keynote and 1 workshop in the morning, 2 in the afternoon, keynote at night."

You have to pick exact times for these things. Workshops tend to be an hour or 90 minutes.

"Call for workshops/papers/participation" sent out

Budget created

Expenses and income in concert. This includes picking the prices.

"Registration Packet" sent out

Form to fill out.
Flyer that "sells the conference"

"Workshop Proposals Deadline"

"Workshop Acceptance Letters Sent"

"Registration Deadlines"

Super-duper Early Registration
Early Registration
Pre-registration

Conference!


The Kick-off Ritual

(Only conference co-chairs are allowed to read this.)

You don't have to do what's recommended in this chapter. It's fluff. It's bogus. It's stupid.

However I promise you that the times I didn't do this, the conference planning was full of in-fighting, we lost core volunteers, and the conference suffered.

I can also promise that when you do this process, people in the room will feel a little silly, and you will too, and therefore it is important that you maintain seriousness about it. Trust the process. Trust the process. It works!

Here's what you do.

Host a kick-off meeting, and at the end vote whether or not to have a conference.

The meeting should be well-advertised. Tell everyone. "Meeting to discuss the 2002 Tri-State Bi Conference to be held summer 2002 in New Jersey".

Use this as your (first) big volunteer gathering meeting. Explain the basic idea of the conference, but use the time to facilitate the volunteers creating the political points of the conference: the purpose, title, and theme. You may only get to the first one or two of those. That's ok.

(By the way, you may need an initial group of 2-5 people to put together this first meeting. I have found that usually it ends up being 2-3 people that put together the meeting, but they get 5-10 people to spread the word.)

About 30 minutes before the end of the meeting, call for a vote as-to "whether or not we are committed to creating this conference."

The number one objection will be, "Why the heck should we do that? We came here because we saw an advert asking if we want to create a conference. Why else would be here? Plus, we've already set the title and theme. Of course we want the conference to be created!"

Take the person seriously, but you only need to respond, "Then this vote should be a no brainer. Let's do the vote." This is what I talked about early when I said, "You will feel silly." You will feel silly, but it is important to continue with the process.

Give people a chance to talk about the pros and cons about hosting the conference then do the vote. Do a secret ballot if possible.

Of course, the vote will be 99% or 100% in favour of the conference. Congrats.

So, you may be asking why it was worth doing this if you know the vote was going to be positive. It's a good question.

The answer is that it's magic. The times that we've done this ritual the conference planning has been smooth. The other times, not so smooth.

Ok, maybe it's not magic. Maybe there is some psychology to it. When people entered the room it was your conference. They came to see what's up. After the vote they feel ownership. They created the conference by their vote, their action. Now it's their conference (partially owned by everyone that voted for it). Psychologically they feel ownership and therefore responsibility towards see it be a success.

They voted for it. They made the commitment. The way the question is phrased isn't "Should this conference exist" (of course it should… someone else should create it!) but "whether or not we are committed to creating this conference." By voting "yes", they are dedicating themselves to seeing the conference be a success. They are less likely to drop out.

There will be "no" votes. Be happy that there are. These are the people that would have dropped out anyway, or been resentful as they felt coerced into volunteering. They will leave the group at this point, and you are better off without them.

Of the people that are at this kick-off, about 50% of them will become your core team. People that join after this meeting may become your core-team too, but these people have now been though this process and are committed.

This is a good time to appoint co-chairs, committee co-chairs, or other positions. Maybe someone will volunteer to be the treasurer.

There are a couple committees that every conference needs to have. This might be a good time to get people to volunteer to take on committee co-chair roles. However, don't go overboard. If you surprise everyone with a printed list of committees, their statement of purpose, goals, and deadlines then you've undone the magic… it's back to being "your conference", not "everyone's conference". The core team should agree to the committees' goals and responsibilities together at the very next meeting.


Location

This is a short chapter. Until I flesh it out more, it's just some random notes I have on the types of locations you can use for a conference, and the pros and cons of such a site.

Hotel:

Costs a lot, or nothing at all.

Your contract might include free meeting space if you book enough rooms. On the other hand, if you don't meet the "room requirement", you will pay a penalty that could be thousands of dollars.

Even if the space is free, you will have to pay for the A/V equipment, coffee service, food, etc. If you thought Starbucks was expensive, wait until you see what a hotel charges for a coffee urn, milk, sugar, a dozen cups and napkins.

On the other hand, a good hotel is a delight to work with. They are there to serve you and will wait on you hand and foot to meet your A/V, food, and other needs. (It's appropriate for them to wait on you hand and foot because they are charging you an arm and a leg.)

Colleges and Universities:

Universities have excellent, inexpensive conference facilities. However, they may have a lot of strings attached. They may be expensive if you don't have sponsorship of a campus group.

Some Universities have professional conference facilities. These are managed as hotels (sometimes the management is actually outsourced to a hotel company) and can have the best of both worlds (hotel and university).

Rutgers: used the student centre, which had tons of strings attached (no vendors, tight control over content, required contracts for every workshop presenter, musical performer, special cash-handling requirements, etc.)

Also when checking into sites at universities or small colleges, the conference can sometimes get a campus LGBT group to sponsor the event.

Church:

  • May only be appropriate for small conferences
  • Very little A/V facilities
  • May have restrictions about content in certain rooms (no food in the main worship room, no nudity, etc.)
  • May be free if they sponsor it, or if the majority of the planners are members of the church. It's a good idea to offer a donation either before or afterwords.

Community Centres:

Which can be cheap or free, esp. if they are designed to serve in disenfranchised communities.


Contracts

You need to have a written contract with the site. This contract includes the specific dates that you will use the facilities, which rooms (or "all rooms") and facilities (or "all facilities") and the exact list of fees you will be charged for all these things.

The contract locks you in to those dates, and prevents the site from changing their mind about who they will permit to use the space. (What if someone came a long and offered them more money? The contract prevents them from ditching you.)

Keep the date under wraps until you have the contract signed. Public announcement of the date and location has a magical effect. It goes into people's diaries, email lists start forwarding the information, magazines (with 2-month lead times) hear about it and publish it, newsletters print it, and so on and so on. You really can't know all the places that repeat your announcement. If you have to change the date, you will never update all the other places that, and they were only trying to be helpful, have 'helped you get the word out'.

Why this is important is discussed in "Key Dates".


Budget Planning: Retreat and Conference Budgeting

by Alan Hamilton

Budgets and Fees

Price the event to ensure that even if not as many people as you hoped register and come to the event, the cost of the event will be covered.

There are two ways to figure costs and fees, which should yield similar results. It is a good idea to figure them both ways, and check the answers against one another. If the numbers are too far apart, something is wrong in the way one or both are being figured.

The Overall Costs Method is to figure the total price of all weekend's costs, and divide by the number of attendees expected.

The Per-Person Cost Method is to figure the sum of the price per person of each of the weekend's costs.

In each case, estimate costs a bit high and the number of people a bit low. This yields a fee which will almost certainly cover expenses and probably make a modest profit, which can be used to finance other activities of the organization, including providing seed money for other events.

An example of figuring with each method is shown on the following pages.

Example

To demonstrate figuring costs and the fees required to cover them, we will use a small retreat as an example. For a larger retreat or conference, the principles are the same; there are just more items to include in the budget.

Let us assume that we are members of a writers group, and are planning a small writers retreat. This is the first time we are organizing a retreat, but we would like to have one regularly in the future, perhaps quarterly or yearly. We want to make a little extra money to set aside for next year's retreat planning committee, so that they don't have to front money (such as site rental deposits) out of their own pockets.

One of us has made some phone calls and has found a site which will accommodate up to 25 people. The site requires that we pay for a minimum of 20 people, whether 20 people come or not.

Let us list things that we think we will need to buy for the retreat. These might be:

  • Site Rental
  • Food
  • Profit

We could have decided to provide writing supplies as well, but in this case we decide to have a simple budget and low costs. Attendees will have to bring their own paper, pens, pencils, etc. Workshop leaders will have to bring newsprint, markers, etc. for their own workshops.

In each case, we come up with a fee of $50-60 and a total budget for the weekend of about $760 for the average number of
attendees (20). Since these figures agree pretty closely, we probably haven't made any large arithmetic errors.

OVERALL COSTS METHOD

The Overall Costs Method is to figure the total price of all weekend's costs, divided by the number of attendees expected. Figure low, average, and high estimates for figures which vary based on the number of attendees. Then divide the average cost by the low number of attendees to figure the fee to charge.

Budget ItemLow(15)Avg(20)High(25)
Site Rental
$8 per person
160160200
Food
$30 per person
450600750
Profit
$5 per person
75100125
Total685860875

Divide the costs for 20 people by the minimum number of people, and we get a fee for the weekend of:
$860 / 15 people = $57.34 per person

Thus, if 20 people pre-register with a 50% deposit:
20 * $29 = $580

and only 15 show up to pay the other 50%:
15 * $29 = $435

we take in a total of:
$580 + $435 = $1015

If we paid for 20 spaces:
20 * $8 = $160

and bought food for 20:
20 * $30 = $600

then our total expenses are:
$160 + $600 = $760

This means that even if we buy food for people who don't show up and don't pay all that they said they would, we still don't lose money. We make a modest profit.

PER-PERSON COST METHOD

The Per-Person Cost Method is to figure the fee as the sum of the price per person of each of the weekend's costs. Multiply that by the number of attendees expected, to find the weekend's total budget.

If we figure
( $6 * 20 spaces ) / 15 people = $10.67

for the space rental portion of the fee, then 15 people paying $11.00
$11.00 * 15 people = $165.00

will cover the rental of the site for the weekend.

Per-person food costs might be figured as:

Friday supper7
Saturday breakfast3
Saturday lunch5
Saturday supper7
Sunday breakfast3
Sunday lunch5
__
Food cost/person$30

The fee per person would be:

Rental11
Food30
Profit 9
__
Total$50

If 20 people pre-register for the retreat with a 50% deposit:
20 * $25 = $400

and only 15 show up to pay the other 50%:
15 * $25 = $375

we take in a total of:
$400 + $375 = $775

If we paid $160 for 20 spaces and bought food for 20:
20 * $30 = $600

total expenses are:
$160 + $600 = $760

Again, even if we buy food for people who don't show up and don't pay all that they said they would, we still don't lose money. We make a modest profit.

Disasters Can Still Happen

Of course, disasters of various sorts do happen (weather too bad for travel, etc.), but setting the budget and fees for an event in this way minimizes the chances of losing money. Planning "defensively," builds a safety net to cover such problems in the future. If the event does not lose money, it contributes to this safety net and help bail out other organizers, should disaster strike their event.

Why Try to Make a Profit?

Is all money "filthy lucre"? Is making a profit an inherently bad thing? No. A modest profit, used well, benefits your organization's work in the long term.

Making a profit is how the East Coast Bisexual Network (ECBN) came into existence. A conference made a profit, and the organizers of the conference formed an organization to conserve the funds and use them to seed more conferences and other events. If you return the profit to your organization, this will finance further growth of its work in all its myriad forms. Plan to make a profit, and plan to use that profit to make a difference throughout the future.

[ Lou Hoffman adds: Profit is not a dirty word. BECAUSE makes a profit every year and the proceeds are used as seed money for the next year's conference.]

[ Tom Limoncelli adds: Profit is a must. We owe it to the bisexual community to build a self-sustaining movement. I believe we do a disservice to the community any time we create an event that loses money, since the loss will be paid for by the activists that worked hard to create the event. This will burn them out (and we only want to burn out the enemies to our movement 🙂 ). Therefore, we have a sacred trust with the community to make events that are profitable enough to sustain the event into the next year, and hopefully are recession-proof against a single bad year. ]

Alan Hamilton is the 1992 President of the East Coast Bisexual Network, co-founder of the Unitarian Universalist Bisexual Network, former editor of the newsletter of the Boston Bisexual Men's Network, an engineer and manager of computer software, a writer, and a bisexual activist.

This pamphlet is published by the Bisexual Resource Center. You are welcome to reproduce and distribute it with your group's contact information at the bottom of this column. Please send a $10 donation for each flyer that is useful enough to you to reproduce, to support the publication of new literature. For more information and literature, write or call:

Bisexual Resource Center
biresource.net


Setting The Price

Most of this topic is already covered in "Key Dates".

Here is one paragraph that should be integrated into this chapter, when it is written:

How can you afford to offer half-off to the super-duper-early registrations? Well, if you are dealing with non-students, you can use those intervening months to send these people fund-raising letters asking for donations to the scholarship fund, which will pay for discounted rates for students and low-income people. Adults that are used to making donations to charities may end up sending you a net total that is more than the full "at door" registration price. Of course, this won't work if your conference will mostly be people that do not have an income level that supports donations, or if your conference has a commercial aspect or isn't a charity.


Misc Tools

This chapter lists various tools that I've found useful when co-chairing a conference.

The "what goes in the envelope check-list" Tool

Whenever we do a mailing, there may be confusion over what goes in the envelope. To prevent this, we create a "What goes in the envelope" check-list. This check-list is included in the minutes of a planning meeting, posted on the "for volunteers only" web site, or emailed out. Think of it as a communication tool. It sets expectations for the volunteers.

For a large stuffing party (more than twelve people), only the coordinating committee needs to see the check-list. Though making it available to everyone is a good way to groom others for leadership.

It's a disaster to have ten people show up to stuff envelopes only to find out that the key pieces aren't ready yet. It can also be bad to forget to include something in the envelope after they are sealed. A simple check-list prevents this.

The check-list should include:

  • Who is the mailing going to:
  • How many envelopes are going out:
    (this tells everyone how many of each item must be procured)
  • When/where is the envelope stuffing done?
  • What goes in the envelope?
    (a list of what each sheet of paper should contain, front and back)
  • Who is responsible for duplicating each sheet?
    It doesn't matter who duplicates the sheet, the person that is responsible can delegate the task, but if the delegate fails, it's the responsible person's fault.
  • Who is responsible for bringing stamps:
  • Who is responsible for bringing envelopes:
  • Who is responsible for bringing mailing labels:
  • Who is responsible for bringing return-address labels:

Sample:

"MAY 2002 MAILING"

There will be an envelope stuffing party at the Bisexual Community Center on Mon, May 2, 2002, 7-9pm.

This mailing is going to: The members of the BiZone mailing list.

Quantity: There will be 200 pieces, please bring 200 of everything.

The envelopes will include 5 pages:

* Page 1 front: Cover letter by John.

* Page 1 back: Advert for the fund-raiser/dance
      200 copies delivered by Mark.

* Page 2 front & back: Registration form
      200 copies delivered by Mark.

* Page 3 front & back: Conference Advert flyer
      200 copies delivered by Mark.

* Page 4 front: BiWomen Support Group Flyer
* Page 4 back: BiMen Support Group Flyer
      200 copies delivered by Joe.

* Page 5 front & back: Endorsement from Rainbow Center.
      200 copies delivered by Mark.

stamps: John

envelopes: John

mailing labels: Mary

return-address labels: Mary

Sure, you know everything that is on this list. However, people can't read your mind. Think of this as a communication tool. You use it to communicate with the entire committee what is expected of them, and lets them confirm that they agree that this is what is being mailed, where, when, to whom.

Once the meeting starts, it's important to make one complete set. Gather one envelope, one of each item that's supposed to be in it, stamp, labels, etc. Show this to everyone to make sure they understand the goal. From there, you can let them self-organize (if they are experienced), or organize them (if you can avoid micro-managing them).

The key is to make sure that you don't end up with a disaster like: 500 envelopes filled with the printed material, and 500 other envelopes stamped and labelled. To prevent this, make sure an assembly-line is created that starts with the papers being folded, then stuffs the envelopes, then labels the envelopes, then seals the envelopes, then stamps them. Keep an eye on what's happening. The idea is that the more "expensive" or "irreplaceable" things are done last. If the envelope is ruined early on, you don't want to have wasted a stamp. Actually, stamps are replaceable… it's the labels that you don't want ruined. That's why the order (fold, stuff, label, stamp) becomes important.


Todo: things to add to this document

I'd like to see more on fund-raising (not my area of expertise) and also on at-conference services and access issues. Access issues are one area we worked hard at: Braille programs, sign language interpreters, accessibility for those with mobility challenges, a scent-free policy, unisex bathrooms, childcare, scholarships, community housing, metro transit information… I've been involved with childcare at the last three or four BECAUSE, and have a lot of experience with childcare as a user and a volunteer at a number of other conferences (Rainbow Families, various SF/F conferences).


Credits

I can't take credit for most of this document. It comes from the experience of doing conferences with many find bi activists, especially everyone involved in the Tri State Bisexual Conferences.

In particular:

  • Tom Limoncelli, New Jersey
  • Alan Hamilton, Boston, MA
  • Lou Hoffman, Minneapolis, MN

Notes

Notes
1And an earthquake policy, given that it was in San Francisco!

Marcus's 'how to run a BiCon' manifesto

Back in 2005, Marcus Morgan published 'A Manifesto For BiCon Organisers' as a PDF file. As the place it was uploaded to (resources.bi.org) no longer exists, it is now available here.

Since it was written, Marcus has run three BiCons rather than two and several other things have changed. As the file specifically forbids editing it or posting it as web pages, no corrections have been made. The 'excellent article' referenced as being at biconf.org no longer exists there[1]The domain name has been squatted at least twice since 2005 but a copy of the latest version I can find is here.

Here are the comments on the manifesto that were there (again, made back in 2005 or so!) including Marcus's responses to some of it:

If you haven't already read it, please do so now… because I'm just going to make comments on some of it.

I've also not gone "I think he's right you know!" to the vast majority of it.

Ian

Seek Other Advice Too

Yep. The idea for the BiCon Guidelines came from SF cons, for example.

Someone used to trade union conferences came along to 2001 in Coventry and was stunned that – at a venue that didn't have an onsite bar or food – the organisers hadn't gone to some of the local pubs and food places and said "You can be an Official BiCon bar / food place… if you give us a percentage of your take from people who mention us."

      This is a good idea, hadn't occurred to me! -Marcus

I thoroughly recommend going to some of the BiCons elsewhere. The first EuroBiCon, and the internationals in Berlin and Boston were particularly good, but you've missed those 🙂

I also loved Queeruption in London 2004. The atmosphere was very like a BiCon, but when you're in a squatted venue, only some of which has electricity, never mind heating, it was also very differently fab.

Most of the mistakes that have been made over the years would very probably not have been made if the organisers had asked previous organisers "how's this idea sound?" If they go "erm… are you sure?" do at least think you might be taking a risk if you go ahead with it. There's nothing wrong with taking a risk, but some are like playing Russian Roulette with a fully loaded revolver.

What Is BiCon Really About?

I particularly liked the comment on a 2005 feedback form. Asked to finish the sentence "BiCon 2005 was…" someone wrote "about the people, stupid."

What Do You Want It To Do?

Hmmmm. Apart from the very first couple, I'm not entirely convinced that any of the other UK ones have really addressed this one. In part, that's because even if the organisers want to do something else, a large chunk will chose the "have a really big fun festival" option.

Personally, even when I've been told not to, I've aimed to a) do better than last year and b) make next year's organisers think, at least at the time, "how are we going to do better than this?"

I don't think I'm alone in this – if you don't do X very well, next year's team will get lots of volunteers to do X next year. The second one year's finished, there were at least four people wanting to do the session programme next year, for example.

Organisational Structure

I'm going to say "it depends". Most of 2002 was effectively done with a triumvirate (even if I had to look up how to spell it!) As it achieved the aims above, I think we did ok. At least one other year had one (for much the same reason as we did: a very tight timetable) and didn't. We had the huge advantage of lots of experience though.

Some of the people involved would deny it furiously, but 2005 was like the cabinet: nominally a bunch of equals, but there was a very definite Blair / Brown pair (only with a much nicer relationship) within that.

Venue

See The Venue for my thoughts.

"The opening ceremony is the least important of the three"

Hmmmm. It depends. If you're running an international (either International or Euro) BiCon, then I'd rate it as the most important. In this case, having something about where people have come from is a very good idea as it builds the feeling that this is indeed an international event and not just a local one with a different name.

      Fair point. UK BiCons have very ragged start times, with people arriving all the way through. International ones, with the increased travel and people not trying to sneak in after a day at work would, I suspect, be able to garner more attendees at an opening ceremony.-Marcus

Accommodation costs

This is my main disagreement with Marcus. I think you should have a sliding scale for this too.

      I'm not saying don't because it's wrong, I'm saying it's far too much work financial planning wise. (c; -Marcus

You're going to be nervous about money, fine. But in the UK at least, there is a substantial buffer, a surplus generated from overcharging people in the past, either because of such nervousness or because loads more people than were expected turned up.

If you have a sliding scale, do not charge your lowest band more than your actual costs for accommodation. That's both obscene AND stupid – you want people to stay at your venue. Charge them less.

      Totally agree. -Marcus

Even if you did get your figures slightly wrong, no-one – ok, at BiCon, there's Always One – will attack you for losing say a thousand quid (more realistically several hundred) because you charged unwaged people 'too little'. If they do, you will find you have lots of support, trust me.

Complimentary registrations

The 2002 team had these, and free accommodation. I don't think any of 2005's did.

No-one (see disclaimer above) who's got the faintest idea of how much work is involved in organising one[2]At one point during 2002, I thought of making a note of how much time I did spend, but it quickly got frightening seeing it adding up. will object to giving yourself a "free" BiCon – for one thing, when running it, you don't get "a BiCon" – but if you have lost money, then being able to say that you paid too will make you feel more virtuous.

"Do not have opt in tickets"

When I was filling in the registration form for the 2004 International BiCon, I had a big ponder about the, I think, two events that were paid-for separately: a dinner and an evening entertainment. Nothing in the material available at the time made me go "Ooooh, I really want to do that!" but I was worried that I'd miss something good if I didn't.

It seems I was not alone, but I never imagined for a second that a large section of the organising team weren't interested in either. WTF?!

Fortunately, I didn't send the extra money, and left it until I firmed up getting the flights and other details sorted. Which they never were. (A lucky escape?)

But it's important to say that having opt in tickets has worked – it did at the Boston Intl BiCon, for example. The venue, Harvard, was Not Cheap. I'm not sure just when the organisers realised they were going to have a thousand people turn up, but they must have had a serious dilemma: book a hall for one evening's cabaret capable of holding a thousand people, stick the cost on everyone's registration and hope or book a hall that couldn't and ration the tickets somehow = sell them.

(Mind you, I'm still somewhat pissed that the semi-official sex party the night before wasn't like the one at BiPol 1990 in San Francisco. That set of organisers invited all the international visitors, but this one didn't.)

It also worked at the first Euro BiCon, for their main social. It also worked for the Claire Dowie theatrical performance at Nottingham 1993.

So I'd say if you are going to do this, ask yourself why. Check the idea out. And think again.

It can be done, but you're either putting on something expensive that you're acknowledging that a large chunk of people are not going to want to go to (if it's not expensive or 80+% of the attendees will want to attend – include it in the registration cost!) OR putting on something that non-attendees can also come to (a whole different can of worms!)

      I didn't go to the Claire Dowie performance myself, as it sounded like Not My Kind Of Thing, so ICB8 is my only real example. They had an opt in ball, concert and breakfast. Each a separate ticket, each needing collecting from the registration desk and then handing in on the night.-Marcus

Keynotes

UK BiCons tend not to have these. ("We agreed – no leader!!") When they do, for some reason I've never quite understood, they've tended to be from people outside the UK bi community.

So bisexually-behaved but lesbian-identified Lisa Power has given two. Well, one really, because she gave the same speech ("you're all wonderful!!!") at two different BiCons. We've seen queer activist Peter Tatchell twice too. And – most relevant, because of how often we see her over here – Robyn Ochs has done at least one.

There have been a couple of others, but I can't remember them at the moment.

What else do you need to know if you're considering having one?? If you want to invite someone along from outside, put them on a panel.

They seem to be more popular for international BiCons, but if you're having an International BiCon with three – count 'em! – keynotes, do not have all three from your own country. The West coast, the Midwest and the East coast of the USA do not count as separate countries, at least to non-Americans.

Entertainment Dos And Don'ts

* Who says you can't talk to the venue about bar prices? Not that I think anyone actually has, but having people who can generate a serious bar take is a major negotiating point.

* Yep, vary the music. What 2005 should have done on the Friday was have a 'white and black' disco. Light fluffy pop at the start of the evening, dark and goth at the end. Unfortunately, we ended up with a mess of a format and when several other things went wrong… we were lucky to be bailed out by Marcus & Jess.

I am biased, but I thought The Time Travellers Ball concept (moving through the decades) worked. There weren't so many people during the 50s section at the start, for example, but those who were appreciated it and the DJ was not left playing to an empty space which is the usual fate of someone starting a disco at 8pm. (The two most popular decades were the 60s and 80s, by the way.)

      I thought it worked great as a format. I'm a little unsure why some of the excess CDs couldn't have made up the gaps on Friday. (c: -Marcus

* All I'm going to say about official play spaces / dark rooms is that the Dutch manage to have them without too many problems. (They used to be surprised that UK BiCons don't.)

* The bit about paying all the entertainers – and why not? – if you pay any of them also applies to session leaders. One year, some got paid, thanks to some external funding, but this was kept Very Quiet. I didn't run a session that year, but if I had, I'd have kicked up a huge fuss.

      That was safer sex funding wasn't it? I don't think I'd be happy with that these days – rather take the money as BiCon as a whole and spend it on safer sex supplies / displays / custom leaflets. -Marcus

Publicity

Oh yes. There are few things more annoying that discovering that this year's BiCon happened less than ten miles away from where you're living and you didn't hear about it until the week after it had happened.

2003's quiz meme was a particularly fabulous idea.

Policies (actually, 'Owning up')

The worst thing I have ever seen an organiser do at a BiCon is someone blame someone else Рan entirely innocent someone else who was not on the organising team Рfor there not being a proper cr̬che.

I was left feeling I'd done the second worst thing by appearing for a few seconds to blame other people – who were entirely innocent, not on the organising team and who'd been wonderfully helpful – for any perceived imperfections with one evening's music. (And I'm sorry for those few seconds Marcus and Jess!)

Another year's team would have saved themselves an awful lot of grief if they'd talked about the problems they'd had with the venue.

Crèches

Let me warn you that these do not come cheap. But if you do not offer one, you will suffer before, during and quite possibly after BiCon. If no-one takes the offer up by the relevant deadline (probably a month or so before the event), then it's fine not to have it.

(And if someone who hasn't booked turns up at the door demanding one and you don't have one for that reason, you can say "tough" or "sorry", depending on your mood.)

However, if you've taken someone's booking on the basis that there will be one, you absolutely must not then cancel it on the grounds that there's only one child booked and that'd mean spending £720 on one child… without that person being very very happy with whatever outcome you agree with them (and agree before they arrive on the day). Watch this space.

Reference numbers

These are great, but do not attempt to do all your registration desk stuff with a list that's only sorted by registration number and does not have a 'name to registration number' key.

Passing Things On

If you wrote it down, consider: would next year find it useful? Give it to them in a format they can edit without too much hassle, i.e. not as PDF.

"In 2002 he was presented with a lifetime achievement award for his work in the UK bisexual community."

And a complete privilege it was to give it to him too.

You might not have realised it, but <jedi> these are not the droids you are looking for… and you want to have an awards ceremony too. </jedi>

(And not one involving Fritz Klein giving something to whoever organised this year's event.)

They make people feel good. They make people want to do more things. They make people realise that you don't have to be perfect (because ghod knows Marcus isn't and if you think I am after reading this stuff, well…) to do things too or be appreciated.

We've had far too few of them over the years – three! – considering how many people have done so much. For 2002, I started with a list of twenty people and got talked down to eight. The other two years (1991 and 1994) did it for one person each time. That's just ten people, from a history of twenty four years.

As far as I'm concerned the only reason 2005 didn't have one is that the main three people I'd give ones to weren't there.

Finally, just checking…

"if members of your team don't want to attend the formal banquet then how many of your attendees will?"

"At one BiCon I couldn't find room 103B"

"schedule something before 9am"

These are all the 2004 International BiCon, aren't they? I'm wondering if the "Israeli occupation of Palestine" keynote was at that too…

      It was actually a breakfast which I'm obfuscating slightly, but yes. Palestine too. All ICB8. *shudder* -Marcus

I don't think it's a coincidence that, as far as I know, none of the organisers of that one had been to a UK BiCon.

Ian

Notes

Notes
1The domain name has been squatted at least twice since 2005
2At one point during 2002, I thought of making a note of how much time I did spend, but it quickly got frightening seeing it adding up.

Ian's guide to running a BiCon (or any other bi event)

Running a BiCon can be hugely rewarding or an utter nightmare. Your chances of wanting to do it again will be improved if you follow a few simple rules. I'd say that they are more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules, except that there are already some official Guidelines

What is a BiCon?

Those Guidelines have something to say about that, but a short version is that it's a community-led, accessible event 'about' bisexuality for bisexual people and their allies. Even if they were all about bisexuality, an event that was a series of expert panels would not be a BiCon, for example. In the UK, it's now usually a three (or more) day event.

We tend to call one day events 'BiFest' or 'BiTastic' to make a distinction between the two, but much of the same advice applies.

Why run one?

It has been said (by me) that it's impossible to fully appreciate the bisexual community until you do and some people find it very satisfying: BiCon has changed their lives and they want to run it so it can do the same for others, for example.

You do need a reason, but one important bit of advice is don't do it for yourself. Amongst other things, in the year you run it, you don't really get 'a BiCon'. Instead, next time you can enjoy yourself knowing that you're not the one worrying about everything.

Who to have running it?

One year, one person had advice from a small team, but did virtually all of it themselves. Everyone else who's ever done one wonders how (and they never did it that way again!) So you need a team, but how that team is organised is up to you.

Some years have a single leader, some split that role between two or more people, and some are collectives. Which ever you choose, you need to know who takes the final decision on any issue, preferably before there are any big decisions.

Oh, if you run it with sexual and/or romantic partners on the team, be aware that it can damage that relationship. Not always, but it often has. Partners are usually more valuable as someone you can go 'argh' and 'waaah' at when stressed about running one than on the team getting stressed about the same things.

How to do it?

Think of BiCon as a pizza for a second. The recipe is very simple:

Venue + Attendees + Culture = BiCon

You need a venue, and you need attendees. Once you have them at your venue, behaving nicely, you have a BiCon.

In the UK, it can be easy to take the culture for granted. A large chunk of your attendees will have been to a BiCon before and know how they should behave, and know that they can (should!) tell you if someone is not doing so. Partly because it started small and many of the attendees came from a long-running bisexual group, much of that culture has been there from the start… but not all. Things have changed over the years as awareness has increased.

If you're starting a series of events from scratch, it's a bit harder.

But either way, you want to have a set of rules – in the UK, we call that the 'Code of Conduct' – and be seen to enforce them. The number of issues brought to your attention will probably be rather less than most events of a similar size, but if nothing is, people probably don't think they can do so.

Everything else is toppings on that pizza.

Only you will know how many toppings there could have been at your BiCon

It is very easy to run out of spoons. Not everything you would have ideally liked to have happened will be possible. Don't spend BiCon going 'Wah, there could have been even more toppings on my BiCon pizza!!' If you have got the basic recipe right, everyone else is going 'Oooh, BiCon pizza! With toppings!!' and not really caring that there could have been more of them.

'That's a pilaf, not a pizza!'

In the UK, the official BiCon Guidelines make it a pizza – they provide the recipe for the base. What you throw on top will make a difference to the end result, but if you decide you want to have the same toppings mixed in with rice instead, it's not a pizza.

Someone who's done it before could probably quite happily organise a BiCon without ever looking at them. But you could give them to someone who's never been to a BiCon before and they'd come up with… well it'd doubtless be different, but it should recognisably be a BiCon rather than, say, an academic conference or even an SF con.

It's also a list of expectations. Because of this, you should let people know in advance if you are messing about with it.

What about the content?

Someone – who knows far more about running a BiCon than anyone else – writing a guide about doing one day events added "(content)" to the recipe.

The parentheses are partly because most things that happen during the day at both BiCon and many one day events are provided by attendees. For BiCon, the Guidelines are explicit about that: "7. BiCon should contain at least one programme stream of workshops/sessions .. largely .. run by volunteers from the bi community".

Most of what you need to do for BiCon in this regard is organise the offers into a timetable. You might need to actively hunt for people to run specific ones, but if you're doing much more than that, something's gone wrong.

For one day events, you will have a) many fewer session slots and b) more idea of what needs to be in there (one space has newcomer-friendly sessions all day, for example) and so may well do more active curation of what's in them.

AVAC – "all venues are compromises"

Your job, as someone running a BiCon, is to pick one set of compromises. The ideal venue doesn't exist, so trying to reach for perfection in a venue is futile and you will have to make some somewhere: location, facilities, cost etc etc.

You need to be aware of the compromises that recent teams have made. It can be fine to have the accommodation on top of a hill away from the venue for one year (especially if you do something about it, like arrange for some transport up and down it) but if there were physical access issues last year then it is probably more important not to have them next year. Fortunately, different organisers tend to prioritise different things anyway.

You do want to have..

.. space for sessions. With three to four hundred attendees, you need at least five or six rooms that will hold forty or more people. They don't all need to be the same size – having one that will do seventy and one that will only hold twenty is fine – but it should be easy to get between them. If they're in different buildings or there's just one narrow corridor, you will need to have longer gaps between sessions for example. If they're badly ventilated, you'll want to provide drinking water, even if that's some bottled water and some plastic cups. A BiFest (or other one-day event) can often only have two session rooms: one with things primarily for people new to the community, and one primarily for people who aren't.

.. a social space, somewhere people can 'hangout' during the event. Ideally, they wouldn't need to move from it in the evening.

.. an ents space for the evening. Ideally, this is next to, but not literally in the same room as a bar. As well as making it quieter for the bar, not everyone wants to be around alcohol. Either way, there should be some usable quiet space near by for talking, board games etc.

.. accommodation. If you're running a BiCon, you will learn how to spell 'accommodation' because it's a big chunk of the work, and not having to do it is a very very good reason for starting with running a BiFest-style day if you are starting a new series of events. It needs to be reasonably easy to get between the accommodation and the other things. You need at least a dozen accessible bedrooms, some of which need to be good for people in full-sized wheelchairs. Some venues arrange the rooms into 'flats' with anything from six to twenty rooms sharing a kitchen. These are popular for parties, so see how they would work for those, including ones where the occupants will want not to have people able to see in from outside. It's common to offer noisy / 'party' flats and quiet ones.

.. some outside space. BiCon is usually lucky with the weather and people like to sit outside, often way into the small hours of the night. Where are they going to go? Is it somewhere that's going to disturb people trying to sleep?

.. ideally having all of it to ourselves, somewhere that's easy for everyone to get to.

Again, you will have to compromise on some of these!

One reason university campuses have been popular is that they provide many of these AND allow you to not pay VAT on the bill, as BiCon is zero-rated for VAT at such venues. When the university runs its own accommodation, rather than contracting that out to some commercial firm, that extends to the biggest part of the final cost too.

Entirely personal ratings of some recent venues

2010 – Docklands, London: session space good but shared, social space acceptable (shared, not available in the evening), ents space poor (small bar / dance floor, no quiet space), accommodation good, outside space poor. Expensive venue.

2011 – Leicester: session space ok (split over two buildings, but all ok), social space very good, ents space ok (right next to bar), accommodation mixed (over three buildings, two of which had serious problems thanks to venue), outside space excellent. Venue offered a part-refund based on their failings.

2012 – Bradford: session space not good (split with access issues getting between them, some of it in poor rooms – bad acoustics, unmoveable lecture seating, poor ventilation), social space good (although not available in the evening), ents space ok, accommodation ok to poor (a distance away, some rooms offered choice between no ventilation or intermittent noise loud enough to keep people awake), outside space very good.

2013 – Edinburgh: session space very good, social space good, ents space very good, accommodation ok to poor (hotel style rather than flats, shared with nightmare groups), outside space ok. Expensive venue, treated us very badly in several ways, and I would very strongly advise no-one use Edinburgh First ever again.

2014 – Leeds Trinity: session space good to ok (getting between some rooms was an issue as was ventilation), ents space good (though shared with bar), accommodation good (but late night flights to nearby airport), outside space good. Each aspect could have been better, but it's well-balanced.

2015 – Nottingham: session space very good, social space good (not available in evenings, but accommodation / ents venue had good space), accommodation poor (rooms ok, but catered so unusable kitchens, and far from sessions space), ents space very good, outside space good.

2016 – Preston: session space poor (high up away from social space, narrow corridor or floor change between rooms, badly ventilated), social space very good, accommodation ok (needed to cross roads to get to the rest, plus some distance), ents space poor (acoustics, shared with bar), outside space poor.

2017 – Leeds Beckett: session space ok (two floors), social space good (move to other rooms in same building in the evenings), accommodation ok to good (some distance, large numbers of rooms sharing a kitchen is not ideal, noisier than Trinity because of closer to the late night flights), ents space ok (small, shared with bar, but good quiet space), outside space good. Another one that has nothing 'very good' but is well-balanced.

2018 – Salford: session space good, social space good, accommodation ok to poor (there were enough problems to result in a significantly reduced invoice), ents space ok (acoustics, noisy space shared with the bar), outside space very good.

(This is an example of a venue that has contracted out its accommodation and so is significantly more expensive for us than it should be. It's a pity, because if that and the issues with the accommodation were fixed, it'd be a good choice rather than a 'I really wouldn't' one.)

2019 – Lancaster: session space ok to poor (far from the accommodation and in two separate buildings), social space near the sessions ok, accommodation good, ents space ok, outside space ok.

Do not run a BiCon for yourself

As has been said, you need people to come to your BiCon. Not all of them will be like you. In many ways, most of them won't be. They don't all live online where you do. They like different things. Some BiCon attendees attend every session they can, others go to none of them. Some like the music or other entertainment you like, others do not.

If you are happy with everything at your BiCon, you've very probably missed something important out. If all your team like the same things, you're very probably going to miss something important out. If you are not promoting BiCon somewhere you've never been to, you are failing to reach everyone who would be interested in coming.

You Cannot Please Everyone

It's important to bear this in mind: whatever you do, someone will moan.

So don't be surprised when someone moans about the room naming scheme, or the fact that one person thinks you should be blamed because Abba was played at a disco and someone else is complaining that there wasn't enough Abba…

Instead, try to make everyone pleased with something.

You will at some point go 'Argh!'

Everyone does. Even the people who have done lots of them. It may be that the venue you'd like wants to charge extra to use the kitchens in the accommodation. Or fewer people are registering than you'd like. Or you are caught in a blizzard of some of the community's special snowflakes making more or less unreasonable demands.

Get some support. The people who have done it before are best. You don't have to tell them the whole details of why something is a problem – sometimes just saying 'spoons' will be enough.

The speech about the epic fail of Edinburgh First at BiCon 2013

There have been two BiCons at the University of Edinburgh's Pollock Halls. The first, in 1999 used them for both accommodation and session space. The second, BiCon 2013, had the session space at the John Macintyre Conference Centre.

Both involved dealing with Edinburgh university's 'Edinburgh First' organisation.

In 2013, we fulfilled our end of the contract. They did not.

When that had become clear, this is what was said at the start of one of the plenaries. Unusually for me, it was written down and emailed to myself to read out, otherwise I would have used phrases like "fucking unacceptable" and "don't fucking harm my attendees" a lot.


When I run a BiCon, I try to make it better than last year, and make next year's team wonder 'How can we do better than this?'

What has been happening this year has made that second bit easier than I – and many of you – would like.

BiCon organisation is a series of compromises, but the results of those should not be a surprise to attendees.

Specifically, some of the accommodation is designed like a hotel, not a series of flats, because it is a hotel. It just happens to have students staying in it outside holidays. BiCon hasn't had shared accommodation like that since 1999, the last time we were here. We mentioned it when talking about the venue on the website, but we didn't realise some of the implications.

Combined with being full with two groups – those associated with golf's Open Championship and with language schools for teenagers – as well as us, this means that there is not as much bi space as I and many of you would like.

In terms of people staying on the site, we are a 'one in ten' minority.

The situation was worse on Thursday evening when, faced with paying for access to here, including having our own bar, we did without. We would not have had any access to run the BiCon registration desk here during the afternoon if we hadn't needed to set up the dance floor.

But we didn't have a facility to issue BiCon stuff in the evening, so people arriving then didn't get badges to show they were here for BiCon.

The result has been that many attendees have been feeling unsafe here.

I am happy to talk more about some of the reasons why this happened, later, but..

I am going to say now that I am very unhappy that they were right to feel unsafe.

In the months and weeks before BiCon, we have talked in detail to the venue about the discrimination and prejudice that too many of us are too familiar facing, for multiple reasons. We have also talked to them about our behaviour.

It is not just you who have read the code of conduct. The venue staff who handled the issuing of the room keys so well have read it, for example. That's because as part of our booking, we have had to give the venue it too. They insisted on a change to it.

If you behaved like some of the golf groups, treating us like a freak show, taking photos, and so on, we would do something about it.

People who break our code of conduct will be at least talked to. If someone has been warned before, this year or not, and they break it again, they can expect to be kicked out.

We cannot kick out the golf groups. We will be asking why they are not being held to the same standard.

The venue also know about our child policy – that we expect a responsible adult to be in charge of under 18s.

If a child here behaved as the language students have done, including pissing around in the lifts, deliberately crashing into people, including those with visible disabilities, and, again, treating us like a freak show, we would be having words with the responsible adult.

We cannot do that directly. They appear to be without any proper supervision for much of the time. We will be asking why it appears that the language schools are not being held to even the legally required standards.

While in general, the venue security have been helpful to us, we are aware that there has been at least one example of miscommunication between one set of venue staff and security. We will be asking about that too.

You can help us by telling us about your experiences. If you have had any of this crap, or any other kind, please, please, please tell us. Ideally, write it down and stick it in the Code of Conduct box on the registration desk.

I cannot emphasise enough how much we want to know about things that could spoil your BiCon. You may think some may be your fault, You may think some may be our fault, You may think some may be the fault of others. Doesn't matter, please tell us.

Thank you.


Square Peg 17 on 5th National Conference on Bisexuality (BiCon 5)

Following their article on bisexuality in Square Peg 14, issue 17 (published some time after June 1987*) had something in its news pages on the 5th National Conference on Bisexuality** that was to happen in Edinburgh during mid-October.

Note the line welcoming "feminist transsexuals to women-only workshops"!

Alongside assorted art, Square Peg 17 also had one of the most erotic short stories I've ever read, Chrissy by Fi Craig; a look at the bathrooms of six LGBT people; a look at the films of Barbara Hammer and the recently deceased Curt McDowell; some photos of sex involving several women ("In issue 11 we talked about it, in issue 14 we read about it, in this issue we deliver it"); Manchester as England's second city; some photos of sex involving two or more men (probably); a look at pre-Aids gay porn stories; homo-eroticism in Italian cannibal movies; an interview with Roz Kaveney; a look at Aids in the USA; a Prague travelogue, then behind the 'Iron Curtain'.

Square Peg 17 cover

Double page spread of news pieces in Square Peg 17

image of text in article


Bisexuality Conference

"WE'RE NOT PLAYING AT OUR SEXUALITY; we can't trim it neatly to conform to heterosexual or homosexual stereotype and nor do we want to."

The 5th National Conference on Bisexuality offers bisexuals and their allies a weekend of discussion; support and fun; and promises workshops on such subjects as safe sex; positive pornography; heterosexuality, power and privilege; lesbian and gay attitudes to bisexuals; and SM. The women in the organising group welcome feminist transsexuals to women-only workshops. The conference is to be held at 60, The Pleasance, Edinburgh*** on October 16 to 18. For further information phone the Bisexual Phoneline**** (031-557 3620) on Thursdays 7:30-9:30pm, or write to: Edinburgh Bisexual Group, 58a Broughton Street, Edinburgh EH1 3SA.


* A THT ad elsewhere in it mentions the level of HIV infection as of June 1987.

** BiCon 5, but this was two years before the first one to be called 'BiCon'.

*** Owned by the University of Edinburgh, the Pleasance was also the venue for 1985's 'Bisexuality and the Politics of Sex' conference – what we'd now call BiCon 3.

**** The use of 'the' is more evidence that the London Bisexual Helpline started later in 1987.

Outright #43 article on BiCon 11

Outright was a free community newspaper in the East Midlands – it started life in February 1990 as 'Outright: Gay Freesheet for the East Midlands', and became '.. For Gays and Lesbians in Central England' by November 1992.

By issue 43 in November 1993, it was '.. For Gays Lesbians and Bisexuals in Central England' and in the same issue carried the following story about the recent BiCon 11 in Nottingham:

(HTML version of the text on the BiCon website.)

Outright dropped the '.. in Central England' bit of its subheading September 1995. Its last issue was #89 in October 1997.

Its archive is at The Sparrows Nest.

Bay Area Reporter on first US national bisexual conference

The mention of the Revolting Sexologists from Hell in Bi-Issues #1 got me doing a search for them. Before today, Google knew of one usage, in a Bay Area Reporter* article on the first US 'national bisexual conference' in 1990. (And it should have been the 'Radical Revolting Sexologists from Hell'!)

I didn't go to the conference – too poor, amongst other things – but several people from the UK did. I do have a couple of the brochures from it – one as a result of Robyn bringing some to the 1990 BiCon two months later, and one from being married to someone who did go.

That BiCon is probably where I got one of the event's t-shirts from…


The cover of the Bay Area Reporter newspaper, 5th July 1990

Bay Area Reporter article image 1

Bay Area Reporter article image 2

Conference Marks Bisexuals' Stonewall

by Richard McPherson

Four hundred and fifty men and women were in town last weekend to attend the 1990 National Bisexual Conference held at San Francisco's Mission High School.

Two years in the making, this conference, hosted by Bisexual Political Action Group (BiPOL), is the culmination of a nationwide effort of local bisexual centers to create a bisexual network and draw attention to the bi community.

The primary purpose of the conference for participants and the public at large was to: "Educate, Advocate, Agitate and Celebrate."

To this end the workshop, which ran June 21-23, focused on political, general information and AIDS oriented issues with subgroups and tracks dealing with feminism, people of color, relationships, androgyny, spirituality, sexuality and writing and publishing.

One of the highlights of the conference was the presentation by a representative of Supervisor Hongisto's office of a resolution passed by the S.F. board and signed by Mayor Agnos, declaring Saturday, June 23 "Bisexual Pride Day in San Francisco."

David Lourea, a BiPOL spokesperson, stressed that much of the focus of the conference was directed toward coming out and gaining personal and public support while emphasizing the need "of being out there in straight and gay communities as out-front, vocal bisexuals."

In addition to bisexual registrants, gay and lesbian people attended the conference as well, according to Carol Queen, a BiPOL steering committee member.

"We certainly have gay and lesbian-identified people here who are behaviorally bisexual," said Queen. "Gay and lesbian communities everywhere have a bisexual component to them, whether those folks are out or not.

"There are gay and lesbian people [here] who aren't bisexual behaviorally but who consider the struggles of bisexuals real important to them, who are working on their biphobia and working on understanding 'who are these bi upstarts anyway and what are they talking about?'"

A Part Yet Separate

David Lourea, sees similarities as well as differences between the bisexual and gay and lesbian communities in terms of beliefs and concerns.

"You need to see that bisexuals see themselves as part of the gay and lesbian community," he began. "Apart and separate from the community. So, while we have always been a part of every single gay and lesbian organization anywhere, there have been vast numbers of people who have been bisexual and have not felt comfortable to come out or secure to come out — have been discriminated against, ridiculed and have lived within the gay community in silence."

Lourea feels that even though bisexuals see their situation as very much related to the gay cause, they feel cut off from gays and lesbians due to lack of education and understanding.

Debunking the myth that bi people are confused about their sexual preference, Lourea says: "It is realistic to be confused if you live in a world that says that you do not exist. Confusion is an appropriate response to the gay and lesbian community telling you that your heterosexual feelings are just an indication of your internalized homophobia; of the straight community telling you that 'you're just a little strange and need to get rid of your homosexual feelings.' So people who are bi live with monosexuals [gays, lesbians and straights] telling them that they don't exist. It's appropriate to be confused. It's an appropriate choice not to make a choice; we live in a world that says you have to.

Addressing the opinion of some gays that bisexuals can't be trusted, that they'll go back in the closet and take "heterosexual privilege," Lourea responds: "A great many people who are bi are 'out there,' have always been beaten up, have put their lives on the line all the time. In some ways we risk more because the reality is that we don't want to give up our heterosexual partners, we don't want to give up our heterosexual life — we also don't want to give up our gay life. For many of us acknowledging our gay side does mean alienation of our heterosexual side, and that's very painful. Sometimes more painful than it is for someone who is gay or lesbian."

Exploding Biphobia

Carol Queen, a writer, educator, activist and charter member of Radical Revolting Sexologists from Hell, said that BiPOL exists as a political and educational tool to further the understanding and rights of not only bisexuals, but the gay and lesbian communities as well. "Since most of the projects of the gay and lesbian community are also our projects, anything that helps gay and lesbian visibility and identity and combats homophobia helps [us too]." For example, BiPOL, she said, was out in force in support of Project 10, a program to provide S.F. high schools with gay youth counseling programs.

Queen agrees with Lourea that a major part of BiPOL's agenda is to talk about biphobia to the gay and lesbian community, in addition to the straight community. "We want the lesbian and gay community to know that we're here as a part of their community, that we're moving into a new phase of community building and organizing. We're thinking of this as our non-violent Stonewall. 20 years later, thanks to the gay and lesbian community … Our same sex connections are very powerful and precious to us. You know, that's what makes us bisexual instead of heterosexual. We're not heterosexual people."

The conference weekend culminated on Sunday with a contingent of 250 participants marching in the Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day Parade. ▼

BAY AREA REPORTER JULY 5, 1990 PAGE 20 & 22

Page 20 of the Bay Area Reporter newspaper, 5th July 1990

Page 22 of the Bay Area Reporter newspaper, 5th July 1990


* Founded in 1971, the BAR is the USA's the oldest continually published LGBT newspaper. The article on the conference was just after two pages of obituaries, almost all as a result of Aids:

Obituries in the Bay Area Reporter 5th July 1990 1

Obituries in the Bay Area Reporter 5th July 1990 2

Bi-Issues #1

After the extended end of Bi-Monthly* three newsletters started up in 1991: Bi-Issues, Bi-Us, and Bifrost. (Spot the naming convention used by UK bi stuff…)

Bi-Issues was edited by Kevin Saunders. It was, I think, the first of the three to see print: if he was a member of the London Bisexual Group committee when they took the decision not to publish any more issues of Bi-Monthly, he'd have known of its demise before most people.

Published around February 1991, Bi-Issues #1 was an A5 4 page newsletter (i.e. a sheet of A4 folded in half) given away free. I don't think I have any copies of it (or Bi-Us) but it was converted to HTML by Rowan – editor of Bifrost, the most successful and long-running of the three – around 1999:

Every issue contains all the articles originally published in it with the exception of poetry, reprints from other publications .. Listings are not included in order to avoid confusion. Adverts are generally not included, though they may be if they were for an event within the bi community.

Bi-Issues ran for three editions. Kevin died in summer 2019.


Editorial. Introduction.
Bisexuals Stage Kiss-in at Edinburgh Conference.
Quote from workshop on eliminating internalised oppression.
The 8th National Bisexual Conference.

 

Editorial

Welcome to the first edition of Bi-Issues, a quarterly newsletter for Bisexuals. We will provide news and current issues for bisexuals.

In future editions we hope to publish articles by Iain Ryman, Clare Thompson, Robyn Ochs (American Bi-activist), David Lourea (American Bi-activist and one of the founding members of the Revolting Sexologists from Hell) and many others.

If you wish for a copy of Bi-Issues or you want to contribute then send an S.A.E. to: [address]

Health and happiness,
Kevin Saunders (Editor)

 

Bisexuals Stage Kiss-in at Edinburgh Conference

By our Staff Reporter

Our brave lads and lasses were dispatched to Edinburgh on 7th September to attend the 8th National Bisexual Conference. There fired by the enthusiasm of the occasion, 20-30 people staged a kiss-in on Lothian Rd. Said co-ordinator Ruth from Liverpool, "I think it's unfair that if I were kissing my boyfriend no-one would mind, yet if I were kissing my girlfriend I could end up being arrested."

As a result of this kiss-in 3 men, 4 women, 1 cat, 2 budgies and one baby have subsequently come out as Bisexual. Said Fiona Cambell, mother of three, "I'm worried about my husband. Ever since he saw the kiss-in he's been dating men. He's even lost interest in football".

 

Quote from the Workshop on eliminating internalised oppression

When a young elephant is trained, he or she is tied to a stick with a length of rope. The length of rope becomes engraved on the elephant's consciousness until one day when the rope is removed, the elephant moves around the stick as though the rope were still there.

It is the same with Bisexuals; every time someone puts us down or we limit ourselves because we are afraid of what others may think of us, we are acting as though we had an invisible rope limiting our actions. To move beyond this "rope" is to end internalised oppression. This takes great courage to even move small steps, yet is worth doing.

 

The 8th National Bisexual Conference

I knew I'd arrived in Edinburgh because the railway porters were saying "hey Jimmy, ken ye get the bike off the trean". If I were in London the porters would be saying,"Oi mate can you get this bleedin' load of shit off the fucking train". Anyway, I'd arrived, it was midnight on Friday 7th September, I still hadn't turned into a pumpkin yet and I still had to find the guest house. I took the zig-zag route, finally reached the Armadillo Guest house and crashed out wondering what the 8th National Conference was going to be like.

I went to Tollcross Community Centre on Saturday and crossed a line of religious Fundamentalists complete with long beards and thirteen children.** I stuck two fingers up as I passed and felt considerably better (though I had great difficulty in taking my fingers out again, bigots have very tight asses). The assembly hall*** was packed with Bisexuals all sitting nervously and waiting for the conference to begin.

I was somewhat dazed and overwhelmed by the feelings of being in a hall with people who shared my sexual identity, "God they're all so good looking" was one thought that crossed my mind. The conference duly began with Kate Fearnley welcoming everyone to the three day conference. Then it was off to the first workshop. There were three workshops a day and a choice of 55 workshops to choose from.

I was spoilt for choice; should I go to Bisexuality and Choice?, The Yo-Yo effect, Push me-Pull yous and the Flying Trapeze Syndrome? or the Variables of Sexual Orientation run by the noted author and sexologist Fritz Klein? The agonising decision made I went off to Bisexuality and Choice run by Clare Thompson.

Clare's theory is that bisexuals have special difficulty in making choices and if confronted with two options will tend to find ways of doing both. Her examples of sharing dishes at restaurants, having several part-time jobs, or trying to watch two or more films on TV produced many nods and sighs of recognition.

We explored what it felt like to stick with a choice. It was very thought provoking, a common theme being the hassles we all gave ourselves around choice as well as the fear of taking the unconventional option. Even re-reading the programme in order to write this article has brought up all sorts of regrets about the workshops I missed because of the ones I went to.

I was struck by the openness and the energy of all the people who were there, cuddles and open displays of affection were always present. There were also some excellent speeches by Robyn Ochs (American Bi Activist) and Lisa Power**** (Stonewall Group). I found it particularly encouraging that a Lesbian activist was so positive about bisexuals and bisexuality.

Saturday evening was rounded off by a disco and an Erotic dancing competition (which I missed, sigh), organised by Del Ray, Vice-chair of LBG (Geddit, yes I know this joke is recycled, sorry it's the only one I have available at the moment).

Sunday I ran a massage workshop and missed another of Fritz Klein's workshops, this one being on the advantages of a bisexual lifestyle. Still, maybe at another conference… More workshops and discussions more sitting around in circles and always the energy of bisexuality becoming clearer and easier to see.

One of the most disturbing workshops I attended was on Eliminating Internalised Oppression. We drew up a list of stereotypical sayings and put-downs associated with bisexuals. Towards the end of a very long list I was thinking, "Oh my God is there no end to all this crap"? I left feeling angry and depressed at all the negative messages bi's have to cope with, yet also more hopeful about our power to overcome these messages.

Finally, all too quickly the conference reached Monday evening and we all parted. Robyn Ochs, the American activist, summed it up by saying, "I don't want to leave. I want to take you all with me."


* It had become more and more irregular. The last published issue had a cover date of February/March 1989, but the actual publication date would have been later in 1989.

** It did actually have a tiny picket! First, and so far, last time.

*** The community centre was also a primary school. Again, first, and so far, last time BiCon's been in one of those. Another one in Edinburgh was in a church / Methodist Hall.

**** Legendary activist Lisa identifies as lesbian, but has famously had relationships with more than one gender.