03/20/2015 10:31 EDT | Updated 05/20/2015 05:59 EDT

BIL free alternative to pricey TED Conference

Billing itself as a free alternative to the $8,500 price tag for a week at the TED2015 Conference, the BIL Conference kicks off this weekend in Vancouver with a series of talks on a limitless range of topics.

"BIL doesn't actually stand for anything and we left it up to our participants each year to kind of determine what BIL meant to them," said Michael Cummings, who co-founded the annual event in 2008.

"It was a play on TED [Technology, Entertainment, Design], obviously Ted and Bill's excellent adventure, so we just thought up something funny — booze, intellectuals and learning — let's just get a bunch of people together and drink a little bit and have an intellectual experience," said Cummings.

Unlike the formal TED event, BIL talks don't have a fixed schedule. There is open submission process beforehand for talks on the main stage, and other open stages allow anyone to take the mic.

"We don't vet them beforehand either, so we have no idea if this person's going to get onstage and if they've ever presented before," he said.

Cummings said usually a few of the speakers from the TED conference also take the stage at BIL.

Since 2008, BIL events have been held worldwide in Canada, the U.S., Tunisia, Afghanistan, India, Algeria and France.

"There's nothing wrong with TED … but BIL is needed because there's a community of people in each of these local communities that TED has happened in where people feel left out because there's this giant event where all these people from all over the world are coming from their city and they're not included in any of it."

To hear the full interview with Michael Cummings, click the audio labelled: BIL offers free alternative to TED.