Fix the World Challenge - Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get started?
How does this work?
How can I become an excellent actor?
Can I get in trouble for this stuff?
Can I at lest be fined?
How do I videotape?
How can I go to a conference?
How can I speak at a conference?
How can I make a fake newspaper?
How can I hijack a Twitter backchannel?

How do I get started?

Really, the main thing you need to do is find one or more like-minded folks who want to fix the world. Meet up with them every week or so and brainstorm, perhaps with the help of a little lubrication.

If you want to do something like we've done, just check out our actions and figure out how we do it. We give away all the secrets we can, but it takes work to reveal everything, so we may have left something out. Regardless, it's not hard to figure it out for yourself. If you have a specific how-to question you just can't figure out for yourself, and that we don't answer here, please track us down and ask us.

Once you've done your thing, post the video on this site, and elsewhere, to share it with the world. If you do it repeatedly you may have to make a movie about it. (Watch out: it'll completely take over your life, and you won't have time to do anything else.)

How does this work?

There's no substitute for getting together with like-minded people and brainstorming projects. This "Challenge" site is really just about helping you get the creative juices flowing. Take a look at the "challenge" page and see if one of those ideas makes you start to feel itchy. If it does, find others with a similar problem and go for it.

If you do want to try to do this online, there are several ways you can "play":

Find a Challenge you're interested in, and click through. You'll see what groups are already hard at work on them, and a bit of text about each. If you feel like joining a particular group (for example, one that's in your geographical area), request membership.
Alternately, you (or you and your friends) can create a new group to respond to that challenge. You can create wikis, where you can keep notes and update each other on stuff. You can also solicit new members for your new group. We Yes Men have found that an optimal group size is 2-5, with the small end being better.
Look for a group in your area, and ask to join one that seems to be doing something interesting.
Suggest a new Challenge.
If you've already done something and want to post it, send it to the moderator.
That's it! The winners of each challenge will be "honored" by having their work ripped off and placed on the DVD of The Yes Men Fix the World and shown at a big screening event in March. Groups will also be eligible to submit proposals for possible funding and development in a Yes Men training camp (more info coming soon).

Now, you may have some questions. Here are the answers. To find out more, you might also check out the Yes Men's FAQ.

How can I become an excellent actor?

Actually, this isn't necessary. Andy, for example, is a terrible actor. In college he got kicked out of a play. In high school he did really well in an audition, once, and got a part - but was then execrably bad in the actual part. Couldn't keep interested in the role.

Mike, for his part, once played the role of a dinosaur in an elementary school play. He was good at it, but you couldn't actually see his expression, he was inside a dinosaur costume.

OK, you'll say, but Andy on the BBC looks very convincing. Actually, look closely: he's terrified. The whole time. But after a week of solid rehearsals, he managed to pretty much memorize everything he had to say and get through it. (See "How to Be an Accomplished PR Flak," below.)

Of course, that's exactly what PR folks do. They're probably terrified too, but they're very rehearsed. And that's the key to Andy's good acting. Once you're up there - whether it's live on the BBC in front of 300 million viewers, or in front of a room full of oil execs who've paid $50 a head to see Exxon's ex-CEO, or what have you - pretty much anything you do is going to be fine. After all, you're the most important person in the room!

And the funny thing is, when everyone in the room believes that you're a particular person, you start to believe it as well. That's what makes this so much easier than regular acting. When you're a regular actor, everyone in the room knows you're not actually Hamlet, or Sweeney Todd's wife, or whatever - and you have to work really hard and adeptly to suspend their disbelief. In this kind of acting, the audience everyone thinks you are Sweeney Todd. It's suspension of disbelief in reverse: you end up believing it as well, and act just right.

A good first step, to get how it works: just put on a suit or business dress, and notice how you act differently. See?

How to Be an Accomplished PR Flak

It's very easy to be an excellent PR flak. Just memorize the five answers you want to give, and use them to answer any question you get. That's it!

This is what you need to do whether you find yourself on TV representing Dow Chemical, or speaking at a conference as the CIA, or answering a reporter's questions about your latest action. That's all!

Can I get in trouble for this stuff?

Almost certainly! But we, at least, haven't figured out how to do it yet.

Once, in Calgary, we were "arrested" by security guards. We'd been pretending to be important representatives of Exxon and the U.S. government, and we'd crashed a big oil conference; the organizers were furious. (We actually could have walked away at any time, but we didn't, because it seemed like more fun to stay.) We kept insisting that we were from Exxon and the U.S. government - again, because it seemed like good fun. And it was! But when the police arrived, we came clean and told them the truth, and they laughed, offered us tea, and shook our hands.

One tip: unless you have good reason to, don't lie to police - it's pretty illegal to do so, and if they figure it out they'll be mad. If you're going to get into trouble, do it for a good reason...

Update: We did it! A lawsuit is probably the best possible platform.

Can I at least be fined?

Yes, but again, we're not sure how. After the same Canadian police offered us tea, they told us to hang on a moment, and went back to "smooth things over" with the organizers. A while later, they shamefacedly came back with trespassing tickets, telling us we didn't really have to pay them. We took them excitedly, noting the court date. The next day we were telling some friends about it, and one of them turned out to be a lawyer; she volunteered to defend us, but realized that she had to keep the charges secret from the court. But no luck: the court took a look at the charges and threw them out. Oops!

How do I videotape?

The best option is to bring a friend with a video camera and a wireless mic. If you are wearing a wireless, they can even stand at a discreet distance when necessary. Remember to tell them to point the camera at the target. Yes, this sounds silly, but if you don't tell them you might just end up with another home video of yourself to send to your mum. If you are usng more than one camera, make sure that the two have different roles - otherwise you will end up with two tapes of the same thing, useless for editing.

If there is a situation requiring hidden cameras, that's an option, but it's not without complications. These days there are a large number of affordable options for secret video and audio filming. Unfortunately, lots of the over-the counter spy solutions are quirky and difficult to use. Don't use wirelss video: the signal is usually too weak for it to be reliable if you are moving around. If you are getting a pen-camera, make sure to shop carefully on-line to see about user experiences. Some of the pen-cams work well, and some are notoriously difficult - for example, if there is an on/off button and you can't tell when the camera is really on, thats a problem. You will want to test the audio quality if you are doing a combined audio/video recording, because its often more important to have good audio than video. Also, seriously consider making your own rig using components... you can order cheap cameras with audio on-line, and then attach it to an MP4 recorder that has A/V in capability. Using a hot glue gun and a used necktie (go for a pattern that has small dots that conceal a pinhole lens), you can make something that looks better than most you would get from a real spy store.

How can I go to a conference?

So you've decided you want to hang out at a conference?out of masochism, or curiosity.

First step: dress nicely. Visit your local thrift store and get a suit. (Shouldn't cost more than $20.) Get some fairly "nice" dress shoes (shouldn't cost more than $10 - nobody actually wants these things).

Second step: Just walk in the door, giving a friendly, confident wave to whoever's at the desk. Even if registration's required, they might not check that you've registered or that you're wearing a badge.

If you want to get a badge, or feel you should, then there will be one of two situations you'll have to negotiate:

1. There will be a table near the entrance that's full of badges all laid out nice and neatly. In that case you can just walk up, find a name, and say you're that person (and that you've forgotten your business cards). Take the conference materials you'll be graciously offered, along with the badge, and proceed inside.

2. Another approach is to come to the table around mid-day (when a few tags are left), observe a tag, and then run out and print a few business cards. A sheet of pre-perforated cards and a copy shop will do the trick.

3. There will be a table with a box on it, and a person behind the box. Then, you have to figure out what name to say. Perhaps you can adopt a heavy accent, say you need to register, and that your name is, say, Xzorpidquon. If you say it incomprehensibly enough, and with enough enthusiasm, the person behind the desk may help you by suggesting various names you might mean. Agree immediately with the first suggestion, if it matches your gender.

Once you have your badge, by the way, you can copy it quite easily by scanning it and reprinting it on the right color paper at your local copy store. Then you can get all your friends in!

How can I speak at a conference?

Register online as a speaker

If you want to speak at a conference, the easiest way is to find the conference website, find the page called "speaking opportunities" (often in the "About" menu), and register. (You can also just search online for "speaking opportunities" - and you'll find tens of thousands of pages. Add a keyword if you like - like "oil and gas 'speaking opportunities'".)

You'll need to fill out some hard information - for example, a company name, an address, an email, a phone number, etc. You should use an email and phone number that work (and depending on what you've filled out, you can expect a follow-up call), but the address can be totally fake.

As for the email: pick something that looks right. For example, if you're representing Exxon as Luella Arschenfleck, buy a domain like and use an address like Note: a company like Godaddy might cancel your domain name just because it contains a well-known corporate name, so you might want to use an off-beat registrar like

The form might also ask for your biography, description of presentation, benefits of the presentation, and additional people who might want to speak on a panel with you. For all of these, don't stand out. To help, you can plunder liberally from the internet. For example, if the conference is on oil and gas, you might try to find a powerpoint about drilling technologies - simply search on "drilling technologies ppt" or the like. Start from that.

Note: with this approach, you'll probably be asked to pay a fee as speaker. If you insist that you're very important and that you'll be issuing some very important information, that fee might be waived - but don't count on it. When we registered as Dow Chemical to speak at a Nanotechnology conference in San Francisco, we dodged the fee, but at the door they demanded it ($600). So we had to go find a cash machine.

Pose as a public-relations firm with a very important client

An even better technique is to simply call up the conference.

In Calgary, Alberta, we decided we wanted to speak as Exxon at a big oil conference. So Mike emailed the conference from an address we happened to own, using a new name: (We don't own anymore, but any address that looks like it could belong to a PR firm will do.)

So "Gus" (Mike) wrote to the conference and told them he represented none other than Lee Raymond, the former chair of Exxon Mobil and one of the biggest players in the oil industry. Raymond, said "Gus," happened to be going hunting near Calgary, and since he was involved in an outreach campaign related to his new position advising the U.S. government, he was interested in speaking at the conference. They jumped at the chance. Of course, on the day of the event, Raymond did not show up, and assistants (that would be us, Mike and Andy) had to take his place.

The problem with promising to deliver someone very famous is obvious: everyone knows who they are ? and it might just get back to someone who knows the truth. So we explained that due to security and the nature of the very sensitive announcement that Raymond was to make, the conference was not allowed to say anything about him or his presentation on their promotional material. Surprisingly enough, that approach has worked?  more than once. Remember to use the word "embargoed" a lot, it sounds quite important. (It hasn't always worked. In New Orleans, we promised the conference Alfonso Jackson, the head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and told them to keep it a secret so that the real Jackson didn't find out. Instead, the conference folks told the mayor and the governor, who both showed up to rub shoulders with Jackson... or, as it turned out, his assistant, one Rene Oswin.)

Pose as a public-relations firm with a nobody client

A slightly more elaborate version of the VIP invitation can be used to get a "nobody" on the roster as well. When we found a conference on "Catastrophic Loss" we felt compelled to send someone from "Halliburton." First, Mike made up a bunch of names at different email addresses at The first one, "John Smith," sent an email to the conference company, acting as if he had met them before. He wrote that their colleague "Joe" had said that they really would love to have "Fred Wolff" at the next conference, and he ("John Smith") had promised to try. So now he was trying! A few days later, they got an email from a different person at, saying they'd gotten him! The conference fell for it.
Set up a website and wait
This is what we started out doing. Download a website, alter it, post it at a believable web address, and voilà! instant boss-bait. It may take a while to catch one, though...

How can I make a fake newspaper?

You have to collect articles, get them laid out, make some ads, find a printer, wrangle a bunch of distributors, scope out the media outlets you want to get papers to, make a video news release in advance, rent a few trucks or vans, and lie a lot about the number of papers you printed (optional).

It might be easier to start with a flier.

How can I hijack a Twitter backchannel?

Most conferences have a hash tag associated with them (e.g. "#GO-Expo", for the Gas and Oil Exposition). All you need to do is make a twitter post with this hash tag in it while the conference is going on and all the attendees following the backchannel will see it!

To find conference backchannels you can use a GPS-enabled twitter client when you are near hotels and convention centers, pick up the local feed, and thus find out if there's an active backchannel to hijack!

More coming soon!

(The Yes Men, 2010)