Behind the Scenes w. TEDxYYC Chair Jo Pesta

 Our 2014 event doesn’t just bring with it an exciting new venue and a snazzy new lineup of speakers, it also comes complete with a fresh new event chair named Jo Pesta – a proud Calgarian with a fierce commitment to making this the best TEDxYYC yet. We were thrilled to track her down and hear her thoughts. 

Q: What is your past experience with TEDxYYC, and how did you get involved in the first place?

JP: The first TEDx event I attended was a live stream of TEDWomen in 2010. I was inspired by the talks and knew that I wanted to contribute to the TED community. When in fall 2011 I heard that the TEDxYYC committee was looking for new members I threw my name in the hat and was excited to join. I quickly took on the role of event logistics, and this year moved into the role of chair.

Q: When you’re not up to your ears planning TEDxYYC 2014, what keeps you busy?

JP: I’m an event manager for a not-for-profit organization. We host a variety of events for our members; everything from small community-building potlucks to guest speakers to concerts. My work is a combination of self-driven events as well as supporting staff and member initiatives.

Q: What, in your opinion, is the most challenging aspect of putting together an event as significant as TEDxYYC?

JP: The size and the scope are the most challenging. This year we have an amazing committee headed up by experts in their respective fields, which is so exciting because with this year’s growth we have a lot of work ahead of us! As you can expect, an event this size is all about achieving the vision by keeping track of the details.

Q: How do you and your committee decide on the event’s featured speakers?

JP: We have an amazing speaker sub-committee, lead by Leor Rotchild. This team starts by brainstorming a massive list of ideas, with input from the whole committee, and then they prioritize it and approach the individuals to see if they would be willing to speak. It’s a fun process to watch, and our team does an excellent job of ensuring that we meet the TED criteria of having speakers on a variety of topics from Techonology, Education, Design and more.

Q: What is the cost to attend TEDxYYC, and where does that money get directed?

JP: Our new 2014 venue, the Jubilee Auditorium, is really giving us the opportunity to open up our audience and make the event more affordable. We have reduced our ticket prices from $100 to $80 for a regular ticket, $60 for an early bird (only 300 seats!) and $40 for students and seniors. TED rules stipulate that our event is not allowed to make a profit, so all ticket sales go directly back into the event costs including flights for the speakers, venue rental feels, web fees, snacks at the breaks, print costs and more. We also feel very strongly about having our event available for live streaming (which is free!), while also making sure the videos we produce after the event are of amazing quality so that the inspiration can spread worldwide.

Q: What is it about the 2014 event that you’re most excited about?

JP: I’m most excited about the role our new venue is playing in giving us an opportunity to reach a wider Calgary audience, including an additional focus on students. We have always had a student program but it only reached 10 students, and this year we hope to reach many more than that.

Q: In your opinion, who should attend TEDxYYC and why? What are the most valuable things you see them getting out of it?

JP: This event is open to all Calgarians (and out of towners too!). We want to host people who are engaged in their community and striving to make this city a better place. Whether you’re a student, involved in the arts, sustainability, technology, etc, you’re welcome to attend. I believe that TEDxYYC is an amazing opportunity for Calgarians to come together, be inspired together and hopefully spark some new connections. Beyond the talks, we provide plenty of time for people to discuss what they’ve heard and engage in conversation with other Calgarians through our networking breaks and reception.

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