TEDxLagunaBlancaYouth – Kiki Tolles – Student Executive Producer

In Collaborating by Mark Sylvester


The Hack: Remember, each team member matters

Kiki Tolles is the Student Executive Producer for TEDxLagunaBlancaSchool, an event held here in Santa Barbara, California, home of the Hacking the Red Circle podcast. Kiki is a member of a TEDx production class, led this semester by Anna Alldredge, their faculty advisor.

Kiki has the type of passion and energy that we've come to expect from other organizers and more pronounced in Youth event teams. She was first introduced to TED Talks by her teachers, and when the opportunity to produce an event, and be a part of the leadership came up, she jumped at it.

It's not unusual for a group of teenagers to create a TEDx these days; we see it all the time. However, for this team, they have had to work through some staggering logistical challenges since the start of the Thomas Fire, the largest fire in the history of the state of California. It started on December 4th, 2017, just eight weeks before the start of their event and burned until a few days before Christmas. Then on January 8th, 2018, the day the students would have returned to school, the community was hit by devastating floods and mudslides. This catastrophic event has separated students and teachers from the school and made logistics very challenging. As of the posting of this episode, the main highway connecting Santa Barbara to the world is still closed for the foreseeable future. They've invited a Santa Barbara Firefighter (at the last minute) to give a talk.

I love talking to first-time organizers before they've done the event, then circle back and have a cup of coffee afterward, to see how perceptions and assumptions changed in the meantime. Kiki said one of the primary motivations for her and the team is to put on something real, produce an actual event and leave a legacy for the school.

As the executive producer of TEDxSantaBarbara, I invited Kiki and their executive team to the dress rehearsal for our event on November 11th. We escorted them backstage, into the production room, visited the green room, and they sat through a couple of the speaker's talks, hearing the coaches give last minute advice. It was eye-opening for them and gave them a good sense of the many moving parts it takes to produce an event.

We know that they're going to produce a great event.

The image below is two days before the event. They had to bring in everything - seats, lights, screens, audio, build a stage and stuff 500 goodie bags!

This is our chance to produce something real."Kiki Tolles, Student Executive Producer

The Lightning Round

  • Tell us a bit about your background and your TEDx origin story.

    Kiki got introduced to TED Talks at school when she was 14, she's now 16 and helping her class produce the school's first TEDx event.

  • How many TEDx events have you worked with or produced?

    This is her first.

  • What makes your TEDx unique?

    They decided that all the talks would be ten minutes long, max, and that they'd focus on a diversity of topics. Their theme is Evolve, and they've found great ways to weave that into the talks.

  • What’s your Superpower?


  • What was the biggest surprise while working on your event?

    Kiki said that she was surprised at how rewarding it feels to be doing the event.

  • Every event has its challenges, what was the biggest dragon you had to overcome?

    "I worry that I care so much about our event and that others don't' care enough."

  • What’s one piece of advice you have for veteran organizers? For first-timers?

    Make memories while you're doing all the work, and enjoy the journey.

  • Looking forward to your next event, what excites you the most?

    She's anxious to see the look on her fellow student's faces as they're watching the day unfold. She knows it's going to be a great event.

  • What’s a TEDx event that you’d like to attend?

    TEDWoman (Let's find a way to get her a ticket, ok?)

  • The show is called Hacking the Red Circle, so what's your best hack?

    Remember that each team member matters and that you're leaving a legacy for those that follow.

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