TEDxMontreal – Katy Yam

In Curating, Partnering by Mark Sylvester

The Hack: Don’t ask for money. Ask for something you need.


Katy Yam is well known in the TEDx Universe. You’ll see her and her team at any number of East Coast TEDx events, learning and soaking in the ideas from her peers. She is wildly passionate about ‘her’ town, Montreal and sees TEDx as a way to celebrate the diversity of people and ideas.

After some health issues sidelined her in 2007, she found that TED Talks, just new to the internet, could boost her morale. She decided then that she wanted to move to NYC and work for TED. Instead, she found TEDxMontreal and volunteered. Look, she’s now running the show with an amazing team of people.

When asked about how she motivates the team she said, “We pay people with Passion.”

TEDxMontreal  and the  Thank You party produced with Deloitte and event Flickr stream

There’s so much I love about my city.Katy Yam, TEDxMontreal

The Lightning Round

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

    Katy works for the Government of Quebec in the Casino division. The very cool story you won’t want to miss. In 2006, after 49 sessions of she found the initial 6 TED talks, and that began her obsession with TED.

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

    2, 2015 and 2016. She’s been to the TEDSummit and visited BeaconStreet, Toronto and loves visiting TEDx events. I bet if you’re close and invite her and the team; she’ll show up.

  • What makes your TEDx unique?

    We are one of the few bilingual events. There’s so much that she loves about the City that she focuses 100% on local speakers – no imports. She said that Montreal loves underdogs, that is until they leave the City to become famous, then they trounce on them. So, she sees TEDxMontreal as a precursor to fame for their speakers.

  • What’s your Superpower?

    Curating and Partnerships. “The heart of what we do is about ideas.” She loves working with an entire team of curators. Listen to this part of the episode if you want to understand how they’ve evolved their approach to curation. She’s got a great attitude and mantra about Partners as well.

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

    The depth of talent, curiosity and engaging people in Montreal.

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

    TEDx is not well known in the French community, plus Montreal is famous for its creative conference ecosystem. There’s plenty of competition for mindshare and partner contributions.

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

    Build a diverse team. DONT GET JADED. Find ways to keep it fresh – for you, your team and your audience.

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

    Breaking the mold. See advice above. “Deconstruct everything.”

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

    TEDxTheHagueSalon – the original Salon that all TEDx Salons are modeled after. They’ve done over 80 to date.

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

    Don’t ask for money, ask for something you need. Customize your partnerships to make them win-win. Great story about the connection they have with Deloitte, which then threw a wonderful Thank You Party for the entire team.

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