TEDxOtaniemi – Hannu Jaakkola

In Collaborating, Curating by Mark Sylvester

The Hack: Do a pre-mortem. Plan out everything that could go wrong, months before your show.


Hannu Jaakkola, is the organizer of TEDxOtaniemi in Finland, near Helsinki. This town is known as the largest tech center and the startup-centric area in the country.

When you mention Hannu in a group of TEDx organizers, everyone smiles. He’s got a great personality and is very easy to be around. This is an essential trait to be a TEDx organizer.

His first taste of TEDx was at a Youth event in Helsinki, and he was hooked. He said, “I can do this as well.” That’s usually all it takes to get hooked on producing your TEDx event.

We went a bit off script in this conversation. Maybe it was because of his demeanor and ease of conversation. You’ll enjoy this nice long chat with Hannu.

TEDx is a symphony of different ideas.”Hannu Jaakkola

The Lightning Round

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

    Hannu first enjoyed TEDxYouth@Kamppi in late 2014 and applied for first TEDx license in January 2015. Everything he learned though was from the TEDx website, the guidelines, and tips and tricks. He worked with one of his friends who’s gifted at egging him on to do the event. He thinks maybe he could have done it a bit more thoughtfully; instead, he jumped in with both feet.

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

    He’s been to several other TEDx events and has held several Nordic Organizer Meetups via Skype (Note: Great idea to stay in touch with your regional peers). The most impactful events were TEDGlobal in Geneva and the TEDSummit in 2016 in Banff. “I think I was more myself that week than I had been in years.”

  • What makes your TEDx unique?

    The themes that we’ve done. Designing for Love of Learning and Learn to Play, Play to Learn and now this year, Constructing Kindness. Thes have all affected the DNA of how we do the event. The theme is a way of organizing our brains around the central motif of the event. The theme gives it some structure but doesn’t contain it that much.

  • What’s your Superpower?

    Collaborating. I think of this as creating a safe environment, and talking with people until they are as excited about the ideas as I am.

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

    How willing people are to volunteer for things. Last year we had over 80 volunteers for most of the project. “We collaborated until we were crazy.”

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

    The fear of letting people down is a big one for me.

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

    The way to get a team together is to build trust and make sure that the purpose is clear. “I think of my job as someone who can create a safe environment for people to throw out ideas, and build trust that way. No one is going to yell at you if something goes wrong.”

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

    The biggest thing is to learn about the limits of kindness and gentleness (goes back to their theme of Constructing Kindness.)

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

    TEDxLincoln. NOTE: Randy Bretz has a pretty big following on TEDxHub and is so helpful, I bet these two would get along famously.

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

    Do a pre-mortem. Plan out everything that could go wrong, months before your show. NOTE: There’s an extensive discussion about this concept in the show. Take time to listen all the way through.Organize a community event over a couple of hours and use post-it notes, using a facilitation process including, “What’s relevant to your life?” “What’s most important to you?” This was how they came up with Kindness, which led to the eventual theme for 2017.

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