TEDxMaui’s co-producer Katie McMillan sat down with us to answer a few questions about what makes her tick, what inspired her to bring this event to Maui, and what it takes to put an event like this to the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Enjoy her perspective below.
1. Do you remember the first time you learned about TED Talks? What were your first impressions?
I discovered TED about three years ago when I was living out in the jungle of Maui and I didn’t have a TV for the first time in years. Seeking out alternative entertainment, a friend who was a huge TED fan showed me the website, and I was immediately hooked. I went to TED.com every time I wanted to learn something new or get inspired. Because I have such wide and varied interests, I could always find something on TED.com to satisfy my quest for knowledge.
2. Describe the exact moment you knew you had to get a TEDx license to hold an event on Maui.
I attended the inaugural TEDWomen Conference last year in Washington DC. When Dr. Elizabeth Lindsey took to the stage, there was just something so mesmerizing about her presence and she gave one of the most moving presentations I’d ever heard. When I realized she was from Hawaii, I was shocked that I had never heard of her before. After her talk, I started thinking about all the incredibly talented people I had encountered on Maui over the years and how many people only got to know Maui through the sunglass lens of a tourist. There is so much innovation and creativity blossoming on Maui and I felt like the time was right to create an event that would help bring it forward and share it with the rest of the world. Immediately, I called Sara Tekula, someone who I had only met a few times, but I knew she had the production knowledge that would be vital to the success of TEDxMaui. When she enthusiastically responded to my request for partnership, TEDxMaui was born.
3. What were your initial thoughts/assumptions about making this event possible, and how have those thoughts changed over the last year? Has it been challenging?
To be completely honest, I had no idea what I was getting into when I decided to take this on. Although I had worked for several large events in various capacities, this is the first event I have ever produced. We had many assumptions about what the event would cost and the process for creating our program. I remember when we first started, we had many people from off-island apply. It felt great, but we wanted to make sure we were producing TEDxMaui, not TEDxSF, etc. Also, when we started reaching out to potential collaborators on Maui, we frequently got the response, “TED who?” Not everyone was familiar with TED so we had to educate people what TED was all about. Perhaps the biggest lesson for me was learning to trust. With every set back we had, we had to just keep moving forward in the spirit that a sponsor or a speaker would come through, etc. They key is deeply believing in your mission and not giving up. Over time, we were able to find speakers and sponsors that are just as invested in this event’s success as we are.
4. What does the event’s theme “The Courage to Dream” mean to you, and how would you interpret it?
The Courage to Dream is about discovering your greatest potential. Often, life circumstances create situations where we may feel like we are stuck or have no other options than to put our dreams aside. When you discover how boundless your potential is for greatness, I believe that is the foundation to overcome any obstacle that might come your way. When you listen to the presentations at TEDxMaui, I hope you will see that these inspirational individuals are no different than you or me. If their dreams can come true, so can yours.
5. What do you think the Maui community should most look forward to at TEDxMaui, especially those who aren’t too familiar with TED?
My experience at TEDWomen was life changing and it was only partly because of the presentations. The other big gift for me was meeting some of the most interesting people in the hallways and during the networking breaks. I made new friends and had conversations with other participants that have greatly impacted my life in the most positive way. When you come to TEDxMaui, take it as an opportunity to meet new people and make connections with others who share your passion for great ideas. You never know, a connection you make at TEDxMaui could be the catalyst for the development of a revolutionary new technology or service that will positively impact our community and the world for years to come.
6. What feelings do you hope TEDxMaui participants should walk away with when the event is over?
My wish is for attendees to walk away with a feeling that the answers to all of our challenges are out there and that we have the potential to be part of the solution. TED is a platform for the free sharing of ideas and I hope it inspires us to be bold, think creatively, and not be afraid to share our wisdom in all aspects of our lives. We should never let fear, judgment, politics, etc. limit our thinking as to what is possible.
7. Do you have a favorite TED talk? If so, what is it and why?
That question is like asking me to choose my favorite chocolate bar! There are so many good ones out there. I love Amber Case’s presentation on Cyborg Anthropology. I have been teaching Internet Marketing and work in the world of social media and marketing. I have watched with fascination how rapidly the way we communicate with each other has evolved. Amber was another presenter at TEDWomen and I loved how she opened my eyes to the fact that we are creating a world where we are creating two realities, a digital and physical reality, at once.
Enjoy Amber’s talk from TEDWomen below: