Interview with Beth Haley of TEDxABQ
I first got involved with TEDxABQ as a volunteer the day of the 2016 Main Event. After the event, when I saw that the Women’s event was looking for marketing and communications help, I met with Beth Haley, the executive director of TEDxABQ (and one of a handful of paid TEDx employees in the world) at a local brewery to discuss how I could contribute. After just a few minutes, I was all in. Beth is... magnetic. Her sweet smile pulls you in, her enthusiasm is contagious without being overwhelming, and you feel like she really listens to you — a rare and beautiful quality these days. I’ve been volunteering with TEDxABQ for over a year now, and although it's a wonderful community, and I fully support the cause, I have to say, I don’t know if I would have gotten as involved if it weren’t for Beth and her infectious passion.
I recently met Beth for a long walk along the Bosque to find out more about her history with TEDx. We stopped to chat at Bike in Coffee, a weekend pop up coffee stand on a local farm. Beth and I opted for smoothies and carrot cake this morning, relaxing in the Old Town Farm garden as we enjoyed our farm-fresh eats. (CAKE. Breakfast of champions.)
How did you get started with TEDx?
I saw a billboard for TEDxABQ and was like, ‘Oh my god, I didn’t realize that we had one!’ I actually didn’t know what TEDx was. So I went to buy a ticket, which was $65 plus fees, so it was like a $75 ticket, which I did not have. So I decided to volunteer. I was really surprised by the caliber of people and how dedicated they were to what they were doing, so I decided to stick around.
How did it turn into a job?
TEDX is a project of SINC. They decided to create a part-time operations coordinator position in the summer of 2014. By that time I had been with TEDx for just under a year and I was just so enamored with TEDx, and so when they opened a position I applied and I talked to the lab I was working for at the time to see if I could work part time there, which is what ended up happening. Did that for a year part time, and it grew into a full time position in the summer of 2015. Right place, right time, is the short answer.
Why were you so enamored with TEDx?
I saw my first TED talk in 2009. I just remember being completely, just totally inspired that there was somewhere to access information of all kinds. And it really fed a curiosity that I have about lots of a different areas. I’ve always been a bit of a generalist, so getting to learn about neuroscience here, and urban farming there, and this art project there… that’s 100% up my alley. When TEDxABQ got on my radar I saw it as a really interesting way, not only was I attracted to the type of volunteer culture, but also a way to get in touch with the community, because I had only been here about six months and I wanted to get to know more of what was going on. And it really was, it was a great access point. And now, having been involved, I feel like, in some ways, I have a better connection to some parts of the community than people who have been here a while. There’s two big things for me. One is innate curiosity, the desire to learn about other things, and then the other piece is about making connections and the ability for us to get out of our own little bubbles and learn different and interesting things.
What are your plans for TEDxABQ?
The board is definitely thinking about a strategic plan for the next three years and trying to figure out what that looks like. I think that an ideal programming calendar would be four events and years, up to four salons plus twelve adventures or so. But we’re not at the point where we could do that well, capacity-wise. If we do want to grow and/or just stabilize a little bit more we need to think about out staffing and volunteer structure. The board does a lot and volunteers do a lot, but there’s kind of one person pulling things together, which isn’t a sustainable model. It’s something we’re definitely talking about at the board level. I don’t think scaling back is a comfortable option. Cutting out the Education or Women event doesn’t seem like an option; they both have their own vibrant communities.
What do you love about the TEDxABQ as a community?
The TEDx program as whole brings together like-minded people both within and among communities. There’s a strong global network of TEDx organizers who get together, and that’s a really wonderful feeling. Also that there’s that much widespread local pride and excitement and enthusiasm that people want to use this platform to build that community showcase ideas and start start conversations and build that hub and network of within their own community.
And TEDxABQ specifically, what I’ve always loved about it is the people. That’s what kind of got me in in the first place and has kept me in. I’ve never really had to question why I’m doing it because it’s the people and the fact that we’re all doing something together as a team.
I think it’s a really important part of the community at this point and I’m really glad that it’s doing as well as it is. It creates a hub outside of industry… we’re bringing in artists and business people, people who are family oriented, who are brand new to town, we’re bringing them all together.
I agree wholeheartedly with Beth. The TEDxABQ community is truly something special, and I’m proud to be a part of it.
The next TEDxABQ event takes place on Thursday, November 2, and is near and dear to my heart. Find out more about TEDxABQWomen: Bridges at tedxabq.com/2017-women-event