Organizing my first ever TEDx event was a big thing for me. I was pumped and ready to get the ball rolling as well as seeing it succeed into an annual thing. However, along the way, I knew there were going to problems, especially with my team mates.
The day I first met my TEDx teammates was the last monday before my senior year commenced. My boyfriend helped me hold a small TED/TEDx presentation for teachers during a Speed Learning Session hosted by my English teacher Mr. Theriault. Two of my classmates confronted me telling me that they held a permit to host a TEDx event and wished to hold one this year at school. However, they were unsure whether they wanted to proceed with their plans. My boyfriend and I offered to join forces and thus, the TEDxFountainValleyHighSchool Team was born.
Pre-production phase moved along conveniently all throughout September. We had a total of two meetings that month. At these meetings, we established that we were to be a team, and that no positions will be assigned to any member. However, we will have roles accordingly. I didn’t object to that, because I agreed. In order to work efficiently, we would have to work in the fields we were best at. I was placed in charge of multi-media, website, and online promotion.
For the entire month, I worked on a website, first through Google Sites and then through Wix.com. Whenever I was done with homework, I devoted a small amount of time in developing the website and moving all it’s contents from one server to the other. If anything, it was because I loved making websites. It was fun and designing the TEDxFountainValleyHighSchool website was considered a past time for me, not club work. I established an email for our team as well as a Facebook page. By the end of September, I felt ready to launch everything.
The last Sunday before October, our team met again. The topic was on speakers as well as promotion information. My team members had already decided on a couple of speakers, but we knew we had a long way to go to get speakers. We discussed flyers as well and one of my team members mistakenly thought that the flyer had to be designed a certain way. When I saw the flyer, and as my job as the multi-media coordinator, I quickly corrected his blunder and volunteered to revise the flyer. The meeting was adjourned and I returned home.
That week, I prepared for the launching of the website. I had initially planned to release the domain to the public the third week of October. On the first Friday of October, I came to my English teacher for some pointers on the website. The conversation turned from the topic of websites to the topic of the entire TEDx event in general. I did not anticipate that I would stay after school and discuss our TEDx in such detail with my teacher. It was such a spur of the moment that neither I nor my boyfriend could have notified our team ahead of time. During the discussion, both my teachers advised that we start publicizing now. I couldn’t agree more because after all, I was ready.
When I came home that day, I was excited to tell my team the great advice I had gotten from my two English teachers. However, I was not met with the response I had expected. I was told by a teammate that I need to refrain from telling my teachers about the TEDx event. I was confused and asked why. A little advice couldn’t hurt, right? My teammate responded to my question a while later. It changed my entire perspective on the event as a whole.
“I know it sounds selfish, but this event is ours.”
I had originally thought that the TEDx I was diving into was a way for us, as students, to give back to our high school. Not only was I excited to see this happen at school for our students, but I had expected the entire school get involved as well. This meant teachers, faculty, and students from every grade. Not only was this a huge slap in the face from what I believed in, it exposed a whole new agenda for some of my team members.
Over the weekend, I tried not to think about what had happened that Friday. I focused on what I did best: pushing out information and designing. By Sunday, I got the website domain out and ready, application forms organized and posted, the Facebook page posting about updates, as well as a retweet from our sister TEDx, TEDxOrangeCoast. Life was running well and I was glad to get everything off my chest and out in public now. Although I was at odds with one my teammates on speakers, everything else was smooth sailing.
And then the post came. One or two of the team members may have sensed that I was moving at a faster pace than the rest of the group. Although the post was addressed to the entire team, I knew from the second I read it, it was mostly directed at me. The post was addressed almost like an executive council speaking to an underling. Here is the post (with the names ommitted):
hey guys. this is going to be a long post.
first, y’all are doing great work. i love the enthusiasm and im not about to criticize that. however:
i get that this is (for most of you) your first big risk event or whatever but we need to keep things under control. if you build it, they will come.
we need to stay in control– we can’t let the excitement get away from us, need to stay in communication, and need to take things slow. nothing besides the speakers are a problem right now, so that’s the only thing that should be done emergency without a meeting to discuss it. i get that our speakers aren’t great yet, so that should be our primary focus. and im cool with that. but that’s what we should be looking at closely and working hard on, without moving too quickly and missing integral steps.
also everyone needs to understand what their role in the process is so that we look professional and appear to have everything together. this isn’t about me making a power play or about me wanting certain people to have more say or to get more credit than others, but its the nature of the beast. we will discuss this more on thursday, but i’m hoping that everyone will understand that having a hierarchy of some kind is essential to a project, especially when so many people have been brought in on it.
so meeting on thursday at lunch. try not to do anything too major before then, so we can discuss it. also, please refrain from talking to any teacher’s about the project without prior group discussion, or without notifying me, Team Member X, or Team Member Z, because in general we are the ones who have the most information about the event and all of the small details that can easily be confused. we want to avoid any and all miscommunication and to stay professional. again, more details on thursday.
thanks to everyone for being awesome! Team Member W, looking forward to updates on your video. everyone else, let’s chill until thursday’s meeting. there’s nothing pressing that must be done before then.
Team Member Z
I was both horrified and at a loss for words at what had happened to my team in a few short days. Not only was I excluded from the post, but I was also assumed to be inexperienced and carried away by excitement. This was my first TEDx event, not my first event. Although the post displayed a cordial tone, it was in reality, an intervention for me. Intervention aside, the post disguised team members X, Y and Z as the leaders in this group. This not only went against the “no positions” establishment, but it spoke for itself when X, Y and Z conspired against the rest of the team. In simpler terms, I was being asked to stop what I was assigned to do. I didn’t know how to respond to this post. I left it alone and went to sleep, thinking about what had happened.
In an email to my English teachers, I was again excluded. X, Y, and Z mentioned that they wanted to host the series of TEDx events, dismissing another team member, my boyfriend and me entirely from the message. I was so angry I broke out in tears during third period. I never thought I’d have to talk to Ms. Olaya, our school psychologist, about my personal problems, but I ended up taking up two periods addressing the problems I had with my team. In the past, I had many issues with exclusion and my childhood was plagued with me being handicapped to express my feelings. I realized that this was the lemon of my life and I had to deal with it upfront. I was no longer going to reject what was given to me and sit in a silent corner. I’m going to accept that there are going to be obstacles in life and they usually revolve around the people you work with. However I must either accept the sourness of the path I’m taking, or walk out of it.