Alex is organizing the 3rd annual TEDxYYC event next month in Calgary. He’s lined up some interesting speakers across numerous industries, including Raffi (as in Banana Phone) and Moeed Ahmad, the Head of New Media at Al jazeera. He is a PR Consultant, a former journalist and one of my favorite people to go for brunch with!

What do you do?

I’m a PR Consultant.

Does your education match your job title?

Strictly no, but the skills I learned being a journalist have certainly made the transition easier than if I had studied accounting. Being on the other side and having had the experience of working with both good PR professionals and bad PR professionals was a valuable experience in what to do to and what not to do. If not, how did you end up where you are today? I had moved back to Calgary after working in London with the CBC and The Globe and Mail and didn’t really know what my next career move would be but was offered a job with a film festival helping with their PR and communications and really enjoyed it. That was nine years ago, and I’ve been doing PR ever since.

How would you explain the skills required to put together an event like TEDxYYC?

Honestly the thing I think I’ve done well is surrounding myself with some very talented team members. It’s almost like planning an elaborate bank heist but instead of looking for explosives experts and get away drivers I’ve found a group of people who are great designers and web developers, event planners, speaker prep and community connectors.

You’ve been able to attract some world class speakers to a relatively small event, without paying them. How do you do it?

Begging;) Actually the TED brand is recognizable enough that when approaching a potential speaker target out of the blue starting of your email with TED often times gets their attention and then once we have their attention we talk about what we want to accomplish at our event, which is community building and collaboration. This is what it’s all about for me – attract a group of speakers that will inspire an audience to take the lessons they’ve learned and then spread those ideas into the greater community.

How do you learn about people who might give interesting talks?

From reading magazines and newspapers to getting feedback from everyone in the community about people they’ve come across in their professional lives. We usually draw up a list of around 50 people and then whittle it down to around 12. IT’s not easy and a lot of the time it’s a crapshoot as we’ve never seen the people we select speak in public. A good speaker prep person is invaluable.

What keeps you up at night in the days leading up to TEDxYYC?

The fear of technical issues on the day of. We work with good production partners though so those fears are somewhat mitigated. Unlike the first TEDxYYC event when a caterer plugged a coffee machine in and killed our live stream. We now have safe guards built in.

Who is your dream speaker and what would they speak about for 20 minutes?

Santiago Calatrava. Especially with the controversy surrounding the Peace Bridge in Calgary. I’m a huge fan of the bridge but there has been a lot of vitriol from Calgarians about the project. I’d love to hear him talk about art and architecture and the role design plays in livable communities. If anyone out there has his phone number let me know.

Have you read any good books lately?

I just finished Atul Gawande‘s book¬†Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science. I don’t generally read non-fiction and am not especially interested in the healthcare industry but I flew through the book as it is so interesting, and frightening, and there are so many issues with the healthcare system that mirror problems in other industries. Highly recommended.

If you’d like to learn more about TEDxYYC, check out their website. You can also follow Alex on Twitter.¬†