Friday, April 20 , 2018, 11:33 pm | Fair 54º



Local Volunteers Put Their Passions to Work for TEDxAmericanRiviera

Meet Dawn Mitcham, Pia Dorer and Terry Baxter, three of the 'ambassadors' for this year's Nov. 11 event

The TEDx phenomena is based on the ability of local organizers to rally people around the mission of TED: “Ideas Worth Spreading.” As it goes against the ethos of TED to make profit from these efforts, organizers of TEDx enlist volunteer labor wherever possible. However, that requires planning and flexibility as the volunteers work around their day jobs and other commitments.

“People are motivated by various reasons,” said Mark Sylvester, executive producer and co-host of TEDxAmericanRiviera.

He relates wisdom from Hani Zeini of Sientra, one of the event sponsors: “People want to feel like their skills are being utilized to the fullest, and that they are part of something bigger than themselves.”

Sylvester and his team work diligently with TEDxAR ambassadors — the name they have coined for volunteers — to determine their skill set and interest areas so they can maximize their pool of creativity and passion.

“With 3,000 TEDx events happening around the world, we are a part of a thrilling, global movement, and the ambassadors are a critical part of that,” Sylvester said.

Organizers work year-round putting together the speakers, staging, theme, technical production, venue logistics and finances. Collectively, Sylvester estimates the team has 1,000 hours invested by show time.

Standout ambassadors for this year’s TEDxAR event, set for Nov. 11 at Bacara Resort & Spa, include:

Terry Baxter, Lead for the Youth Project

Born in Missoula and raised in Santa Barbara, Baxter first discovered TEDx while researching local movers and shakers.

“I appreciate learning from forward thinkers that do not fear a challenge and aim for quality results — no matter how grand the vision,” Baxter said.

Heading up the youth component of this year’s event with talented local musicians and a tribute to TEDxAR veteran and cinematographer Mike DeGruy, Baxter acknowledges that finding volunteers who follow through is challenging.

A mother of three, she founded B Production Co., Professional Fundraising, Community Events, PR & Marketing Services.

Pia Dorer, Project Manager for the Design Team

Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, with an inherited passion for travel, adventure and education, Dorer traveled and worked through Asia, Europe, England and Canada before landing in Santa Barbara.

“For years I have followed TED and spent many afternoons watching fascinating, humorous, quirky and insightful TED talks from around the globe,” Dorer said. “I love the grassroots aspect of the regional TEDx series and plan to also get involved in the Sydney event next year.”

Dorer runs her own PR/communications agency, which services clients in the United States and Australia.

About her willingness to return to the team, Dorer said, “TEDx is truly an evolutionary process. People here are excited by ideas and suggestions, and open to making everything better with no ego involved.” She added: “We all just want it to be the best that it can be, so from start to finish you really feel like you were part of the creative success and not merely running through the daily motions of what needs to be done.”

Dawn Mitcham, Executive Producer

Mitcham came to Santa Barbara to attend UCSB and works as a personal certified public accountant and controller. After hearing local entrepreneur Eric Greenspan speak about TEDx, she decided to volunteer for the event.

“The premise of ‘ideas worth sharing’ is amazing,” Mitcham said. “I love learning new things in just 18 minutes, via TED Talks, that make me think and question life.”

Last year, Mitcham attended TEDActive, which she says was both inspiring and mentally exhausting. Her enthusiasm took her from being a first-time TEDx volunteer in 2010 to an executive producer in 2011 and 2012, which has her involved in every aspect of the production.

When she’s not buried in TEDx, Mitcham is training for triathlons, playing softball or traveling — including Antarctica this year, marking her seventh continent visited. will also be streamed live via the website and at

Click here for more information about TEDxAmericanRiviera, including tickets, a schedule, a list of speakers, and sponsor and volunteer opportunities. There are fewer than 70 seats still available in the Main Stage and fewer than 80 seats in the Active Lounge.

Noozhawk contributing writer Jenn Kennedy is working with TEDxAmericanRiviera and blogs at She is the author ofSuccess by Design and is a contributor to HuffPost, and as a writer and photographer. Click here to see more of her work. Contact her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and follow her on Twitter: @jennkennedy.

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