TEDxKyoto Volunteer Profile: Angus McGregor, Operations Team Leader


Angus has been involved with TEDxKyoto since 2013. A 26-year resident of Japan, Angus grew up in the United States in North Carolina and Texas. Before moving to Japan, he lived in Durango, Colorado working as a Public Radio announcer, wilderness camp director, bus driver, baker, and ski resort employee. Angus spends most of his daylight hours with “energetic and crazy teenagers” as a teacher in the Course of International & Cultural Studies at Kyoto Gaidai Nishi High School, a job he has held for the past 23 years. He is the Director of the annual Kansai High School Model United Nations conference and a member of the Kyoto UNESCO Association. All of these jobs have provided Angus with many of the necessary skills needed in coordinating the operations of TEDxKyoto. Angus is married to Kayoko Shiomi, a member of the Curation Team, and together they have a 15 year-old son.

We sat down with him to ask a few questions:

TEDxKyoto(TxK): What originally caught your interest about TEDxKyoto?

Kyoto is a wonderful and engaging city, with layers and layers of experiences. Kyoto has become my home. I absolutely love living here. TEDxKyoto has allowed me to go even deeper into this city by being able to work together with such a diverse group of residents – designers, religious leaders, community organizers, local business owners, students and teachers – all volunteering and sharing their gifts with TEDxKyoto. From my first meeting with this group, I have felt very welcomed and appreciated. I have learned quite a bit about Kyoto through these connections, and it has deepened my own relationship with the city and the people who call Kyoto home.

TxK: How have you seen it develop over the past few years?

The team has learned a great deal over the past few years, and as that knowledge builds, I think the quality of the event also develops. Connections with partners continue to deepen. Our network in the community is expanding. Some mistakes have been made and we learned from them. And, experienced volunteers working with fresh volunteers brings about a creative tension and energy that ultimately produces, what I think, is a world-class event.

TxK: What is the biggest challenge that you face in leading the operations team?

TEDx events around the world are solely made up of volunteers, who devote countless hours to organizing these local TEDx events. Like I said, we have a very diverse group of volunteers – architects, teachers, designers, consultants, business people, administrators, students, office workers, and so on. TED attracts a diverse group of people and local TEDx events are no different. Probably the biggest challenge is finding common times to gather everyone in the same room for planning meetings. Combining the everyday commitments of work, family life, school, and personal life with the organizing schedule of TEDxKyoto does present its challenges. There’s a lot of calendar syncing going on.

TxK: Tell us about your recent experience visiting the TED headquarters in New York.

This summer, while in the US on vacation, Kayoko and I visited the TED headquarters in New York. It was just as I thought it would be – a cool 21st century workspace with colorful pillows, beanbags and people hanging out in various configurations with their laptops working. Very open desk spaces. Cool conference rooms, and a small comfortable arena for watching TED talks and impromptu presentations. They even have a couple of Nap Pods — egg shaped pod towers where you can climb up into for some privacy, or even a mid-day nap.

And, of course, the people we met were just as gracious and nice as you would expect. They gave us the tour, took us up the roof to see the view of Manhattan, and spent some nice time with us sharing about TED, some of their new projects, and asking about TEDxKyoto.

TxK: What kind of input did they give you about TEDxKyoto?

They all knew about TEDxKyoto and were very interested in the upcoming event. They complimented us on the production quality of our videos and were very interested in the bilingual aspects of TEDxKyoto. It was actually quite motivating to hear this, and our team back in Kyoto was also extremely happy to know that TED had taken notice of TEDxKyoto.

TxK: You have met some amazing and innovative people over the past few years. Tell us about a couple of your favorites.

In 2013, I went to TEDActive a conference in Whistler, Canada that ran simultaneously with the annual TED event. Two speakers that really hit me hard were:

Hugh Herr: The new bionics that let us run, climb and dance
Zak Ebrahim: I am the son of a terrorist. Here’s how I chose peace

TxK: What advice would you give to those starting a TEDx event in their own city?

Start small. Gather a variety of good people. Join the online TEDx forums designed to share ideas and advice on running TEDx events, visit some TEDx events as a participant or volunteer. Then, jump in and start it up. Be open to all ideas, and when the inevitable mistakes are made, don’t dwell on them for too long – reflect, regroup and continue on.

TxK: Do you think there are any particular difficulties about running a bilingual event?

It does take time. Official announcements, promotions, the website, blogs, etc. – all must be translated and published in both Japanese and English. The ticketing team must promptly reply to requests and questions in both English and Japanese. Meetings are conducted bilingually when necessary. At our events, we offer simultaneous interpretation for all the talks. It does take time, but it is all worth it to make sure the event is open to a diverse group of participants.

TxK: If you did a TEDx talk, what would your subject be?

“Collaborative work with my spouse on TEDxKyoto”
…Yeah, there’s a lot to talk about there.