Aubrey Christiansen: Treehouse Talks -Rexburg Branch

Public relations
Aubrey Christiansen
Portrait photo

For my senior project, I wanted to incorporate all I have learned and experienced during my time at BYU-Idaho. I chose to continue and grow the Rexburg Branch of Treehouse Talks.

Treehouse Talks (THT) is a nonprofit that holds events to provide an open and safe platform for people to come and share their stories, ideas, and passions. Our core values and goals are to:

Connect with peers,

learn diverse ideas,

and leave more aware.

Throughout the semester and my time running Treehouse Talks, I have connected the core skills and lessons taught in my classes and throughout my overall college experience and implemented them into THT. 

For my project, I chose to focus on brand awareness and engagement to increase attendance, participation, and the impact THT can have.

My responsibilities included finding and vetting the speakers and performers, designing and implementing new and innovative marketing strategies, handling the logistics of the event before, during, and after, as well as hosting each THT event, MCing, and planning additional activities for THT besides our bi-weekly speaker and performer nights. 

My main goals and objectives for Treehouse Talks this semester were to grow our audience and brand awareness through partnering with local businesses and IBC businesses on campus. I also wanted to create a team and train them to take over THT next semester. I did not want everything I had put into Treehouse Talks to end once I graduated.

I am happy to announce I was successful with both! Here are some analytics to convince you with numbers:

public relations

These analytics are based on:

45 Stories,

10 Posts,

5 Videos,

4 Instagram Lives and 

1 Reel we posted on Instagram.

My journey with THT expanded-

A little over a year ago, I brought Treehouse Talks to Rexburg, Idaho. Treehouse Talks is a nonprofit with goals to connect peers, learn diverse ideas, and leave more aware. Treehouse Talks began in Provo, Utah, when one night, three friends began talking about what they were passionate about. That night sparked the idea of inviting more people the following week and making it into an event. Since that night back in 2020, THT has expanded, and we now have branches across the western United States, with hundreds of attendees and participants joining the THT community.

treehouse talks

This was the first Treehouse Talk in Rexburg on September 23, 2021. We had 30 attendees that night and have grown tremendously since.

Treehouse Talks is organized to be a weekly or, in our case, a bi-weekly event that allows people to come together and learn from each other’s stories. These stories, which volunteers share, are shared through speeches and performances. The presenters are hand-selected from an ever-growing list of volunteers to come and share their stories. THT is similar to TED talks but a lot less formal. You do not have to be a good speaker and are allowed to speak on absolutely anything.

I believe that everyone should have the right to come and share what they are passionate about while feeling safe in doing so. THT provides that safe environment through living what we preach with our core values. We have had speakers and performers over the past year where THT was the first place they gained the courage to speak or sing in front of a crowd.

One of my goals for Treehouse Talks is to make everyone feel seen and heard for who they are and for what they have to share.

The speeches and messages shared have been as diverse as you can imagine. We want the talks to be as diverse as the people sharing them, so the topics vary from casual to more serious. We have had funny, heartbreaking, deep, educational, controversial, interactive and just overall unique speeches.

One of the presenters, Hannah, talked about her love for plants, connecting it to how we all have room to grow and become. Sam came and shared about his passion for fishing and how it is important to be patient when we don’t always get what we expect. Amanda came and shared her struggles with scoliosis and how it ignited her passion for becoming a fashion designer to create clothes for girls that have to wear back braces. Trent came and spoke about his experience with suicide and depression and how that led him to become a life coach because he never wants anyone else to struggle as he did. Cate came and told about her journey growing up and living in a war and barely making it out alive before moving to America.

Each speech or performance, no matter how funny or serious, has a purpose in being shared and has some significance to the presenter, and each teaches us about the people in our community. 

Though every week the topics are specific to the individual, there may be times when people disagree with what someone shares. That may seem contentious, but it is not because that is exactly what Treehouse Talks is meant for, to learn why people think and act the way they do and why they love what they do. We aren’t all going to agree on everything, but we can leave understanding the “why” behind what others do.

I encourage everyone to attend a Treehouse Talk so they can experience it. It is one thing for me to explain THT; it is another to feel and learn what THT does. I can promise that there is a talk and message for everyone at THT each week.

My Senior Project Expanded-

Over the past year and especially over the past three months, I have poured my heart and soul into growing the Rexburg Branch. Over the past three months, I have taken one step further to growing Treehouse Talks by partnering with local businesses, IBC companies, teachers and faculty members, local bands and community members. Through all my efforts, I also was contacted to be interviewed for feature stories for the school newspaper and student projects, as well as mini-documentaries made about THT. 

With it being my last semester, I wanted to do all I could to grow THT and find people to continue this project once I leave Rexburg. My efforts to do this took on different forms, all requiring time and dedication, each allowing me to connect with many people as I worked to make THT nights a successful and enjoyable experience for both the presenters and the audience. 

Every other week, I hosted a THT event. At these events, I interviewed and vetted each of our speakers and performers, organizing them by their topics. At the first THT of the semester, we had three speakers and one performer, but then so many people showed interest in speaking, so we increased the number of speakers to four. This simple change increased engagement and attendance by almost 40%.

The preparation for each event alone took a lot of time and planning on my end. Some preparations for these events included finding and vetting the speakers and performers, finding a venue, gathering all content needed to create the promotional materials to post on Instagram and Facebook, and networking with local businesses to spread the word. 

Throughout this semester, I faced a lot of difficulties. For example, at our very first event of the semester, our venue fell through two hours before the event. A bit of panic began to sink in, as I had been publicizing this event for the past two weeks, but I acted quickly instead of letting the panic take over me. I decided to call and text everyone I could think of that had a venue or connection to a venue in the Rexburg area, hopeful that I’d find a new location for our meeting. After about an hour, my connection with Moxie worked out and we had a venue locked down for the next two events. 

Still feeling the stress and panic, I did all I could to think quickly and effectively. I hopped on Instagram and made a mini press release, vocally apologizing for the confusion and updating everyone on the location change. Right after making that video, I  texted and called all the influences and friends I could think of, and I asked them to repost the press release and new flyer I had made. Everything had crumbled so fast, but luckily, I thought quickly and mitigated the problem. Since the very first THT event, we had speakers, performers, and venues fall through at the last minute, but I learned from that first experience and always had a backup plan. It was a hard lesson to learn, especially at our first event, but it was a blessing to help me prepare for future events. 

I wanted to add more to THT this semester and I had the thought to partner with other businesses and influencers. Being an influencer for CRUSH, I asked them if they would sponsor THT. This was done by us adding their logo to our promo materials and announcing them at the event. In return, they reposted our promo materials on their account to gain awareness and gave 20% off drinks to anyone who went to CRUSH after THT. It was a very mutually beneficial partnership.

Because of how well our partnership with CRUSH went, we started partnering with IBC companies. Each week, we would do the same marketing plan that we used with CRUSH, with each of the IBC companies. They would come and present their product at the beginning of THT, and their team and followers came to THT, increasing our attendance, awareness, and participation tremendously.

As the semester continued, Soapbox reached out to Treehouse Talks to partner with us to launch a new campaign they are working on titled “iProject Unity.” I was excited to partner with them on this project because we have hosted international nights previously, and they were a huge success. I originally thought this would be a great opportunity for THT, but it turned out to be a bit more challenging for us. They took over all the responsibilities I normally do, but they were unprepared for all the obstacles. Through this experience, I learned that if another organization or group wants to host a THT, I still need to be the one to handle all the logistics, so everything still happens promptly. Sadly, our partnered event was our lowest attended THT due to the promotional materials not going out until the night before the event.

A lot of work needs to be done in preparation for each event, especially for promoting it.

I would post a reminder on Monday to remind people THT was happening that week.

Tuesday, I would post the video of the speakers and their titles to have them start spreading the word by reposting it.

Wednesday, I would encourage the speakers and performers to create posts of their own and then we would repost them.

Thursday morning, we would post the morning with a friendly reminder of who was speaking and all the event information.

In preparation for the night of the event, I would recruit people to come to our venue early and help set up the chairs while I got the sound system and projector set up. Then I would mingle with everyone and meet anyone I did not know. At about 8:05, I would get the Instagram live setup. We would start at about 8:10 or 8:15 each week on purpose to allow all the latecomers to arrive before we began. I then would MC the whole night, following the traditional event outline but altering it to match the audience. Then the event would happen, and all the stress built up throughout the week was gone. Peace set in as I would see tears falling down individuals’ cheeks as I saw people pull out their phones to write down what the speakers shared, and as the audience come up to me and the speakers to thank us for what had transpired that night. 

Treehouse Talks is not just a non-profit or an event, it is an experience that can truly alter individuals’ way of thinking and acting. Treehouse Talks has changed my life, and I am grateful for those three guys that shared their passions that one night. That simple discussion has led to a life-changing organization spreading across the country and, hopefully, one day, the world.

Senior Project Presentation