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Tapping into Originality | How to become a TEDx Speaker

Iva 1:04

Hi, and welcome to this episode of the Mom Bosses Abroad podcast. We are here today with Dr. Elena Paweta. And today's episode is all about how to become a TEDx speaker. So, Elena, it's such a pleasure to have you here and we can't wait to start asking questions about this coveted opportunity to be able to be on a TEDx stage.


Elena 1:29

Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. 


Desiree 1:32

Dr. Elena Paweta is an Executive Communication Coach and International Business Trainer, speaker and lecturer as well. And she conducts trainings and workshops and effective communication and business presentations and she has so many clients amongst others. She works with KPMG and Bosch and Deloitte, Bridgestone, GE Healthcare Goldman Sachs, Santander Bank, AstraZeneca, and many, many more, and she's an Assistant Professor at the Marshall School of Economics. And she's specializing there in International Business. She has curated TEDx and TEDx women conferences in Poland for over seven years already. So she's a true TEDx Coach, and she's helping business entrepreneurs around the world with amazing ideas to become TEDx speakers. I can't wait to dive into this topic today.


Iva 2:31

And we can't wait to hear your story about how your expertise with the whole TEDx platform comes to be about because not a lot of people, but I mean to say is a lot of people know about TEDx. But there's a little bit of a sense of behind the scenes of what happens, how do you actually get on stage at all, and to meet someone that is so seasoned and such an expert in this topic is not so common. So that's why I guess the first question is, how did this opportunity for you to really be very connected to the TEDx world came about?


Elena 3:16

So actually, it was, it was not planned, I must say, because I started organizing TEDx events because I had a conversation with my friends. We were discussing that we don't have so many TEDx events in our area. Maybe we should do something with this. Maybe we can organize an event in our city. And and this was the end- we just had a chat about this. I came back home, and I started Googling the topic how to organize an event like this. And it turned out that you can apply for a license, and I just sent out the application form and after some time, my application got rejected. It was in 2015. Okay, I was like, ‘Oh, no. I maybe this is not for me’. And then there were some suggestions and changes in the application. Maybe they will give me the license. And I did this. And I remember after a few weeks, I got the email that I have the license to organize a TEDx event. It was in 2015. It was my first event I was I was shocked. So I


Desiree 4:55



Elena 4:59

Yeah, so I was so emotional. I was like, ‘Wow, amazing!’ but on the other hand, I had no idea how to do this. I'd never organized embeds and I was like, ‘Oh, what should I do? How should I continue with this? Okay, so I can do this, but how can I do this?’ And I remember I wrote a post on Facebook. I think ‘I have a license to organize this event. Maybe someone wants to help me’ and I got such a response from my community, from my friends. Yes, yes. We would love to help you. And then we had just this amazing team of people who had no idea how to do this, but we wanted to do this. And this first year event was done completely, you know, amateur people were experts in different areas. We combined our forces together and we did it and then year after year, we got more and more professional and now, you know, the last events that I'm organizing there, they have we're doing on the big stages. We have big consulting companies as our sponsors and partners. So, we're doing really, really big events in the last year. So I think that my journey was step by step growing in this in this event world.


Desiree 6:31

Yeah, but that is amazing and you're the perfect example of if you have an idea and you have a passion and a drive to do something, it doesn't matter! If you know or not you just go for it and you will learn along the way. I mean, that is the perfect example of just not to be afraid and you can’t learn everything right? And in a way, you surround yourself with other people who want to be on that same journey with you. That's absolutely inspiring. 


Iva 7:03

Also, what I feel is it's amazing from your story is how your vision was able to attract this synergy with other friends or even you know, people that you didn't really know, acquaintances, maybe, that came about because of how much you believed in this and, and the power of this vision of putting it all together. And this collaboration and this network of support came about to get you to the how, because you knew the what, like you wanted to apply for the license but then once you had it, you didn't know. ‘Now what? How do I make this a reality?’ and having collectively the support of your community to make it a reality that is also amazing because we are not here to do things on our own. I feel even if we at the beginning it feels that way. We do need help along the way and finding those kindred spirits that resonate with what we're trying to do and with our vision is also fantastic how it comes together


Desiree 8:19

And Iva It reminds me a little bit about how we started this podcast, you know, we both had no idea what to do. We just knew we wanted to do it and put our conversations out there and you learn along the way and you grow and it's a beautiful journey. So I guess this is it's exciting to have this team to put this together and now it's grown into such a big event. But now let's turn it around to the people who actually come on to your stage. Like, what is actually needed to get on a TEDx stage? What do you look to select these people?


Elena 9:02

Yeah, we have a lot of people who want to speak on TEDx stage. As you probably know, this is a dream of many. And we have hundreds of badges of honor. Yes. Because when you become a TEDx speaker, I mean, you are increasing your credibility so much, because when someone has TEDx speaker in their bio or in their profile, you can say that this is a person who is credible, who was invited to this stage, because they are experts in their field. Something they invented, something and that's why we have a lot of people who want to speak but we don't invite all of them and have a limited number places and it is very important to understand if you want to become a Tedx speaker, because it's important to understand what organizers are looking for.. What is the most important for them? Because very often we get applications where people say that ‘Oh, I am a professional speaker. I've been speaking at such events, or I'm professional trainer and coach I can…’ and then we don't accept such applications because this is not something that we are looking for. Or for example, people say what is the topic of your event? I can adapt. I can speak about something that is the topic of your event. And they were like, Oh no, this is not really what we’re looking for, because motto of TEDx events is: Ideas Worth Spreading. So we are looking for ideas, we are not looking for people. And this is the key thing that if you are an amazing speaker, if you were an amazing trainer and you're confident in speaking about anything in the world, but I know I'm also as you mentioned it beginning I'm a coach, I'm a trainer and I am in this circle of trainers and public speaking trainers and I know a lot of people who can speak about anything on the topic, and they're so confident they will just go out there and improvise and speak about it. But this is not what Ted events are looking for. You need to have an idea.


Iva 11:53

And you also, and the concept is also that the time frame, like the amount of time that you have is limited to how many? Is it 18 minutes or something to that effect? I'm not really sure.


Elena 12:07

Yeah, from three minutes to 18 minutes, but I would say that time span, that the attention span is now decreasing all the time. So when I'm coaching TEDx speakers, when I am working with my clients, I never recommend to do this 20 minute talk, because sometimes it is too long for people and when they are choosing for example on YouTube which that talk to watch, they are now tending to choose a shorter much time. Yeah.


Iva 12:45

So and that is the key then, because it's not only this really grappling, enticing idea, but it's also to make sure that you distil it to that timespan of what is it 12 minutes then, or probably 10-12 and to really have an impact so that when people listen to you, they really are able to say ‘Wow, that was amazing. I learned a lot. This was something that I hadn't heard before and at the same time you were able to convey it in such a short amount of time.’ So that is also another skill in and of itself because if you have three hours to explain a subject, you'll probably cover it all. But if you have I guess 10 to 12 minutes then you better really know the fundamentals, the core issues and points of what you're trying to say


Desiree 13:45

yeah, and do it super fast


Elena 13:54

You don't have to know this before, so you don't have to be a speaker. This is very important to understand that in order to apply for an event to speak at the Red Dot, you don't have to have this skill. Because what you can do is you can get help from the event itself. Sometimes they have speaker mentors who are supporting them. You can hire a coach who can help to actually work on your TED Talk. And it is a really great advice from me, that if you look for a person who can help you with your talk, especially this is TEDx talk, you need to have some person who has an experience of organizing TEDx events and a person who has experience also speaking themselves because this is so much important because usually, if you're just a public speaking coach, but you don't know the specific things about Tedx talk the right way, it is not the best idea. So, definitely, what I suggest is if you have an amazing idea, then just go for it and apply. I mean, it is better to start with working with a coach on working on how to deliver your idea, how to express your idea, and then just apply because a lot of events all around the world are happening right now. Every day and they're looking for ideas. They're looking for ideas. They're not looking for speakers 


Desiree 15:38

They are looking for ideas. Okay, yeah. And then once someone approaches you or sends off their application, and you filter them out as being a very inspiring idea- that's definitely something that people need to hear about. So what would be the next step then, like how do you first of all, maybe have to find out how well they can speak? Do they have to kind of present to you their idea and from there you see how to coach them into a TEDx worthy talk or how does it work?


Elena 16:15

So, in my event, that as I mentioned in the beginning, we have quite several years of organizing experience. So we have developed this clever system, a dedicated method of choosing speakers and of training them, coaching them. So we have coaches that are working with our speakers, but I know that not so many events have this. So what we do is that we are choosing the best ideas. So again, we're not choosing speakers sometimes we have speakers where this is their first ever public speaking experience on our stage. Zero speaking and they are amazing. The end those talks and are one of the best ones because we are taking out of our community. The people who have amazing ideas, for example, they are working on a business idea or they're doing the research in their lab and they're closed from the entire world. Maybe they're not very business oriented. And then we're putting them on stage. We're training them, we're working with them for some time. And then they are of course they are scared. We're working with them also mentally to prepare them. But when they are speaking after they speak, we get the feedback from our audience that those are one of the best talks. One of the best ideas


Iva 17:50

And to me, what I hear from what you just said, Elena, is that passion, that that belief in what you're doing because it's something that you're developing as you say, it's an idea that you have that you feel very, very strongly about and that's why I got chosen because it's something so unique and original and that same passion is really the one that grasps the audience. It's not that you have to be this polished, sophisticated public speaker that has many decades under his or her belt, but it's more the passion and the authenticity of how you communicate, because the audience are people right and they want to it to be relatable. You cannot just go up there and start saying things that are probably outside of the you know, the common vocabulary or, or most of people's, I guess, median knowledge range, because you're not looking for specifically scientists or someone that has like a very, very high level of knowledge or very specific but it's just spreading this ideas to everyone else so that somebody can say ‘Hey, did you listen to you know this talk yesterday and it was so good’ and to be able to say what it was about, right? It doesn't have to be that sophisticated at all. So that is a great motivation to have this belief about what you want to hear, because I guess that's what comes through on the application process if I'm not mistaken.


Elena 19:39

Yes. And also, I can even add to this that you don't have to have any PhDs. Or you know, being book author or achieving actually anything. If you have an idea that is based on your story, for example, your life story. If you experience something, if you observe something and then this is this is also an idea. So main criteria for us are that we need to see that this idea is something new. So it is not something that was already written somewhere. We are looking for new ideas that it should be something interesting for our local audience. And it should be credible. So we need to see that this idea is fact based. That's why many ideas which are not- which cannot be evidence based and research based, they unfortunately are declined because this is this specificity of Ted stages. We are looking only for ideas that are evidence based and we have we have researchers, we have scientists among people who are speaking on our stages. And also, I'm working actually as a TEDx coach. I have worked with a couple of scientists and PhDs and I must say that it is also a work how to transfer the scientific texts and research results into


Desiree 21:24

For other people to understand yes,


Iva 21:29

It's what they call the curse of the coach right or the curse of the expert because you know so much on that subject. You think that everybody's on that same level, but then you have to distil it a little bit further down so that the lay person can actually grasp it.


Desiree 21:46

Yeah. And get rid of all the jargon in there, right and other people may not understand Yeah, that's true. And when you're coaching them, or well, I guess it depends on the topic as well, do you support or also suggest to use visual aids like that they have a screen behind them, like a presentation to accentuate what they're actually talking about what they're saying, or do you really believe mainly in the power of words and the delivery and not to have that sort of distraction?


Elena 22:27

I believe in the power of words and that you're the main message, not your PowerPoint slides. But sometimes it helps because many people who are watching the talk, watching us speak, they are visual people and we just need to understand that some people they are more numbers oriented and we need to have statistics and numbers in our message. Some people they are emotions oriented and we need to share stories we need to show those emotions. And some people they like to watch things and when they see a speaker speaking all the time, maybe they can be a little bit boring. That's why it is it is good to show a couple of slides but not with a text with


Desiree 23:22

Maybe just like one word or one statistic or even a picture true. True. 


Iva 24:31

And I love also what you said about the part on mindset because that is also a big one when it comes time to do the presentation itself is to help them with that aspect of saying ‘Oh my god, you're going to be on a global stage.’ Talk about nerves, right talk about performance anxiety.


Desiree 24:56

Right it lives on forever. Yeah.


Iva 25:00

What is some mindset advice that you give or because at the end of the day, I guess it's also very similar on the other side, when you are starting to apply and when you say ‘Oh my God, maybe my idea is not so great.’ You know, there's so many fascinating topics already out there. What can I possibly bring to the table so there's two mindset aspects. First is: ‘Is this even worth spreading as an idea what I have right now? Should I even bother applying?’ and the second one is, ‘Oh my God, now I have to deliver. How will it go? Will I be able to not forget what I have to say or look foolish in front of everyone?’


Elena 25:47

Yeah, that's why this is another moment where I really recommend working with a coach on this, a coach who can show and has an experience in TEDx and who sees what is the idea worth spreading and what might be in what way you can present this idea. And then on the mindset side, again, a person who is experienced in in this also can help and support because, even for me, for example, I am a professional speaker, I'm a trainer, but I had several months ago, I had my own TEDx talk on a different event. In a different city. I got invited to share my research results on entrepreneurship and on international entrepreneurs. And as a TEDx coach myself, as a speaker myself, I worked with people on my speech, I got help from them. Because being you know, in this moment, in this position of a speaker, it is something completely different and even for myself, it was so valuable to reach out to someone and to get someone else's support to say that, ‘Oh, maybe you can say this in a different way’, or how to start how to finish. So this is this very important. I totally recommend having someone at least to support you with practicing your speech. Because when you get feedback, when you get feedback several times, it gives you so much confidence. Every time you speak one more time, one more time. You are getting more and more confident. But even if you speak many times, then you're still a little bit nervous when you go out on the stage. And I had this blank, you know mind when I when I go out on the stage on TEDx stage for my talk, I didn't remember anything that I'm about to say I just was thinking about the first sentence repeating it in my mind and then I started this energy started flowing and it went yeah.


Desiree 28:24

Oh, you will have to share the link with us. We really want to watch it and we'll link it in the show notes too.


Iva 28:35

And also it plays on the whole idea that yeah, you can you can be the best brain surgeon but you cannot do surgery on yourself and as coaches as well, you can be a coach but you also need a coach, right? There's a coach that coaches the coaches too, because we all have blind spots that we don't see. And we need that outside help and feedback from someone else to tell us where those blind spots are. Or what are the areas that we can improve. Yes, absolutely. You coming from the point of view of organizer, of a speaker yourself and someone that evaluates who gets to come on stage, you also need that feedback as well. If you're planning on speaking so it's like being humble enough to allow yourself to get this advice and this training and this coaching. And we know that this is actually something that you are working on right? You have a six week program on How To Become A Tedx Speaker.


Elena 29:45

Yes, yes, I am helping people who want to become TEDx speakers to actually work on their idea to start thinking about what they want to say on the stage, how they can say, and then helping them also to apply for events, finding events to apply to, and then to preparing for their talk. So this is what this is what I'm doing. I'm a Communication Coach. In general, I'm working on public speaking. But this TEDx experience helped me also to address the specific audience of people who want to spread their idea to also increase their credibility in business. So this is, this is what I'm doing right now.



Desiree 30:30

Amazing. And you also have a freebie for everyone that's listening today. So can you tell us a little bit about that and why everyone needs that?


Elena 30:51

Yes, so I have a freebie this is a guide On How To Become A Tedx Speaker. If you're interested in this, then you're welcome to my website, And you can find it there. This is a short guide on the main steps that you need to take if you want to become a speaker and also there are some additional tips on how to address the events and also another thing that you can do is you can book a call with me I have those free discovery calls, 15 Minute Calls, where I can give you some suggestions on your TEDx ideas, and also you can ask questions about my program.


Desiree 1:59

That's amazing. Because I was just speaking to my husband at the dinner table that it is I'm so excited about our talk because it is also one of my you know, somehow a goal or mine milestone you set for yourself to one day be on a TEDx stage, and like you said, it really raises credibility. So it's really inspiring so thank you so much for sharing your experience on this and to coach all these wonderful people. I mean, I'll you know, I have a new appreciation for watching a TEDx talk now knowing what goes on behind the scenes and the work that goes into each and every talk and who ends up being on that incredible stage


Elena 32:26

Yeah, thank you so much.


Iva 32:29

It's so it's so amazing. And thank you for sharing your story with us because it's also a great reminder, as we said at the beginning, that you don't need to know the how you just need to know the what and when you follow that then the doors will start opening little by little and you will be able to start building that bridge that takes you to where you want to end. But it's not a must to have it all together all figured out. Like it can happen along the way. And in fact, the TEDx stage is set up that way, right? You just want the idea. You want the passion. And then from there, you can work alongside a coach and how because everything else it just comes together. And once when that initial setup is done. So thank you so much, Elena for chatting with us today. And if you want to connect with Elena, you can find her on Instagram, @elenapaweta. And also we're going to put the links to her Facebook, her LinkedIn, and also her website, as well as the freebie and all the rest of the links in our episode today. Thank you so much, and we loved having you.


Elena 33:52

Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.


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Dr. Elena Paweta

Dr. Elena Paweta is an Executive Communication coach, International Business Trainer, speaker and lecturer. She conducts trainings and workshops on effective communication and business presentations. Her clients are among others: KPMG, Bosch, Deloitte, Bridgestone, GE Healthcare, Goldman Sachs, Santander Bank, Astra Zeneca. As an assistant professor at SGH Warsaw School of Economics, she is specializing in international business. She is curating TEDx and TEDxWomen conferences in Poland for over 7 years. As a TEDx coach, she is helping busy entrepreneurs around the world with amazing ideas to become TEDx speakers.


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