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There’s no doubt you know the impact a TEDx booking can have on your brand, your business, your revenue, your life and legacy, and much more. But, it can be a daunting aspiration, especially if you’re dealing with imposter syndrome. Our guest on She Sells Radio this week is Dr. Elena Pawęta, a coach and TEDx organizer who works with women. She’s here to tell us everything we need to know to get booked at a TEDx speaker. You won’t want to miss this one!


Dr. Elena Pawęta found her passion as a communication coach, working with people to improve their presentations, impactful speaking, and confidence. Education is at the core of that, and Dr. Elena Pawęta worked as an Assistant Professor at a university prior to becoming a coach. She noticed that there was no TEDx event in her city, and so she applied for a license to host events, which grew over time, now hitting big stages and theaters in her area. With her experience, she now helps others land there. 


Elena herself struggled with imposter syndrome, having thoughts on inadequacy and “why me”. In fact, when she applied to work with TEDx and was granted a license, she felt like it would be an impossible task, as she has never done something like this. Then, she remembered that she posted the TEDx logo, asking who would like to join her, and the response was huge. In the end, she had a team of experts working behind her. She wasn’t alone and the people she leads believed in her. The key is having faith that you’ll be supported when you take the first step. 


Elena’s first tip is this: if you decide to do a talk, do it well. Work with a coach and take your time to prepare this speech. Apply for good, relevant events, because this video will stay visible forever. Identifying a ‘good’ event depends on what your goal is. If your goal is to spread your idea in a local community, then a smaller event is perfect. There are more experienced and less experienced events. Usually, events with the city name have more years of experience. Production quality is set apart in bigger stages. Go to the event’s YouTube channel to look at the quality of production and speakers. Make sure you’ll be supported as a speaker and choose one that is good for you. 


As an organizer, Elena has certain things she looks for in speakers she selects. First and foremost, they aren’t actually looking for speakers–they’re looking for ideas. They are considering what would fit their local audiences. In 2021, what would resonate with a specific group of individuals in the community. From there, they list those ideas and search for good fits. Many people have the misconception that these presentations are meant to be inspirational and share stories that inspire, but that just isn’t the case. Just because someone is a professional speaker, it doesn’t mean they’ll get on stage. To navigate that, Elena suggests crafting your pitch in a completely different way. Instead of trying to push your credibility as a speaker, demonstrate your ideas and why it’s relevant. Is it new? Is it innovative? Is it appropriate for the audience right now? Consider if you’ve shared this idea before. 


Elena shares a story of someone who wasn’t accepted to a TEDx event. She approached them and asked what their idea was, which was met with “I can speak about anything. What’s the topic of your event.” This person was confident and wanted to speak at any cost. She was not asked to be on stage. This isn’t about promotion or marketing–that’s not what these events are for. 


On the other hand, there was a woman who was invited to speak on stage at only 18 years old. She came up with an idea during the pandemic, selling cosmetics online–but not really cosmetics. When someone made a purchase, they were truly reporting a case of domestic violence in secret and safely. She wasn’t a speaker, didn’t have a professional CV, but her idea was fresh, new, and relevant for the audience of the time. 


Finally, the first step to getting booked for a TEDx event is getting clear on the idea you have. Very often, people who want to get on stage don’t have a good fit. It can be based on your story, your experiences, or other sources, but make sure it’s innovative. It isn’t a motivational speech, it’s an informative, new, relevant idea. Then, look for events in your area on 

TEDx booking can skyrocket your career, but it can be intimidating to start the process and secure a spot on a stage. For many of us, it just seems REALLY hard, but not impossible. Take the leap and share your ideas. 

Get in Touch With Dr. Elena


Elena. I am so excited to have you on. She sells radio. I know for so many of my clients who have become TEDx speakers, it’s been the thing that just skyrocketed their brand. And I also know that it can be sometimes really hard. Like one of my colleagues he’s actually an international speaker. He came in number two in the world championship of public speaking. He’s a great speaker. I know it took over a hundred pitches for him to get to secure a spot on a TEDx stage. So I think for a lot of us, it may feel like we may think, gosh, this is really hard. So I am so excited to have you on because you’re such an expert in this topic and I can’t wait to learn from you. I know my listeners can’t wait to learn from you. So welcome to the show. This is going to be amazing.

Yeah. Thank you. I’m so happy to be here and I’m ready to share with you everything I know.

Okay, good. Well, I’m going to ask everything, you know, so the first thing that I’m just curious about Elena, for anyone who’s not familiar with you, how did you get into this? How did you know you doing TEDx and then helping other, I know you work with a lot of women, you work with both men and women, but you work with a lot of women to help them land TEDx stages. How did this become something you’re so passionate about?

Yeah, so I, I’m a communication coach and I am working with people to improve their presentations, to make them speak with impact, speak with confidence. And education is basically my passion as I once worked at the university as an assistant professor. And I noticed about seven years ago that there was no TEDx event in my city. And I felt that we should definitely do this. And this is how my journey started. I applied for a license to, to organize TEDx event. I started with small events, but now those events grew bigger and bigger. And what my last events were on big stages and big theaters. You couldn’t go and check on my Instagram. I always have a couple of nice pictures from my TEDx events. And this is what I do. And a lot of people started asking me, so how do I become a TEDx speaker? And they, they started pitching and writing to me and well, what can I do? So, yeah, I decided that I can help others to become TEDx speakers because as an organizer, I know exactly what is needed to get on the stage and what, what should you do what you do avoid? And this is the, this is why I’m helping currently people to become TEDx speakers.

So, and so just for context too, you’re in Warsaw, right? When you said in your city you’re in Warsaw, Poland, correct? Yeah. So one of the things that you said that I actually think is really important is you looked around and you noticed there wasn’t a TEDx event in Warsaw and you said, well, I’m going to, I’m going to do it. And here’s what I know from working with so many women over the years, oftentimes they may hesitate to step up and do something and they’d say, well, somebody else will be better qualified than me, but what I’m hearing you say is you just took the initiative and said, no, this needs to be done and I’m going to do it. Did you struggle with any sort of imposter syndrome? Like who am I to do this? Or did it just feel, has that never really been an issue for you? I’m just curious, because I know so many women, at least women who I work with have struggled with that.

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I did. And I remember actually when I applied or to get the license in the beginning, I actually didn’t know what I was doing. I just thought, Oh, it would be great to do something. So I applied. But then I remember the moment when I received the, yes, I got an email and I saw that you are granted a license. You’re now TEDx organizer and your event and you know, all the details. And I said, Oh my God, how am I going to do this? It is impossible. I never organized a huge event. I organized some significant conferences before, but I never did something like this. And I because in the beginning I was thinking that I’m kind of on my own with this license. What, what can I do? But then I remember that I wrote a post on Facebook.

I posted the logo, the TEDx logo. And I wrote that, Hey, I am organizing this event who would like to join me. And I had so many people who wanted to join me. They said that, yes, I would love to help you with marketing. I can help you with this with getting sponsors. And in the end I had a very big team and I realized that I I’m not on my own. So my role was basically to do this first step. And yes, I had imposter syndrome for a moment. But then I realized that I have a huge team behind me, team of experts, of experienced people in different areas. Then I just saw that, okay, now I w I, then I was calm and I can see that only ambitious people who, who have a really interesting life experiences, very open people. They join TEDx teams because this is a non-profit event. Also not many people know that TEDx is, are completely non-profit. So only volunteers join the, the teams and they don’t get anything out of it. I am as a, as an organizer, I also don’t get to anything. Maybe, you know, a couple of nice gadgets with TEDx logo. This, this is everything we get. And this is, this is how I got a pure from my imposter syndrome, with the help of my team.

Well, and something you said there too, which I’m big on. And I saw you talking about this on your Instagram recently was take the next step. You don’t need to know all of it. And I think in life, that’s actually how, it’s, how it goes. We don’t see the full, how, but when we feel called to do something, whether it’s, you know, sell a certain amount in a month, launch a new program, become a TEDx organizer for your city when no one else has before, you’re never going to see the whole picture, but you take the next step and the next step and the next step and trust that in faith, the right people and resources will come and help support you, which I know they, you said they did in your case, which I love. So I want to get into some of the tactical that you teach your clients on how to become a TEDx speaker. But I’m just curious before we do that, have you seen any stories or examples of doing a TEDx talk significantly impacting somebody’s business?

Yeah, usually usually it has influenced as it is kind of a business card and, you know, online in business, it’s something that people see immediately when they go online and they type in your name. Yes, you, they see your webpage, they see your social media, but also what comes out is your performances on, on, on different stages. And of course, TEDx talks channel is positioned very well on YouTube. So it is one of the, one of the first results. So I would say that if you decide to do this talk, then do it really well. Yeah. So work with a coach or, you know make sure to take your time to prepare the speech. If you’re applying for an event, make sure that you’re applying for a good event to because what will w w w w this video, it will stay there forever and you want it to be of a really good quality.

Yeah. So when you say apply for a good event, that brings up a question for me. So how do we know what’s a good event to apply for versus not?

Yeah, so maybe I wouldn’t say that there are good and bad events. All FedEx events are amazing all over the world. It depends on what your goal is. So if your goal is to spread your idea in the local community, local school, a university, then some smaller events are perfect, but also there are, let’s say less experienced events and more experienced events. And this is the difference. The events with the city name in the in the name of the event are older, more experienced their teams. They have many years of experience now. And what is different is for sure production quality. And you can see that some events have better production, bigger stages lighting is professional. So this is for me, for example, this is my final product. As an organizer, I’m focusing 100% on the quality of production, because I know that this is something that will stay there forever, and I want it to be good, but not everyone is, is focusing on the production.

So you would want to go to YouTube channel of, of this event to check their videos, to see what is the quality, what is the quality of speeches also, because some events, they have an extensive preparation program for their speakers. For example, in my case, we have in TEDx Wars women, my event I’m organizing for last couple of years I’m doing about six, five to six months of preparation before the event for speakers. So we have workshops, we have rehearsals, we have individual support of coaches for every speaker. I know that many speakers do not have such support. And that’s th this is the difference between events. So you would want to choose what type of event would be good for you.

That’s so helpful. And I think even just to think about that level of preparation, whether you, it sounds like your event is higher in terms of the support you offer your speakers than maybe some others, but either way, if you’re getting booked for this, I know one of my former clients and friends got booked for a TEDx Boca Raton, I think, and she practiced this thing every single day for, I don’t know, I mean, months, I think it was only a couple of months from when she applied to when it was happening, but just that level of preparation going into it so that when you stand on that stage, you know, that thing inside and out which, which applies for so much in life beyond even speaking. I’m curious though, Elena, so from your perspective as an organizer, what are some of the things you look for? It seems like it’s not super cut and dry, at least from what I hear of who gets selected and who doesn’t. So what do you look for in the people who you’re selecting to be speakers?

Yeah. So first of all, we are not looking for speakers. Let’s start from that. We are looking for ideas, and this is the main thing to understand about TEDx. What is the difference between TEDx and other business and other conferences? We are looking for ideas. So we start with certain ideas in mind. We brainstorm with the team, what ideas would be good for our local audiences for for example, in our case, we have TEDx force a women. So we think, okay, so what ideas in 2021 would be very important and relevant for women in Warsaw. And then we list all the ideas that would be relevant that we want to have on our stage. And it could be idea from the areas of technology business, sports, education, innovation. It can be really, really broad. But what the main thing is what we are not looking for it to understand what we’re not looking for.

And I think that many people are, are mistaken a little bit. I think the TEDx events are inspirational event and that what we need to do is to come up with an inspirational story and share it with the world on the TEDx platform. But in fact, that X events are specifically not looking for purely inspirational stories or professional speakers. And this is why it is hard to get on a TEDx stage for professional speakers. So if someone is is an international champion of public speaking, then it does not mean that they will get on the TEDx stage and they specifically will be rejected because, Oh, he’s terminal public speaking. He was speaking on so many stages already that he has his platforms.

So does it extra. So I sort of pause you. So it kind of, it almost hurts you if you’re a professional speaker and how do you navigate that? If you cause a lot of the women who listen to this, they do speak it. They may not be quite at that level of my friend who I mentioned, but they do speak. So how do you navigate that? If you still want to book a TEDx,

Okay, this is what I’m working with with my clients a lot, because many people who come to me, they are speakers. They are coaches and they don’t want, they don’t know how to craft their message in specific way that will be applicable for TEDx. So first of all, what I recommend to do is to craft your pitch, your application in a completely different way, not in the way that you would approach a business conference. When if you approach business conference, you would say that I’m an international speaker. I was speaking at in 30 countries on hundreds stages on this and this conference. So you would want to show your credibility a speaker, but not for TEDx. If you’re applying for TEDx, I would, as an organizer, I would want to see why, what is your idea, first of all, not who you are, but what is your idea why your idea is relevant for the local audience? Is it new? Is it something innovative or maybe it is something that was shared before? Is it relevant for my audience of my event right now? And also if you did not share this idea before, because when I’m getting an application for, for, from speaker, then I see, okay. So he was speaking in 30 countries. He definitely share this idea in many different places. He could speak out anything. So this is not the type of ideas we are looking for.

That’s so helpful. It’s totally counterintuitive to what you would think would help you. So it’s what I I’m taking away is it’s far more about the idea, the novelty of the idea, the freshness of the idea, the relevance of the idea than about you as a speaker, which I think oftentimes the speakers, I mean, I’ll raise my hand too. It’s like, it’s, it’s all positioning and it’s ego and it’s like, how can I sell how great I am? But that sounds like it really hurts you in this instance. So I love, yeah, I love this approach. What else should we be? What else are organizers looking for? And what else are the things that make you say yes, we have to have this person come speak on our stage.

So maybe I will share one example with you, great, to more or less understand what is the difference between a TEDx ideas and and non TEDx speakers that would not be accepted. I, I, I can share two stories with you. One story is about the someone who was not accepted, I will it is. Yeah. So th there was a person who applied for the event filled in the application and we, so we approach this person and ask, so what is your idea? What is your main, main idea that you want to share? And the answer was, well, I can speak about anything about, I can speak about this and this, what is the topic of your event? So this person was very comfortable with speaking and wanted to speak no matter what. And of course we did not accept this speaker, and we did not accept this, this type of speakers, because people who can speak about anything and who just want to adapt and get on the stage for the sake of promotion of marketing, of having a picture on the red dot and posting it on Instagram.

This is not what TEDx events are for. But another story is about the girl who was accepted and actually was invited by us by organizers. It was a girl. She did not have any speaking experience before she was very young. She was 18 years old when she was speaking on our stage at the age of 17, she was in school. She the pandemic started last year and she came up with an initiative off, she made an online shop with cosmetics, but there were no cosmetics. If someone bought and clicked on something in her shop, it would mean that they are reporting the case of domestic violence that is going on at home. And she had she was cooperating with some foundations, with some psychologists that could react immediately and contact those people. But the fact of buying, you know, the cream or something online, it meant that the person could in a safe way report the case of domestic violence. And this this is a perfect example of something that is a TEDx idea. So not necessarily a speaker, not necessarily super experienced and credible professional, but the idea itself is amazing. It’s fresh, it’s new and very relevant for this specific audience in this specific time.

Oh my gosh, I get full body chills at that idea. And that’s, I love that you shared that story. Thank you. Because that gives so much context and to just the depth of the ideas that are shared and the impactful work that an ideal speaker’s doing in their world outside of just, you know, kind of the normal speaking gig, like so many of us are, that’s amazing. So I want to, I want to start winding down and I’m going to have you tell people where they can connect with you to learn more about what you do, but I just want to wrap up with the final question, because this has been so amazing. Thank you. And I love the work you’re doing. So what’s the, what is the first step that someone should take? Because it can still feel overwhelming. Oh my gosh, there’s all these different. Yeah. I’m going to look at these different websites. I’m going to try this select the event. I’m going to do my pitch. And now we definitely have more clarity in terms of what those things need to look like, but in the spirit of just taking the next step and the next, what is the number one, the next step someone should take if they are, if they want to become a TEDx speaker. Yeah. So the first,

The first step would be to make sure that you have an idea because very often people who want, just want to become TEDx speakers, they don’t necessarily have a, have an idea which is new, which is innovative and relevant for, for the local audience. And you think it can be something it can be also based on your story. It can be based on your experience, maybe intercultural experience if you travel, if you will. So just to leave in different countries, maybe it can be also the basis for, for your main idea. Think what is your idea? Because the pure, purely inspirational talks like you can do anything, or I could overcome this and you will overcome this to this, this will not work for sure. So when you have your idea, then the next step would be to look for events in your area, and you can go on the website, and there you have the list of all events that are going on in the world. So basically you narrow down to your place, your leaf, and also somewhere around and see what kind of events are happening in the upcoming year. And then you can contact those events of course, individually.

Amazing. Thank you so much, Dr. Elena. So I know people are gonna want to connect with you and do you coach clients who are outside of Warsaw? Like a lot of my listeners are in the States. Do you, do you coach clients anywhere?

Yes, yes. I’m working internationally. And if you’re interested, then don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I and we can just chat you all the call and have a talk about your idea without, you know, going into coaching. I doing some short 15 minutes calls which are basically enough to cover the, the basics. If you want to continue working with me, then we can work longer. And also I came up with a PDF with a short guide on how to become a TEDx speaker. So basically you’ll have there, all the information that we discussed now, and some more information on how to apply. What is the most important thing to think about before, before applying? And you’re also welcome to upload this file. It is available in my Instagram profile, or also maybe you can find it under this episode.

Yes. Yeah. We’ll put it there. And what’s your, I’m going to have you say your website URL, cause I want to make, I get your last name. Correct. So give everybody your website address where they can go and connect with you and get this guide as well, please.

Yeah. So my website is Elena [inaudible] dot com.

Beautiful Elena Paul Thank you so much for coming on today, Elena. I I am so grateful for your generosity. I learned so much from you. I know my listeners did as well. The work you’re doing is so important, so huge. Thank you to you for everything you shared today.

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