Episode 47: How You (Yes You!) Can Become A TEDx Speaker And Increase Your Visibility As A Go-To Expert With Maija-Liisa Adams

TMS 47 | TEDx Speaker


Becoming a TEDx speaker is probably the ultimate statement of thought leadership in contemporary times, but you don’t have to be a Tony Robbins or Simon Sinek to be able to step on that red X. If you have a message to share that you think people will resonate to and get value from, then half the work is done for you. As for the other half, you can work it out with Maija-Liisa Adams, one of the mentors at The Mentor Studio and a TEDx speaker coach for many years. Joining Michael Silvers in this short but power-packed conversation, Maija-Liisa shares the most important things that you need to know if you are seriously looking at the TEDx stage as a platform to up-level your visibility as a go-to expert in your field. Whether you’re a solopreneur, entrepreneur, academic, or influencer, there is a space for you in that stage of visibility. Listen in to find out how you can claim it.

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How You (Yes You!) Can Become A TEDx Speaker And Increase Your Visibility As A Go-To Expert With Maija-Liisa Adams

Our guest is Maija-Liisa Adams who has been a TEDx Speaker coach for many years. Have you ever seen someone in your field giving a TEDx Talk and you thought I should be there? Let me tell you. In my industry, we hear that all the time. Maybe you’ve even applied and been rejected and you don’t know why. She has seen hundreds of applications and why some get picked over others. Based on what she’s learned, she’s helped business owners and others to get their craft and use their TEDx as a driver of growth. The perfect example is Anne, a body language expert, helping a lot of people but wanting a TEDx to share her message and up-level her visibility as a go-to expert. She helped her with her application, what words to say and how to say it. She got the TEDx Talk, 1.6 million views. Please welcome our friend and one of our mentors at The Mentor Studio, Maija-Lisa. Welcome. 

Thanks, Michael. It’s great to be with you.

Tell us a little bit about your background. What got you here to be able to do this and why?

I have been a speaker earlier in my career in Silicon Valley and I represented a software company, but I did retire from the industry to raise my family. A few years ago, I came back to work and I was working part-time. I still am working part-time at the local university here at Brigham Young University – Idaho. I was asked to teach a class where we should teach the students how to do a TED-style talk. You have to say TED-style because branding is very important to TED. From that, there happened to be a couple of local events to get started, TEDx Rexburg, TEDx Idaho Falls and they said, “Would you be a speaker coach for us because some of our speakers could use some help.” From there, I’ve branched out and I have clients from all over the world and helping them. Finding a stage to get on is part of the fun part.

It’s been different during the pandemic because people are ready to stand on that red dot that the TEDx stage has made so famous, but nobody stood on the red dot for a year now. It’s been virtual. We’re hoping that in the fall, some will return to that as well. Most of the people I work with are solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, business owners. They want to know how can they take their ideas to the stage and what stage would be good for them. That’s what I focus on.

From a speaker perspective, an author, a trainer, a business owner, why is that something that I want to do?

Take Clubhouse, for example. If you simply go to Clubhouse and you type TEDx, if someone is a TEDx speaker, it is right at the top of their bio because it is a stage of visibility. You don’t get paid to give a TEDx Talk but if you do your homework to find out how your message applies now and the stages that would be the best fit for you, and do some work so that people will know you’ve actually given the talk and it has some likes, then you have a chance as Anne did. I was talking about every time she gives a seminar, she mentions, “In my TEDx talk,” and it’s done well for her. YouTube gets into and helps suggest it now because she’s done so well with it.

There are some people who don’t even know what TEDx is still. We know that. I can mention Tony Robbins and everybody still doesn’t know who he is. They don’t quite understand the TEDx. They don’t understand the purpose of the TEDx. There’s this TED and TEDx. Can you talk about that a little bit and maybe help a little clarity?

TEDx, the X in it stands for independently organized TED events. TED started back in 1984 in the Bay Area. It stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. It was a conference for people who were in that field in California, which California is known for. They would bring something new to the stage each year about what they had learned in technology, entertainment and design. It’s what you have to add to the conversation. It was about to be done away with when Chris Anderson pitched and gave his most important presentation of all time because he had learned so much from it, personally watching them year after year. He said, “I would like to take it over.” Once he did, he started curating these and putting them on YouTube and that’s when we all became aware of it.

TMS 47 | TEDx Speaker
TEDx Speaker: If someone is a TEDx speaker, it is right at the top of their bio because it is a stage of visibility.


It was a student of mine who said, “Mrs. Adams, have you ever heard of Simon Sinek and The Golden Circle and Start With Why?” That is where I started to learn about TED and got so excited about it. TED happens once a year. It used to be in California. Now it’s Vancouver, not since 2020, because of the pandemic. They do have TEDGlobal, TEDMED, TEDWomen, but then they give licenses. When I started many years ago, there were 300 TEDx events, which means a local university or a local town can apply for a one-year license and choose a group of speakers to come. They’ll speak about one topic or different topics. Now there are over 3,200 TEDx events worldwide. I was listening to one from Poland and later in the day, here’s another one I’m listening to. This is a cool time now. You couldn’t be traveling to Poland but get on Eventbrite and search TEDx and you’ll find something happening that you can say, “I’m curious. I want to see what’s happening there.”

We did an Instagram training and it’s that social proof piece. Across all the platforms, it’s very different, but I want to know, like and trust you. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Take body language, for example. You can search that and find out all the different people who’ve talked about body language on the stage. If you’re not the first, you’re not going to get the 59 million views like Amy Cuddy, who was the first one to talk about body language, but you do add something new to it. You also say, “I like the way this person comes across versus someone else.” We all know when you apply for a job, number one, can you do the job? Number two, do we like and trust doing it with you? As you said, it’s the social proof and seeing your personality. You have to have the conversation and is it something that resonates with me.

It’s interesting as you’re saying this because we’ve been around the industry. We circle around it. It circles around us. A lot of people on the TEDx have been speakers on our stages and our stages have been on TEDx. You’ve clicked something in for me that it’s another piece of that social proof. It’s another tool in your tool belt for your resume. This was a question that came up from somebody I was talking to. Is TEDx always in the form of one? Do they do interviews or can you have an interview format? How’s that ever looked?

Do you mean how were you chosen for different stages?

No. Once you’re on TEDx, you’re always the main speaker. Let’s say you had somebody who’s got great information but works much better if they are interviewed. Can you do a TEDx as an interview?

Absolutely. I remember watching Vanessa Williams being interviewed instead of speaking. Interview is one of the ways. You can give an original performance. You may not even speak. You might have an interpretive dance that’s original or some song or something like that as well. You might talk about an issue and how it applies now like social injustice, political divide, the pandemic or bring your topic and how it applies to that. It might be a big idea or a little idea. You might simply take us into a world that we’ll never get a chance to go to, except you’re going to take us there for a few minutes.

My brain is going and we’re going to go from those who are very experienced to those who aren’t. We’ll talk about that in a second. I was thinking all of a sudden, Mary Glorfield who’s never told her story because she doesn’t like to be on stage. That is not her thing. She has done something with Tony Robbins that no one on the planet has done since. I’m thinking, “Why am I not interviewing her on a TEDx stage?” There’s a story that still has never been done again. The three million participants, 82 countries and 4 million miles building Robbins Research, now the large personal development company in the world. Would people be interested to hear that? I think people in their mind think, “Whether I’ve done something nobody else has done or new and beginning, do people really want to listen?

Tony has given a TEDx Talk. He gave one years ago. Mary has not but Mary could be interviewed. What they would be interested in is that inside that behind-the-scenes type that nobody else gets to see. The other thing that typically when we’re telling our story is no one cares about your story or my story. They care about, “Can I see myself in your story?” Sometimes it’s just a story about, “I’ll never experience what Mary did or create anything like that. I want to know behind the scenes or she’s done something amazing and I can see myself in it, and it gives me hope that I can do that too.”

No one cares about your story. The only thing they care about is whether they can see themselves in your story. Click To Tweet

We know they’re asking, “What’s in it for me?” We absolutely know that’s coming up. If you want to be on a TEDx stage, work with Maija-Liisa. Don’t complicate this out there. We always like to give the audience three things they can walk away with, maybe a direction, even to get on a stage or the why. What are three things that could help our audience wrestle with this or even get closer to being on stage?

Number one is just like we all have a book in us, we all have a TEDx Talk in us. Maybe we shouldn’t write that book or give a TEDx Talk the way it is right now, but the idea is only a small percentage of it. It is how you develop that idea. With anything else, that can all be developed. The second thing is that knowing the type of stage as the X stands for independently organized. Some stages are more veteran stages. They’ve been there for twelve years like Amsterdam, TEDxVail, TEDxMarin and places like that. Others are younger. Others have higher qualifications. Some are looking for professional speakers and you’ve got to have a speaker reel. A lot of them are not. They’re looking for a local professor, a local scientist, someone like that to come in and share their story.

You never know what’s going to happen. Brené Brown, for example. She never thought that hers was going to go anywhere. She was just asked. She was a research professor in Houston and she says on the way to the event, “I think I’m going to change what I’m going to say.” Her husband was like, “Are you sure you should do it?” “It does it matter? Only 600 people are going to be in the audience.” She was horrified to find out it’s going to be curated on YouTube. She was not prepared for the fact that years later, four million people had seen it. Now many years later, about 56 million people have seen her TEDx Talk. The only difference between her and you is she’s done one and you’re wondering how to go about doing it.

Can you talk a little bit about who it would be good for? I know you could say everybody, but niche it down a little bit.

Here’s what you don’t want to do. You don’t want to come in and make it all about me. Let me put on my organizer hat for a moment because I’ve done both. As an organizer, at least in the ones that I’ve helped with. We are not interested in someone who’s interested in themselves. That is a professional speaker. That’s in it for them because when you get on the TEDx stage, you’re freely giving your idea to the world. It needs to be something that serves them. I’ve been trying to attract a certain comedian and at the time I asked him, he was so slammed. He says, “I know I had to have original content and it takes a while to put that together.” Even Simon Sinek, the book came after. He’s talking about it and then from that came the book. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a book already, but you don’t sell your book from the stage. You talk about the idea that it came from. That’s what you tell about. It is a way to raise your impact and your influence. That’s what a TEDx Talk is for.

I love it because it’s just opening up. It’s always in a way. It’s been presented so much so people talk about it so much. I know there’s a little bit also because I hear this sometimes, “Another TEDx Talk. How do I distinguish myself? There’s just another TEDx Talk.” You’ve made a lot of that very clear. You’ve helped with that. If somebody was to work with you, what does the path look like?

First off, anybody could go to my website, MLSpeaks.com. I put together the top ten tips that a speaker coach is looking for. One of those, number ten is to come and give a talk that only you can give. We don’t want you to give a keynote. We don’t want you to talk about, “My three main points are.” We want you to get up and have a conversation around one idea and share that with the world. You can download that. If anyone’s interested, they can set up a time for 30 minutes and I’ll do a red dot-ready assessment to see where your path to the TEDx stage is like for you and what type of coaching you would need.

You’ve been amazing. This has been an amazing conversation because it opened me up again to that. It’s been so surrounded and there’s all these. You should get on the TEDx, what it can do for you and how it makes a difference. You’ve blown me away. I’m all over this now. We’re going to be having a conversation because I thought there are all these stories that need to be told. We did an Instagram training and it’s all about the social proof and that would drive toward it. Clubhouse, we know that’s now. Who knows what Clubhouse will be like tomorrow? TEDx has been here, will be here and is going to be here.

As I said, years ago, there were 300 stages. Now there are 3,200 stages. There’s been a little bit of a pause. A lot of those have had to postpone, but it’s ramping up again to go live and it’s still there. If you’re going to be on the TEDx stage, it’s like a six-month cycle because it takes a while to get on and then you got to work as a speaker coach and develop that message. There are people who get on and they have 300 people ever see it. It takes work on the idea and so forth. If you’ve got an idea worth spreading, look at it and deliver it from your point of view. You’re the one who sees it a certain way and that’s what we’re interested in.

TMS 47 | TEDx Speaker
TEDx Speaker: When you get on the TEDx stage, you’re freely giving your idea to the world. It needs to be something that serves them.


This has been great. There’s a lot of other stuff we could ask but we’ll do that another time. Maija-Liisa is somebody that you want to work with. She’s one of the mentors at The Mentor Studio. If our goal is to serve the underserved and to become better at what we do, it’s also to bring others up along the way. That’s part of what you’re doing great and be able to create that. I wanted to thank you so much for being on the show.

Thanks for having me.

For those of you at The Mentor Studio, it’s easy to connect with us. You can go to TheMentorStudio.com. If you’re in the US, you can text Mentor Studio to 26786 or TMS as they shortened it up because we realized that I don’t spell well, most people can’t. Word has created this solution for all of us, but you want to make your text opt-ins as simple as possible. The team is changing it to TMS. We want to thank you again. Read our previous episodes. We have more coming out. We have an exciting time. We’re a group of mentors in fourteen countries that are going to make a difference and are changing the world. It’s a great day. Maija-Liisa, you’ve been amazing.

We’re doing it rapidly, aren’t we? It’s exploding. Michael, come and give a talk that only you can give. I can help you with that and Mary too.

You’re the best. We got to talk. Everybody, have a great morning or afternoon. We’ll talk to you all soon. Bye, everyone.

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About Maija-Liisa Adams

TMS 47 | TEDx SpeakerMaija-Liisa Adams is a recognized coach/consultant, speaker, and adjunct professor primarily serving business owners who want to grow their impact by sharing their unique idea on the red dot that the TEDx stage has made famous. TEDx speakers she has coached include a body language expert, a stealth bomber pilot, the creator of one the largest FaceBook groups, a podcaster #1 in his genre, a business strategist, multiple entrepreneurs, doctors, professors, engineers, artists, and University students.

Maija-Liisa holds a Bachelor’s of Art and a Master’s of Science in Administrative Systems and Business Education, both from Utah State University with a minor in Organizational Communication. Maija-Liisa is the mother of four children in five years (twins in the middle) and soon-to-be grandmother. She currently lives near her childhood home in Idaho.

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