On December 8 in Seoul, five women from four different countries delivered speeches at TEDxDongdaemunWomen. They were understandably nervous: They are all second or third language speakers of English. None of them are professional speakers, so this was a diversion from their daily lives.

  • It was a beautiful scene. Numerous TNKR volunteers were on hand to support a TNKR student giving her first TEDx speech.
  • TNKR collaborating with a TEDx organizer to put together an event.
  • The TNKR co-founder being asked to be the MC of a TEDx event.

So how did it all come together?

Recommended Eunhee Park

It started with Bayasgalan letting me know he would be organizing another TEDx. Eunkoo and I had spoken at the TEDx he organized in September 2017, we strongly recommended Eunhee Park this time around. She first joined TNKR in 2015 at a basic level, and now she gives powerful speeches and engages in English conversation with ease.

It would give Eunhee a great opportunity to speak to an international audience with a video that would be uploaded to the TEDx Talks channel. When she is ready, she can go international. So TNKR co-founder Eunkoo Lee and I introduced Eunhee to Bayasgalan. As we got closer to the contest, TNKR Senior Mentor Mark Bendul joined as the task master who accepts no excuses. I love our Track 2 coaches, but so many of them want to become buddies with refugees they are coaching for speeches, and some of the refugees also want to socialize with volunteers helping them, so it gets to be uncomfortable to push some of the speakers. But that’s no problem with Mark! Plus, he makes it easier for me to also offer constructive criticism to sharpen speeches because he keeps it professional, focused, sharp.

Eunhee’s speech was absolutely incredible. She was confident, composed, and eloquent. It is hard to believe that this is the same person who just a few years ago was embarrassed to be from North Korea and did not use her name.

Recommended JiYoung Park

  • I met JiYoung Park earlier this year, she is a South Korean author, interpreter and translator on the rise. I had considered a couple of speakers, but it was clear that she had a special story that needed to be told. We talked about her story, she submitted her proposal. I knew she would be great, but as she said on her Facebook page, she was nervous, not sure she could do it.
  • Bayasgalan had already finalized the speaking lineup, but I suggested that he should consider JiYoung’s powerful story. He read her proposal, and agreed. When they met, the invitation to speak was confirmed.
  • JiYoung and I had talked about her speech several times to sharpen the focus. Then the final week, Mark Bendul joined in, pushing her. As I told her, her speaking style brought real power to her topic, and that she would wow the audience. She is an author, so her original speech text was more of what a novelist would write, but she had to tell her story like a speaker, not a writer.
  • On Saturday, I did start to worry if she would actually make it, she had made it clear she was so nervous! I tried to give her more positive encouragement than I do for most speakers. Then she gave an incredibly powerful speech, even though she didn’t finalize the text until about two days before. I had hoped she would be great, and she was!

Last-minute coaching

I had met Feruza a bit earlier when we had a planning meeting about the TEDx event and the team met Eunhee Park. She was delightful, and it was clear that she was a doer!

At the last minute, she asked if I could help with her speech. Two busy people, trying to meet, it took a few days. Again, I called on Mark Bendul to help. He is a task-master, no nonsense, doesn’t waste his time. So he kept her coaching session on point.

As usual, I had an out-of-the-box suggestion about the approach, which I think fit along with Feruza’s approach of talking about her fantastic charitable activities.


  • At the last minute, Bayasgalan asked me if I could be the MC. I was planning on just cheering on the speakers that day, but instead, I had to work!
  • I have attended a few TEDx events and recommended several speakers for events and also been a mentor for a speaker at one of the huge TED events. But I have never been this involved.
  • I was the MC.
  • Of the five speakers, I recommended two of them. And another is a TNKR fan who also attended at least one TNKR meeting in the past.
  • Of the five speakers, I helped arrange and also helped three of them get prepared for their speeches.
  • Several TNKR volunteers attended.
  • TNKR co-founder Eunkoo Lee helped coordinate from the TNKR side.
  • Then it was finally game day! All of the practicing and hand-wringing was over, it was time for the speakers to hit the stage. 

The speakers

  • Hyojeong Shim from South Korea
  • Enkhrel Enkhtsetseg from Mongolia
  • Eunhee Park from North Korea
  • Feruza Buranova from Uzbekistan
  • Jiyoung Park from South Korea

With the Speakers

Photo Time

The best thing about giving a TEDx speech? Finishing!

  • Attendees have incredibly high expectations of what a speaker on a TED stage should do.
  • Speakers must worry about the time limit. No matter how many times you practice, it still seems that the timing is off.
  • If they pause, hesitate, or stumble over a word, then they think the audience is against them.

Many of the speakers were nervous in advance as the reality that the day of giving the speech had arrived. Then it was time for fans and attendees to take photos with them. All of the stress was gone, they could relax (or cry).

And even more photos


We were delighted that several TNKR volunteers in the photo below came out for the TEDx event. I hope we can fill up half of the audience next time to cheer on TNKR students stepping on the TED stage.
Next time around, if we are involved with a TEDx event, I have some ideas about how to make it even better so the speakers will be even more confident and prepared before hitting the TED stage.

So that’s how it happened this time around.

Support TNKR’s incredible 2019 Matching Donation Challenge.

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