NYC Recap: Changemaker Chat with June Cohen

Everything is Possible with June Cohen

“As a “half inventor and half story teller,” June Cohen has built an impressive career in media and technology through her vast experiences at TED as employee #5 and most recently as CEO of “Wait, What?,” a first-of-its-kind content incubator. Coming together in the house of Chanel USA, June taught the Changemaker NYC community about being persistent in the face of adversity, leading with empathy, and encouraged us to say “yes” when “no” might come more naturally.

Possible-ist
When June was planning the launch of TED Talks, she faced a mountain of adversity. She reached out to various TV networks, pitching the idea of a TV series, but no one was interested. BBC even called it “too intellectual” for their audience. Being the possible-ist that she is, June did not give up. She pivoted and launched it as a podcast on an emerging digital medium, online video. She believed that an online series, coupled with modern cinematography, would resonate with viewers. And her instinct was right – today, Ted Talks has over 1 billion views/listens a year. Under her leadership, TED’s media efforts earned 17 Webbies, 8 iTunes Best Podcast of the Year and a Peabody.

Shhhhh, I’m listening
The key to empathy? Listening, which is also June’s superpower. As a manager, June’s first thoughts about her employees are always: “What do they want to do? How can I help them thrive? And what lights them up? Just by simply listening to those around her, June is able to harness their strengths and bring out their superpowers. June reminded us that as a leader, it is imperative that everyone has a voice. But take note, a voice is different than a vote.

No Excuses 
As speaking engagements were booked for TED Talks, June noticed that women were accepting less than men. But not for the reason we think. Women often felt that work was done AT work, so events outside of work weren’t prioritized. June has challenged us to take a step back and think about what this speaking engagement would mean before saying ‘no, I’m not ready’.

Pro Tips
Co-hosting TED’s annual conference, June learned a thing or two about how to be a pro speaker and clued us in on the TED magic:

  • Practice: Before a big event, June would memorize the first minute of a speech and make sure she has it down to a tee so everything else follows.
  • Preparation: Do your homework. There’s no substitute.
  • People: Find friendly faces. If you can, arrive early and introduce yourself to others. If you feel comfortable with the people around you, you’ll feel confident in speaking up and sharing ideas.

Thank you June for inspiring us to listen to others, to find our confidence and to channel our inner possible-ist.