TED at PMI Logo

TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics—from science to business to global issues—in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.

Every year, TED works with a group of carefully selected companies and foundations to identify their best inventors, connectors and creators. The TED Institute works closely with each partner, overseeing curation and providing one-on-one talk development training to sharpen and hone ideas and talks. The culmination is an event produced, filmed, and hosted by TED, generating a growing library of valuable TED Talks that can spur innovation and transform organizations.

At next year’s Global Conference on 17-19 October, 2020, up to 15 speakers and performers from across the PMI universe will take the stage at an event co-produced in partnership with TED. The talks are filmed, edited and vetted for posting on TED.com. This event will unlock institutional knowledge, identify thought-leaders, and showcase the best ideas within the world of project management. This is not a corporate retreat or product-pitching exercise; this is an opportunity to put our best minds forward and share ideas that will appeal to an educated and curious global audience. The talks are filmed, edited and vetted for posting on TED.com. 

Apply to be a TED speaker by completing the following steps:

  1. Log into PMI.org
  2. Visit the About TED at PMI webpage to learn more about the TED@PMI opportunity and complete the application.

The application will remain open until 19 February 2020.

In order to apply to be a TED speaker:

  1. You must be an active PMI member through the year 2020,
  2. Or an active PMI certification holder from Mainland China through the year 2020,
  3. Or a PMI full-time employee

The time commitment for preparing a talk for TED@PMI is 50 hours minimum for scripting and editing, plus 3 video rehearsals with the TED team, and dedicated time in the weeks leading up to the event to memorize the talk. Speakers will spend three days on site with their fellow presenters and the TED team in Seattle from 17-19 October , attending workshops, rehearsals, and—of course—TED@PMI!

The TED@PMI audience in Seattle will be made up of Global Conference and North America Leadership Institute Meeting attendees. The event will be filmed and streamed globally across the organization. Talks will be featured on the TED website and across PMI and TED social media channels.

Please visit Customer Care for further clarification on the TED@PMI program.


Application tips from TED

There’s a misconception that TED Talks are personal, inspirational stories. While some speakers include a personal story in their talk, the true focus of a TED talk is an idea worth spreading that the listener can take with them. An idea might be big or small, but it must have a powerful takeaway with potential for big impact. That means…

  • It’s fresh. Every great TED Talk somehow presents a novel way of seeing the world, or provokes new thinking about a particular topic. If you’re building upon an idea that already exists, think: What makes your interpretation unique?
    Take a look at Simon Sinek’s talk, How great leaders inspire action, for some inspiration. His answer to a common question—how to lead effectively—is surprising in its simplicity.
  • It’s solution-oriented. Many TED Talks explore big problems or challenges in the world. But they are never simply passive observations—they always provide bold, exciting solutions.
  • It’s relevant to a global audience. Once a talk goes online, the walls of the room disappear. So when you prepare your application, ask yourself: Why should a broad section of people care about this idea? Does it teach something new, inspire action, create a slight shift in perspective that could spark radical change? 
    In The danger of a single story, Chimamanda Adichie accomplishes this relevance masterfully by reframing her hyperlocal, personal experience as a situation that we all face.
  • It’s from your unique expertise. We’re not chasing only PhDs and executives here; we are looking for an idea that is authentic to you. Talks range as widely as people do. Carefully consider: What have your work, your perspective, and your life experiences taught you? What is the story that you, and only you, could tell?
    Regina Hartley illustrates this principle by incorporating her personal and professional experiences in Why the best hire might not have the perfect resume.
  • So it is not merely a personal, inspirational story. TED Talks, and their core ideas, can fall anywhere on a spectrum of personal to nonpersonal. Whenever personal stories are shared, they are in service of the talk’s main idea. Chimamanda’s talk perfectly illustrates how to elevate an intimate personal story so that it communicates a profound, larger message. Then there are talks like Regina’s, which carefully weave a personal story between arguments. But many of our most popular talks, like Simon’s, don’t include personal stories at all.

We seek ideas that are surprising and impactful. A strong idea opens a novel way of seeing the world, or provokes new thinking about a particular topic. If you’re building upon an idea that already exists, what makes your interpretation unique?

We love to see people who are authentically connected to the idea. TED Talks are original ideas connected to the personal experience, expertise and heart and mind of a person who is uniquely qualified to share it. This is just as likely to be an assistant and an executive, as we have found that the quality of a speaker is not based on title but the will to work hard, dig deep and be vulnerable.

This can all seem intimidating, but it shouldn’t discourage anyone from applying. When we review possible speakers, we look for promising seeds of ideas, not fully developed talks or professional speakers. After all, that’s why we’re here!

These talks are great examples of what we mean:

  • In her role as an assistant casting director for As the World Turns, Kate Adams learned how to create and cultivate a story -- and how we use that story arc to build our own journeys. In her talk, she shares 4 lessons anyone can take away from the over-the-top world of soap operas.
  • With a dual expertise in healthcare and logistics, Wanis Kabbaj argues that the most efficient transportation systems are inside our bodies, and encourages designers of the future to take inspiration from the brilliance of our biology.
  • A business consultant and change researcher, Jim Hemerling helps organizations transform and lays out five principles for leading well in an era that demands constant evolution.

What you don’t need: professional public speaking experience. That is why we are here!

TED selects all speakers and performers. In our selection process, content is king. We choose speakers based on their ideas, not their job titles.

Your talk does not necessarily need to be about project management or your work with PMI. We want to hear about the ideas that have shaped your work, but also ideas that are unexpected, unique and authentic to you.

  • Focus. Typically a TED Talk is built upon a single strong idea, with no more than three or four key supporting points, woven into a compelling narrative.
  • Include supporting information. Use your expertise, research and powerful anecdotes to support your points. Not only will it strengthen your arguments, but it will give us a sense of how you think.
  • Use conversational language—short, active, and jargon-free. Consider that much of your audience will not be as familiar with your idea as you are. So try to describe your concepts in a way that most people would understand, without compromising the quality of your thoughts and ideas.
  • Put an idea, not a product, at the center of your application. Talks that feel like sales pitches or business presentations undermine the power of your idea. Instead, tell us about the problem you’re solving, paradigm-shifting research you’re excited about or a new vision for the future.
  • Be yourself! Don’t feel you need to play the “TED speaker.” We’re looking for people who are authentic, who have something to say and their own honest way to say it. Your accent, your gestures, your everyday words are all welcome on the TED stage!

Giving a TED Talk is a collaborative process. Those selected to speak will work closely with the TED Curation team to develop their talks, and are expected to be flexible, receptive and open to feedback. It is a real commitment – and you get what you give to the process. If you are interested in giving the talk of your life and fundamentally changing how you communicate, you will have to be dedicated, flexible and collaborative. It won’t be easy, but we promise you it will be worth it!

Please note: All TED@PMI talks must be delivered in English. Don't worry if you have an accent or English isn't your first language! We have speaker coaches who will work with you on your delivery. It is, however, required that applications be submitted in English.

During this three- to four-month process:

  • We kick off with a welcome to all speakers and a video bootcamp training that builds some core skills.
  • Next, you’ll develop your central idea with the curator, through phone calls, script drafts and emails.
  • Once your idea is set, you’ll develop your talk with the TED team and your speaker coach. This means writing and rewriting drafts every few days, doing research, practicing performance, incorporating feedback and having video rehearsals.
  • Two weeks before the event, we’ll finalize and “lock” your talk script and focus on helping you share your talk confidently. You’ll practice your talk until you’re fully memorized by the time of the event.
  • You’ll arrive two days before TED@PMI for a delivery workshop and a speaker dinner. We’ll have onsite rehearsals the day before the event, and then…
  • Showtime - TED@PMI!