5 Concrete Ways to Be More Dangerous in 2020

Many of you who have watched and shared my TED Talk have asked for some concrete ways to become more dangerous, more engaged, and more effective in 2020, the beginning of a new and critical decade for big changes. Here are five recommendations and advice about how to give a TED Talk of your own!

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Expressing my joy, gratitude — and relief! — at the conclusion of my TED Talk.
Pat Mitchell speaks at TEDWomen 2019: Bold + Brilliant, December 4-6, 2019, Palm Springs, California. Photo: Jasmina Tomic / TED

For nearly a decade, I’ve had the privilege of inviting women (and some special men) to give TED Talks at TEDWomen. It’s a coveted invitation, in large part because TED’s online distribution of the video via TED.com and the TED YouTube channel produces unparalleled reach and impact for a speaker’s ideas.

Over the years, I’ve coached speakers through the highly focused, months-long preparation process, working through numerous drafts to get their stories and big ideas into one cohesive, compelling 10- to 15-minute talk delivered without notes. The preparation pays off, of course, and for most TED speakers, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

Knowing all this, I was still somewhat unprepared for the experience of delivering my own TED Talk at TEDWomen 2019.

My talk was posted on TED.com two weeks ago, and since that day, I have been experiencing some of the powerful effects that I have heard others describe: hundreds of personal messages from all over the world! 

Among the many responses and messages are inquiries about how someone gets to give a TED Talk. Along with reading this book by TED Chief Curator Chris Anderson —TED Talks, The Official Guide to Public Speaking— an invaluable resource for anyone who has ever been inspired by a TED Talk and wants to share their big idea with the world (not to mention a valuable resource in preparing for all public speaking presentations), TED also has a system for referrals and recommendations. If you want to be considered by the curatorial team, you can submit your idea at ted.com/participate/nominate.

It’s good to remember how few spaces there are at TED in Vancouver and TEDWomen, which will be somewhat different next year (I’ll write more about that plan in a forthcoming post). But keep in mind, there are also thousands of TEDx events independently organized with their own curatorial processes and the best of those talks make their way onto TED.com, too. You can find out about TEDx events near you at ted.com/tedx/events. It’s best to contact the TEDx organizer in your community or country for information on how to nominate yourself to speak at one of these events.


Many of you who have watched and shared the TED Talk have asked for some concrete ways to become more dangerous, more engaged, and more effective in 2020, the beginning of a new and critical decade for big changes. I have a few suggestions, many of which are explained more fully in the book, and I welcome your suggestions to add to this growing list of ways to respond to the numerous challenges and calls to action that are being heard and felt by all of us.

  1. Claiming power and sharing it. Using every opportunity, every podium, platform, forum or conversation — everywhere —to advocate for equality and fairer representation at every table in every room, business, organization and government.
  2. Mentor or seek out a mentor or sponsor. I have always credited my first mentor, my eighth grade teacher Mrs. Reid, for putting me on the path to becoming me. Since Mrs. Reid, I’ve been fortunate to have several more mentors in my life and career. And I’ve taken my responsibility to mentor others — women and men — seriously. I believe mentoring is one of the strategies that can close the gender gap in leadership that exists in this country and around the world. In business, this may mean getting a sponsor (see Carla Harris’s TED Talk for more informationabout how to do this).
  3. Cultivate a gender lens. Familiarize yourself with the gender issues embedded in the issues you care most about — whether it be climate change, systemic racism, voting rights, health care, poverty, immigration, or whatever you’re most concerned about — and incorporate the gender lens into all your advocacy as it is an essential component to a more just resolution in everything from access to health care to negotiating peace. 
  4. Join a women’s group or lead one in your area. I’m a women’s conference addict. I wrote about it recently for Melinda Gates’ Evoke blog in a post entitled “When women gather, the world changes.” I truly believe that when women come together to share learning and stories, to connect personally and professionally, to exchange ideas and collectively problem solve, it can be, and often is, transformational. TED has initiated TED Circles and that might be the way you organize this in your community. I’m considering beginning a Connected Women Leaders (CWL) circle in my community, bringing back the small group conversations that we called “consciousness raising” in the 1970s during the women’s movement for equal rights — and which we need again, in my opinion.
  5. Support women who are running for office in 2020, or even run yourself! There are many, many organizations working nationally and locally to advance women in politics. Join them and work to elect women to your city council, state legislatures, Congress (and maybe even the White House!) in 2020. Some great organizations include Supermajority, Emily’s ListHigher HeightsShe the People, not to mention Stacey Abrams’ new organization, Fair Fight, which is working to make elections free and fair for all voters. It has never been a more important time to increase the number of women with elected positions and the power to shape and enact policy by participating more fully, helping to reclaim common ground in this democracy that depends on it.

Finally, the most important thing we can all do is to become more engaged, to find the issue or area of work that ignites our curiosity, stirs our passions, and aligns with our purpose. The rest will follow.

If it means becoming more dangerous to play our part in problem solving — and my experience indicates that it will take new levels of risk taking — then let me once again urge us to be engaged, to speak out, speak up and show up for one another seizing every opportunity to shift the power paradigm, step up to leadership, and to optimize all our opportunities to encourage and inspire others.

I begin this year with deep gratitude for my opportunities to do all that, and I am committed to becoming as dangerous as I need to be to do my part at a time where we are all needed to be our very best and most dangerous selves.


— Pat

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