By Therese Van Ryne | June 19, 2019

#NextWave: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at One Zebra’s “Road to TED”

It’s a privilege to be selected as a TED speaker. But the preparation can be arduous. Join us as we follow James Morley-Smith through his audition, selection and “boot camp” experiences ahead of his first TED Talk.

Excited and nervous might be the terms to best describe the emotions that James Morley-Smith felt as he prepared his audition tape for TED in September 2018. Having the opportunity to give a TED Talk is a tremendous honor and a years-long ambition for many people. And, because of the open call for nominees that the TED curatorial team puts out each year and resulting volume of applications, the selection process has become highly competitive. Our team at Zebra understood that when we decided to nominate James for this opportunity.

However, we knew that James was an “originator” and that he had a brilliant idea about how to overcome situational disabilities thanks to the life lessons that his then 10-year-old son had taught him. People needed to hear how they could turn their impairments into an advantage, in business and in life. Fortunately, the TED curators agreed.

When James received the invite to take center stage at the TED Salon, he was admittedly a bit surprised. At the same time, he was beyond thrilled and supremely humbled that his ideas about how to overcome situational disabilities both personally and professionally resonated so well with the TED team. Of course, the nerves quickly kicked back in as he wondered whether or not his idea – inspired by his son’s story – would be just as well received by the people that would be sitting in front of him in the at the TED World Theater in New York City and the millions more that might eventually tune in to his TED Talk online. But, then again, he was just grateful for the opportunity to remind others that “what holds you back is the key to moving forward.” That was evident during our ride-along with him on his “Road to TED.”  

Watch this video for behind-the-scenes footage of James’ audition, preparation and day-of experiences. It also features exclusive interview footage with the Zebra team that nominated James and the TED team:

Editor’s Note: Did you miss James’ TED Talk? Watch it on our Next Wave page to learn about a new approach to problem solving that James discovered which could help you in every aspect of your work and life.

James also talks more about the personal and professional experiences that inspired his TED Talk in this blog post and the latest episode of our Stories from the Edge video series.

A snapshot of James Morley-Smith's presenter bio in the TED Talk program book
Inside Zebra Nation,
Therese Van Ryne
Therese Van Ryne

Therese Van Ryne is Senior Director of External Communications for Zebra Technologies. She joined Zebra as part of the acquisition of Motorola Solutions Enterprise business in October 2014. She and her team are laser focused on growing the company’s brand awareness globally aligned with business objectives. Her accomplishments include leading Zebra events with Harvard University and TED as well as the creation of the annual Intelligent Enterprise Index, resulting in positive media coverage, customer engagement and revenue growth.

Prior to Motorola Solutions, Van Ryne worked at SC Johnson where she led corporate communication strategies and drove PR and branding efforts for leading consumer products. One of her top achievements was leading the Windex® placement in the film, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” resulting in a 25% sales increase for the brand.

One of PR News’ 2019 Top Women in PR and Crain's Chicago's 2021 Most Notable Executives in Marketing, Therese also has experience as a journalist, editor and producer, reporting nightly from Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Van Ryne holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications and Journalism from Marquette University and an Executive Leadership Master’s Certificate from Cornell University.