It amazes me that I often still facilitate workshops and meetings in which the majority of participants have never heard of TED.   So in case you’re one of those folks, TED stands for technology, entertainment and design, and the best way to describe it is as a franchise of  conferences in which contemporary thinkers in every discipline come together to share ideas.  TED conferences are all filmed, with extremely high production values, and you can visit the TED website to watch the presentations as well as to read articles, blogs and commentary about the talks. Whenever I finish an important new non-fiction book, I visit the TED site to see if the author has given a talk yet and I am usually not disappointed.

I always ask participants in a presentation skills class to watch some TED talks just to get a quick tutorial on effective public speaking. There is no “death by PowerPoint” in a TED talk; there are no podiums, no handouts, no dry, boring speeches.  There is only a speaker on a stage, a speaker who has clearly been drilled in the concept of being the presentation and letting nothing come between her and the audience as she tells her story.

Often after I have recommended TED to people who are working on their presentation skills, they will come back and tell me they’re now hooked on TED.  I confess that I am too.  After you start watching for the production values of the conferences, you get hooked on the spread of new ideas, sometimes even inspired to watch talks on subjects you previously had no interest in.  Here are some of my favorite talks, a few of which I show in various classes:

Derek Sivers: How to Start a Movement

This is a short, funny video about leadership that features a crazy dancing mob on a ski slope.  Its central point is that it’s really the first follower that makes the movement, rather than the leader.

Brene Brown: The Power of Vulnerability

Brown is a researcher who studies shame and vulnerability, and she talks about the necessity of vulnerability in making human connections—but at the same time she betrays herself as having the same resistance to the idea that we’re feeling ourselves.  This is a great talk to show in a team building session focused on building interpersonal trust between team members.

Amy Cuddy: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are

Cuddy demonstrates through her research that we can feel more powerful and confident just by using “power poses.”  This is a great talk for communication skills workshops that focus on non-verbal communication.

Dan Pink: The Power of Motivation

Pink neatly encapsulates the key points of his book Drive, and makes a convincing case for intrinsic motivational theories in the workplace.   I show this talk in aspiring leader classes.

Daniel Gilbert: Why We Make Bad Decisions

This is one of a couple of talks Gilbert has given on his book Stumbling on Happiness, and it’s about the many reasons why we don’t seem to have the ability to predict what will make us happy in the future.

Jon Ronson: Strange Answers to the Psychopath Test

This is a very interesting talk about the gray areas between “crazy” and “sane,” but the real reason I recommend it is because it features the most artful delivery I’ve ever seen, with live-mixed sound and animation as Ronson speaks.  It will give you chills as you watch.

Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action

Sinek says it’s all about the “why” and not the “how.”  Great leaders inspire change by getting people to focus on the central reason the organization exists.  This is a good one for any leadership class.

If you visit the TED website you can sign up for an occasional email that will tell you what new talks have been posted and which are trending most popular.  It’s a great way to spend a Saturday or Sunday morning, looking for inspiring ideas over your morning coffee.


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