Ideas that can change the world

What are TEDTalks?
TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It’s a nonprofit organization that organizes conferences where speakers from all walks of life are invited to give a presentation. Since it’s inception in 1984, the topics of presentations have branched out into many other fields, including leadership, self-help, global issues, business, science and the list goes on. Many people who are invited to give these speeches are often accomplished within their own fields; some of them have written books and others are making real impactful changes in our world. Speakers such as Bill Gates, Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Richard Dawkins and many more. The diversity of speakers and topics is staggering.

Over the years, TED has built a cult-like following. Hardcore fans who pay several thousand dollars to attend these conferences are called TEDsters. These conferences are held in different locations throughout the world. In addition, independently organized events called TEDx happen even more frequently. Whereas, the official TEDTalks focus more on global topics and issues. TEDx licensees focus mainly on local issues.

For the average person, TEDTalks can be freely viewed online; and subtitles in several languages exist as well. On top of that, most TEDTalks have an interactive transcript. It’s a phenomenal resource for educators and students alike.

Fun Facts

  • TEDTalk prices can range from $8500 (2015) – $17,000 (2016).
  • There are over 2,400 TEDTalks on their website. (2016)
  • The first event was invitation only and they lost money organizing it.
  • The second event wasn’t organized until 6 years later.
  • The TEDPrize is worth $1 million and awarded annually to a leader with a creative, bold wish to spark global change. (2013)
  • Each speaker is given 18 minutes to present their ideas.

Ideas Worth Spreading
Speakers often follow very particular formats when they are giving their speeches. Chip and Dan Heath in their book Made to Stick, explain how ideas spread. They identified 6 characteristics:

  • Simple: find the core of any idea.
  • Unexpected: grab people’s attention through surprise.
  • Concrete: easy to remember, use concrete words not jargon.
  • Credible: give an idea believability.
  • Emotional: emotions are the main driving force of human behavior and motivation, people are more interested in other people than facts and figures. What’s in it for me?
  • Story: narratives inspire people to take action.

Many TEDTalk speakers follow these guidelines. Most of them incorporate emotional stories in their talks, they often use props, humor and a lot of multimedia to get their message across. There’s a lot that can be learned about public speaking from watching these talks. Even the limit of 18 minutes per presentation is carefully chosen to align with an average person’s attention span when interested and focused.