I’ve been hooked on TED talks since the very first one I watched online many years ago. Benjamin Zander gave a very engaging talk about The Transformative Power of Classical Music where he used storytelling to help the audience understand the construct of a musical score. Zander was charismatic, energizing and a captivating teacher. His talk not only captured my interest about classical music, but I was interested in how he delivered his talk. What could I learn from him for my own presentation skills?
There’s something about these quality TED talks that use storytelling, research and experiences to spark an audience to look at something totally differently. Each talk becomes a window into a new world, challenging assumptions, expanding perspectives and igniting dormant passions. Through the captivating narratives and powerful messages, these talks offer more than just information; they offer a catalyst for growth.
If you’re not familiar, TED is a platform where speakers share “ideas worth spreading.” TED is not the name of a person. It’s an acronym that stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. Talks explore these subject areas in a broad scope from speakers of all different backgrounds, disciplines and research areas. It’s a pretty big deal to give a TED talk as they are known to be very insightful, professional and compelling. Rarely have I ever watched a talk that lacks these qualities.
I’ve watched or listened to so many talks I could never count. Online talks are great, but seeing them in person is an awesome experience if you ever have the opportunity to go to a local TEDx event. Of all the talks I’ve watched, the list below, in no particular order, are some that have made a lasting impact on me.
If you’re in need of a mind shift, a reset or some inspiration, give these talks a listen.
- The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers by Adam Grant
Grant’s research suggests that procrastination doesn’t always lead to failure. In fact, it may be the reason for success. Procrastination gives you time to consider divergent ideas and make progress in unexpected ways. Those who are considered original thinkers fail a lot—because they’re the only one’s willing to try over and over again. This is indeed a good thing.
- How Great Leaders Inspire Action by Simon Sinek
Sinek’s talk shares the concept about The Golden Circle and how every organization needs to understand their What, How and Why. The Why is most important. It’s not about defining your organization’s result. It’s about your purpose and why you get up in the morning. I personally use this exercise in the discovery process of all my client projects. It’s a simple concept but so often overlooked. You can apply this concept both professionally and in your personal life.
- How to Start a Movement by Derek Sivers
A rather entertaining talk, the speaker uses a video to explain how a movement starts. A movement does not start with the leader. It starts with the leader’s first follower.
- The Power of Vulnerability by Brené Brown
This is likely the most popular TED talk of all time. Brené has given a few more related talks since and has grown a following that continues to expand through her research work in shame and vulnerability. You may think that these topics are unpopular, but Brené brings importance to it through her captivating storytelling and sharing of strong data that makes these topics very human.
- The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage by Susan David
Keeping somewhat in theme with Brené Brown’s work, this speaker talks about the important of listening, understanding and dealing with your emotions. Emotions influence all areas of your life, so it’s worth paying attention to them. Being overly positive isn’t healthy. This talk encourages you to dig deeper so you can gain “emotional agility” and strive forward in life.
- The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain
As an introvert myself I can deeply appreciate this talk and connect with everything Cain shares. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced and continue to experience behaviors by others that shame introverts like myself as if it’s a character flaw that needs help fixing. As her research indicates, the truth is that introverts excel in the workplace and in leadership positions, more so than extroverts do. Introverts are quiet and need more privacy, autonomy and alone time, but in exchange this brings great innovation, revelations and ideas. Introversion is something to embrace.
- Do Schools Kill Creativity? by Sir Ken Robinson
In this surprisingly humorous talk, Sir Robinson discusses the need for prioritizing creativity in schools just as much as the general education classes. I couldn’t agree more and appreciate this topic being shared.
- Your Elusive Creative Genius by Elizabeth Gilbert
This talk is about creativity and genius and discusses the fear that creative people have of being judged, which Gilbert tries to illustrate how this is irrational. She dives into interesting history and suggests that ancient Greeks and Romans had a healthier perspective on creativity, believing it came from a divine source. Gilbert proposes that we view creativity as a collaboration and that we show up for our part.
- The Fringe Benefits of Failure by JK Rowling
This is one of the best commencement talks I’ve seen, and it’s great to see it on TED. Rowling gives a very human talk about failure, imagination and empathy and shares stories of her own journey in a way that causes pause and inspires. As someone who has never read or seen Harry Potter, I still learned so much from her talk and found her journey to be greatly admirable.
- Revolution 101: Sekou Andrews at TEDxUofM
I saw this talk in person, and there was something just really special to see it live. Andrews uses storytelling and spoken word to take the audience to an interesting classroom of historical figures that made great change in the world, and then he brings it home to the aspiring students he is talking to from stage. His artistry brought energy to the room and inspired vision and motivation, challenging the audience to also do great things in their lives.
Collectively, these talks weave together ideas, experiences and aspirations. They remind us of our shared humanity, our capacity for empathy and action, and the power of individual voices to create positive change.
TED talks never fail to inspire something new within me. I too aspire to give a TED talk someday and share some ideas I think are worth spreading. But until that opportunity presents itself I look forward to continue adding to my learning with new talks, and I hope you will too.