Since its humble beginnings in 1984, TED Talks has become the leading platform aimed at providing inspiring keynote speeches and sharing ideas. Having started as a conference that discussed topics relevant to technology, entertainment and design, TED Talks has since grown to include speeches on every subject imaginable.
Its success with the public is reflected in the emergence of TEDx, which sees curious minds set up their own TED event locally. Over the years, the platform has featured an astonishing array of inspirational speakers, with each expert bringing their own powerful message to the table.
While there are so many great talks to choose from, here’s our list of the 10 best TED Talks of all time.
10. Susan Cain – The Power of Introverts
Having worked as a consultant and corporate lawyer for some time, Susan Cain has learnt a lot about what it takes to succeed in the modern world.
In this 2012 talk, Susan set out a convincing argument that numerous areas of society – including educational institutions and the workplace – are primarily designed with the needs of extroverts in mind. Throughout her talk, Susan identified this fact as a significant barrier to introverts, preventing them from tapping into their true potential.
Drawing on numerous lessons learnt from neurobiology, psychology and in-depth interviews, Susan sketched out the immense value of the world’s introverts. In line with this idea, Susan setup Quiet Revolution in 2015 – an organisation that helps introverts everywhere on their journey towards success. Her speech proved to be a massive hit, having racked up almost 20 million views to date.
9. Amy Cuddy – Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are
Providing fascinating insight into the power of body language, Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy’s speech helped to illustrate the importance of ‘power posing’. Amy’s research suggests that body language doesn’t just affect the way in which we are perceived by others. Certain body postures may help us to boost our own confidence, which can have a positive impact on our success.
Amy’s fascinating work as a social psychologist provides valuable lessons for people from all walks of life. Stressing the importance of body language on the way to self-confidence and success, Amy’s 2015 book Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges builds further upon the arguments set out in her TED Talk. Undoubtedly one of the platform’s greatest success stories, Amy’s speech has garnered an impressive 48 million views to date.
8. Tim Urban – Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator
Procrastination is familiar to us all, which is perhaps one of the reasons blogger and writer Tim Urban’s 2016 TED Talk has proven to be so popular. In it, Tim set out his very own struggles with procrastination.
As the owner of the successful blog Wait But Why, Tim showed just how easy it is to get lost in a whirlwind of distractions – both online and offline. Inspiring listeners around the world to think about the numerous effects of procrastination, Tim’s talk has resonated with millions of viewers all over the world.
7. Hans Rosling – The Best Stats You’ve Ever Seen
No list of TED Talks highlights is complete without a feature from the late, great Hans Rosling. One of the world’s most popular statisticians, Hans’ unique presentation helped to bring statistics to life in an incredibly engaging way.
Taking to the TED Talks stage in 2006, Hans’ speech was met with widespread enthusiasm. Captivating listeners with his insights into data relating to economics, health and global development, Hans helped to address some of the key myths surrounding the developing world. Having made a significant impact over the course of his career, Hans’ TED Talk is just one of many highlights that have helped to cement his legacy.
6. Brian Cox – Why We Need the Explorers
One of the UK’s best-known physicists and media personalities, Brian Cox’s extensive career has seen him work at the forefront of particle physics for many years. His unquestionable ability to present complicated scientific concepts in a fun and engaging way made him an ideal choice to take to the TED Talks stage.
Stressing the importance of exploratory science in a time where budget cuts are the order of the day, Brian’s presentation has helped audiences discover a new appreciation for some of the world’s most daring scientific projects.
5. Dan Pink – The Puzzle of Motivation
Having worked as Al Gore’s chief speechwriter during the late 1990s, it is no surprise that Dan Pink’s TED Talk would have a significant impact on all those who have witnessed it. In it, Dan challenged some of the traditional conceptions of motivation and the ways in which it is rewarded.
Illustrating a mismatch between scientific understanding and current business practices, Dan argued that businesses should approach motivation with three core dimensions in mind: autonomy, mastery and purpose. A major success with the viewing audience, Dan’s talk has since racked up a deserving 20 million views.
4. Benjamin Zander – The Transformative Power of Classical Music
This TED Talk is most definitely something different, and it features on our list for precisely that reason. Delivered by conductor Benjamin Zander – who has been conducting the Boston Philharmonic since 1979 – the speech features numerous musical arrangements that helped to drive the message home.
Speaking on his unrelenting passion for classical music and our collective willingness to explore new experiences, Benjamin’s talk represents a unique take on the power of music.
3. Jill Bolte Taylor – My Stroke of Insight
Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor instantly became one of the most memorable TED Talks speakers when she took to the stage to share the life-changing experiences that followed from her stroke. She spent years attempting to regain her former abilities, eventually becoming a prominent advocate for stroke recovery and sharing her knowledge from both a scientific and a personal perspective. As a result, Jill’s TED Talk delivered rare insight into overcoming brain injury, inspiring millions of listeners across the globe.
2. Tony Robbins – Why We Do What We Do
Life coach and leadership psychology expert Tony Robbins’ work has resonated with millions of people over the course of his career. Taking to the TED Talks stage back in 2006, Tony provided crucial insight into what he calls ‘the invisible force of internal drive’.
Helping his listeners to better understand the motivation behind their actions, as well as stressing the importance of fulfilment and significance, Tony’s speech continues to inspire more than a decade on.
1. Ken Robinson – Do Schools Kill Creativity?
It’s little surprise that Ken Robinson’s TED Talks speech features as one of the most thought-provoking talks on our list. To this day, it remains TED Talks’ most successful video ever in terms of views – and for good reason.
An expert on all things creative, Ken sketched out the role of creativity in the education system. Identifying a need to radically rethink the way in which creativity plays a role in educating our children, Ken’s talk raises fascinating questions about the fundamental principles on which our schools are built.
TED Talks’ rich history proves that the right speaker can play a crucial role in impacting the lives of others. Having proven the unquestionable importance of sharing knowledge and ideas, the platform looks set to enjoy continued success for many years to come.
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