5 TED Talks That Can Make You A Better Communicator

July 25, 2016

Ted Talk

Do you feel inspired when you watch a good TED Talk? Started in 2006 as an experiment with Internet video, TEDx presentations began with just six talks. TEDx producers weren’t sure at the time if people would sit for 18 minutes to watch lectures online. By their own admission, producers didn’t know their talks would take off in the next few years to such extraordinary heights.

Fast-forward to today, and TEDx Talks have surpassed over a billion views. Not bad for an experiment! What can be concluded from their tremendous success? People have an enormous appetite to learn. TED’s success underscores just how critical good timing, delivery, and clear communication techniques are to ensuring proper audience engagement.

A TED Talk is slick, well produced, and uses particular lighting and onstage visuals to effectively engage listeners. Taped in front of a live audience, the talks seek to enhance the relevance of the subject matter by making the audience feel as important as the speaker.

Most TED speakers are subject-matter experts with something fresh, and often provocative, to deliver. They typically appear contrary to what we are accustomed to seeing in church, class, or business meetings. There are several hallmarks of TED Talk presenters: As they stand onstage with an enormous screen behind them, what do you notice?

  • They are hands-free
  • With a microphone attached, their entire body is on view, since there is no lectern or other barrier to inhibit their delivery.
  • They are in motion. They seem so natural and often look right into the eyes of the audience to ensure they build rapport and connect.

Given that a speaker has 18 minutes or less onstage, there is little room for wasted words. Even if you’re watching on YouTube, there’s something about their approach that makes you feel as if you’re there. No distance, just connection!

These are my top 5 picks for the most effective TED Talks:

  1. Ken Robinson: “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”  Sir Ken Robinson asserts that people and organizations acknowledge the current educational system is failing to meet the challenges we face, and is working zealously to create alternatives. His impassioned message underscores the need to better foster our natural-born capacities for creativity. Rethinking the approaches to the educational system is a strong start. His talk is gripping, authentic, and powerful.
  2. Amy Cuddy: “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are ” Social psychologist Amy Cuddy discusses how body language affects how others see us, but may also change how we see ourselves. This absorbing talk on non-verbal communication is thought provoking and a call to action on the need for self-awareness as a path to personal and professional growth.
  3. Stacy Kramer: “The Best Gift I Ever Survived.” This is a moving 3-minute, 17-second story of how a frightening and traumatic experience can turn out to be a priceless gift. It’s delivered with conviction, suspense: Sometimes less is more.
  4. Brené Brown: “The Power of Vulnerability”  This is funny, poignant, and a lesson on human connection. Brown shares insights from her research on empathy and the importance of embracing our vulnerability. I love her positive attitude and loving spirit.
  5. Dan Ariely: “Are We in Control of Our Own Decisions?” Behavioral economist Dan Ariely boldly shares his research findings that humans are not as rational as you may think. It’s great to listen to a credible expert challenge conventional wisdom to help us make better decisions.


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Do you have a favorite TED Talk? Tell us in the comments section below, and share how it sparked a change in your life.

About The Author

CHUCK GARCIA is founder of Climb Leadership Consulting and is a Professor of Organizational Leadership at Mercy College in New York. He coaches executives on public speaking, sales skills, and leadership development. A 25-year veteran of Wall Street, Garcia spent 14 years at Bloomberg in a variety of leadership positions. He was Director of Business Development at BlackRock Solutions, an arm of the world’s largest investment-management firm, and was a Managing Director at Citadel, a prestigious alternative investment-management firm. Garcia is a mountaineer and has climbed some of the world’s tallest peaks, including Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Elbrus, and the Matterhorn, as well as mountains in Alaska and the Andes

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