February 7, 2023
8 min read
If you’re looking for some motivation, entertainment, rich history, mind-blowing facts, and innovative concepts, TED talks have got you covered.
TED talks are so diverse and wide-reaching, touching on a plethora of topics aimed to educate, inspire, and inform.
In less than 18 minutes, speakers from all over the world are given a global platform to share their take on any subject they like, so long as it can embody the “spirit” of TED. In other words, the speech must be “multidisciplinary, focused on the power of ideas to change lives and, ultimately, the world.”
With the spirit of TED in mind, here are our picks for the top 10 best TED talks of all time.
Social psychologist Amy Cuddy discusses the power of body language and how you can leverage it to your advantage.
In her speech, Cuddy talks about the existing research on body language, such as hand gestures, and how that affects how others perceive us. However, body language also affects the person exhibiting the gestures, posture, eye contact, and other means of visual language. You can use your body language to feel more confident and more powerful, for example.
If you’re interested in checking out the full talk, you can find the TED talk below:
If you’re curious about working on your own public speaking skills, try using an AI speech coach like Yoodli.
Record a video of yourself speaking (or upload an existing recording) and explore the instant feedback you’ll receive. Yoodli will analyze your body language, including your facial expressions and eye contact, and give you suggestions for how you can improve.
You’ll also get other free insights into your speaking patterns, like:
Tim Urban uses his natural comedic tone to engage the audience during this TED talk. It’s an extremely relatable topic that affects us all in some way: procrastination.
Even though Urban says he’s aware procrastinating isn’t the way to go, it’s a “bad” habit that he still deals with. From getting lost in the immense world of Wikipedia to binge watching YouTube videos, his relatable TED talk emphasizes the importance of considering what we choose to procrastinate on and why.
Still, life is short, and Urban urges us to keep this in mind as we each deal with our own procrastination and what he refers to as our “instant gratification monkey” — the part of us that wants to push past the item at hand and seek instant gratification through procrastination.
Watch Urban’s talk below:
Bill Gates delivered his TED talk, “The Next Outbreak? We’re Not Ready,” seven years ago — years before the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his speech, Gates revisits the 2014 Ebola scare, during which we narrowly avoided a global outbreak. Although he credits the healthcare workers that work tirelessly, he also adds that luck plays a large role.
However, speaking out about our lack of preparedness in the healthcare sphere isn’t enough; Gates emphasizes that the world needs to invest in things like training for healthcare workers and research for vaccines. Otherwise, come the next pandemic, the world could find itself in trouble. And it’s not a question of “if,” but “when.”
If you’ve never heard this TED talk before, listening to it post-COVID-19 pandemic is truly an experience:
This TEDxYouth talk by Camelia Bui is a must-watch. She leverages her experience and knowledge of the LGBTQ community to call out the need for more inclusive language.
Inclusive language, as explained by Bui, is an incredibly simple way to encourage change and advocate for a world that’s more inclusive. She points out that, although LGBTQ rights have come a long way, homophobia is still ingrained in our society. As such, inclusive language is needed now more than ever, and is a very powerful tool for shifting perspectives.
Best of all, Bui gives the audience some easy tips to make sure you’re inclusive of everyone, especially when it comes to gender:
Yoodli can also flag non-inclusive language in your speech, in a completely judgment-free space. By uploading a video of yourself speaking, you’ll be able to know whether or not the language you’re using is inclusive.
If you’d like to know more about inclusive language, check out our crash course:
Regardless of if you like history or not, David Christian’s 18-minute history lesson will completely transform how you see the world.
Complexity is the name of the game here. From the Big Bang to the emergence of the internet and the World Wide Web, Christian takes the audience on a 13-billion-year journey in less than 20 minutes. He showcases the complex nuances of the universe and humanity itself.
In this cosmic discussion, Christian lays out existence as clearly as possible. He also speaks on humanity’s collective learning, and the power within it. In fact, the nature of human fragility and complexity is perfectly demonstrated through collective learning, even when we’re faced with terrible dangers and crises.
Check out Christian’s TED talk below:
High school student Meredith Keppel introduced us to the terrifying (but innovative and intriguing) concept of cordyceps before the latest zombie apocalypse show, “The Last of Us.”
In her TED talk, Keppel speaks on five different types of mushrooms — oysters, turkey tail, cordyceps, reishi, and lion’s mane — to demonstrate the sheer power and innovative promise fungi hold.
Although these fruiting bodies are often seen as simplistic in nature, that assumption proves false. The aforementioned mushroom species all feature a host of impressive benefits, from treating cancer to breaking down plastics and slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
After all, mushrooms are more than just a pizza topping — as Keppel sees it, they’re the future.
Learn more about these five kinds of mushrooms directly from Keppel in her TEDx talk:
Celeste Headlee worked for decades as a radio host, and as such, she’s experienced in having great conversations with people.
However, Headlee points out in her TED talk that the majority of people don’t know how to hold a good conversation. In this presentation, she cites the secrets to unlocking better conversations, from clarity to brevity and honesty, and of course, active listening.
Headlee gives listeners 10 ways to have a better conversation and become a better communicator. These include:
Her parting advice? “Go out, talk to people, listen to people. And, most importantly, be prepared to be amazed.”
Watch Headlee’s full TED talk here:
Channing Gerard Joseph, a TED fellow and an LGBTQ culture historian, speaks on Black queer culture’s undeniable shaping of history in this TED talk.
The faces behind emancipation and the civil rights movement include Frances Thompson and Bayard Rustin, but their names aren’t widely recognized. To shed light on some of these all but forgotten names, Joseph highlights revolutionary, Black, queer figures and their achievements.
Through his TED talk, Joseph paints a picture of Black, queer America to educate listeners on the history of LGBTQ and trans activism, pride, and resistance. From the beginnings of drag culture in the late 19th century to LGBTQ community and culture today, Joseph expertly tells the stories of icons worth remembering and celebrating.
Check out Joseph’s talk on Black LGBTQ icons in history below:
In her TED talk, Julieanna L. Richardson details Black history — the foundation of America — and its lasting, often buried, legacy.
Richardson is the founder of The HistoryMakers, the biggest archive in the nation of African American video-oral history. As such, she leverages her extensive knowledge of Black history and speaks on an untold past.
She highlights these unsung heroes and their stories for the audience in her talk. All the while, Richardson emphasizes that both the documentation and preservation of the legacy of Black America should be a priority — not only for past generations, but for future generations, especially.
Listen to Richardson’s TED talk below:
One of the most popular TED talks of all time — listed in the official top talks by TED itself — is Mary Roach’s “10 Things You Didn’t Know about Orgasm.”
Mary Roach, the author of “Bonk,” takes a deep dive into the existing available research concerning sex, specifically orgasms. In her talk, all while staying on subject, she discusses everything from bad breath to cadavers to hiccups and pig farmers. It’s a truly wide-reaching discussion, making it no surprise that TED officially listed it in its most popular list.
Roach makes 10 incredible claims that are sure to surprise you. Check them out below:
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