You’ve probably seen at least one TED talk in your time. These compelling presentations, which typically span between 10 to 20 minutes, have gained billions of viewers worldwide.
TED, one of the world’s most influential presentation companies, has welcomed many inspirational speakers to the stage over the years, including Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Simon Sinek, Monica Lewinsky and Adam Driver.
During these short presentations, industry experts and thought leaders explore a wide range of fascinating topics, such as science, education, technology, human psychology and many more. The sheer variety of talks available is astounding.
With thousands of TED talks available to watch online, which ones should you prioritise watching? In this article, we explore the most-watched TED talks of all time, highlighting what makes them influential.
Table of Contents
- 1. Sir Ken Robinson – Do Schools Kill Creativity?
- 2. Amy Cuddy – Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are
- 3. Tim Urban – Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator
- 4. Simon Sinek – How Great Leaders Inspire Action
- 5. Brené Brown – The Power of Vulnerability
- 6. Julian Treasure – How to Speak So That People Want to Listen
- 7. Sam Berns – My Philosophy for a Happy Life
- 8. Bill Gates – The Next Outbreak? We’re Not Ready
- Final Thought
1. Sir Ken Robinson – Do Schools Kill Creativity?
In his 19-minute TED talk, which he presented in 2006, Sir Ken Robinson explains how he believes that schools are stifling students’ creative potential. He emphasises the inherent unpredictability of the future and draws attention to children’s extraordinary capacity for innovation.
He explains that, instead of nurturing creativity and innovative ideas, the education system often undermines these qualities by prioritising academic achievement and standardisation. The talk is essentially a plea for education systems to nurture creativity in education, making it a must-watch.
2. Amy Cuddy – Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are
In her influential TED talk, social psychologist, author and speaker Amy Cuddy explores the impact of body language on our self-perception and how others perceive us. She explores the concept of what she calls “power posing”, standing in a way to make us appear confident even if we don’t feel confident.
Amy explains that by consciously choosing to stand or sit in positions that appear confident, we can influence how others perceive us and feel more confident in ourselves. While the ideas in her talk have sparked long-running debates about robustness and reproducibility, the core message of the talk holds true: how we hold ourselves can have a big impact on how we feel and what happens to us.
3. Tim Urban – Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator
In this humorous but insightful TED talk, writer Tim Urban discusses something relevant to many of us: procrastination. Tim delves into the psyche of a procrastinator, injecting stories of his own struggles with delaying tasks until the very last moment.
But beyond Tim’s lighthearted anecdotes of falling down the YouTube rabbit hole (we’ve all done it), he asks the audience in front of him to reflect on what they might be truly procrastinating on in their lives. This unmissable talk will make you re-evaluate how you spend your time to focus on what really matters in life.
4. Simon Sinek – How Great Leaders Inspire Action
Author and inspirational speaker Simon Sinek’s TED talk on inspirational leadership has garnered millions of views. He introduces his ‘Golden Circle’ model for inspirational leadership, explaining that inspirational leaders operate from the inside out, starting with their “why?” (their purpose or belief) before moving on to their “how” (their processes) and then the “what” (their product or service).
This talk disrupts the typical model, which moves from “what” to “how”, more often than not, neglecting the “why” altogether, making it a must-watch for anyone who manages others.
5. Brené Brown – The Power of Vulnerability
Brené Brown is a professor, author and podcast host who took to the TED talk stage in 2010 to discuss the power of vulnerability. Her must-watch talk delves into human connection, focusing on our incredible ability to empathise and love.
Drawing from her research, Brené presents vulnerability as a core part of these human connections. Her highly shareable talk is both humorous and poignant, sharing an important message that resonates with many.
6. Julian Treasure – How to Speak So That People Want to Listen
Julian Treasure, a renowned international speaker on sound and the communication skills of listening and speaking, gave a TED talk in 2013 that has accumulated millions of views since it was first uploaded.
In his talk, Julian addresses a concern that many of us share: the feeling that when we are speaking, no one is really listening. He demonstrates the how-to’s of powerful speaking, including some handy vocal exercises to enhance the clarity of our speech and advice on how to speak with empathy and understanding.
7. Sam Berns – My Philosophy for a Happy Life
Sam Berns, who sadly passed away in 2014, had progeria, a rare and fatal disease that causes the body to age rapidly. In his TED talk, Sam shares his personal philosophy for leading a happy life.
He outlines his three core principles for living: be okay with what you can’t do because there is much you can do, surround yourself with people you want to be around and keep moving forward. Sam’s heartfelt talk serves as a reminder of the importance of perspective, gratitude and resilience.
8. Bill Gates – The Next Outbreak? We’re Not Ready
Post-COVID, this TED talk is an unnerving watch. In 2015, Bill Gates took to the stage to discuss how the world was unprepared for the next pandemic, a statement that would prove true just five years later.
Reflecting on the 2014 Ebola outbreak, Bill Gates credits the avoidance of a global epidemic to the tireless work and dedication of health workers but notes that the crisis revealed glaring gaps in disease outbreak readiness. In his closing remarks, he urges global leaders and institutions to prioritise outbreak planning to prepare for the next pandemic. It is an uncomfortable but necessary watch.
Since the program first launched in 2009, speakers have delivered nearly 50,000 TED talks. These presentations offer valuable insights from some of the world’s most influential thinkers.
From the impact of body language to the power of vulnerability, TED talks, in all their variety, are beacons of knowledge, insight and innovation, lighting the way for individuals and organisations who heed speakers’ advice and make the world a better place.