Category Archives: TED Talk of the Day

Why TED matters, why TED works

As I round out this month’s batch of TED speeches, I am reminded of what draws me to TED in the first place. Yes, the ideas are brilliant and worth sharing, but if they were delivered in the same way many meetings, lectures, and “workshops” are, their power would be diminished greatly. No one would listen.

Alex Rister wrote an awesome post introducing novice presenters to s0me basic best practices when working to create a presentation that is memorable and impacting. One suggestion Alex has is that presenters watch TED talks in addition to practicing as often and in as many ways as possible, to develop their delivery prowess:

Watch TED Talks to research the effective delivery techniques of master presenters.  Start with Benjamin Zander and Sir Ken Robinson.  Record yourself presenting and watch the playback.  Present in front of a mirror.  Present in front of family and friends before the big speech day. –Alex Rister

This is what sets TEDsters apart; one can tell they appreciate the wonderful moments of resonance they experience, and they want to create similar moments of their own.  TEDsters practice because other TEDsters practiced before them. Practice is essential–even when you know your message, you live it, you are it. Practice is key. This is one primary purpose of making TED such a big part of the classroom experience. Students are inspired to know there is a forum for world-changing ideas out there that is not driven by money, power, or a select few.

Instead, TEDsters follow a set of commandments; I believe these are ideas we can all live by as presenters:

  1. Thou Shalt Not Simply Trot Out thy Usual Shtick.
  2. Thou Shalt Dream a Great Dream, or Show Forth a Wondrous New Thing, Or Share Something Thou Hast Never Shared Before.
  3. Thou Shalt Reveal thy Curiosity and Thy Passion.
  4. Thou Shalt Tell a Story.
  5. Thou Shalt Freely Comment on the Utterances of Other Speakers for the Sake of Blessed Connection and Exquisite Controversy.
  6. Thou Shalt Not Flaunt thine Ego. Be Thou Vulnerable. Speak of thy Failure as well as thy Success.
  7. Thou Shalt Not Sell from the Stage: Neither thy Company, thy Goods, thy Writings, nor thy Desperate need for Funding; Lest Thou be Cast Aside into Outer Darkness.
  8. Thou Shalt Remember all the while: Laughter is Good.
  9. Thou Shalt Not Read thy Speech.
  10. Thou Shalt Not Steal the Time of Them that Follow Thee.

I round out my TED experience this month with three talks: Lauren Zalaznick, who embodies the second TED commandment by claiming that television has a social conscience, that it serves as a sort of barometer for social morality; Paul Nicklen, whose moving and raw fascination with the arctic fully fulfills commandment number six; and Charlie Todd, whose study of absurdity as a necessary human experience is a truly remarkable example of commandment three–the commandment that holds TED and TEDx and TED Prize, and TED Fellows, and the millions of us TEDsters together–reveal thy curiosity and passion.

Lauren Zalaznick: The conscience of television

Think TV is just a dismissible “boob tube”? Think again. Zalaznick gives props to Hans Rosling and using moving, living data to show our movement as a society from moral certainty to ambiguity, our shift from comfort to irreverence and social commentary.

Paul Nicklen: Tales of ice-bound wonderlands

I am a big crier, so it’s no surprise that Nicklen’s love of the arctic, but more than that his love of untouched nature, has me in tears by minute two. Nicklen combines completely immersive imagery, music, storytelling, and raw emotion in a TED talk that truly fulfills the spirit of TED–ideas worth spreading. The big idea: we are quickly losing the species we take for granted as a part of our cultural collective, and it’s the disappearing ice, the result of our actions, that is erasing these wonderlands.

Charlie Todd: The shared experience of absurdity

The kinds of things Charlie Todd does make me nervous. I find the idea of being uncomfortable in public to be…well, uncomfortable. However, I love Todd’s sense of play, his use of absurdity to help us feel comfortable with discomfort. As Todd says, there no right or wrong way to play. Play is a forgotten element in many “formal” presentations, but play is what often keeps your audience motivated enough to listen to the end!

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TED on Women: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon and Tony Porter

These two TED talks feature some dangerous lies we tell ourselves…

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon: Women entrepreneurs, example not exception

One of the most dangerous lies we tell ourselves is that women are cooperative, timid creatures who have an aptitude for compromise, teamwork and nurturing. The realm of business has traditionally belonged to men. It wasn’t until 100 years ago that women stomped and fought their way into business. Lemmon believes that women entrepreneurs, who are truly a rule and not an exception are seen as an anomaly, when they should be seen as the norm, and the norm to support and invest in.

Tony Porter: A call to men

The other big lie? Well, it’s a lie we tell our sons, brothers, fathers, and friends. We tell men that they must fit into what Tony Porter calls “the man box.” In this gracious talk (Porter presents as one of the only men attending TEDxWomen), Tony Porter shows us the true meaning of decorum, shocks us with the sadly restrictive role the man box creates for men, and inspires women to consider the gender roles they reinforce for their children.

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TED on Food: Jamie Oliver and Nathan Myhrvold

Jamie Oliver’s TED Prize Wish: Teach every child about food

Although Jamie Oliver’s attempt to bring this wish to live through prime time television did not exactly succeed, his TED wish, and his energy and dynamism in conveying this wish–to teach every child about food in an effort to curb the now escalating numbers of obese youth in America–is nevertheless relevant and important. Watch Jamie bring the obesity problem to life through a wheelbarrow full of sugar among other things.

Nathan Myhrvold: Cooking as never seen before

I love to cook; if you know me or even just read this blog, you know I love to make delicious things and then force my treats (like the salted caramel Nutella brownies I’m making tonight) on my friend, family, and students. I owe much of my love of cooking to my father, who explained to me that cooking is chemistry, a series of processes and reactions between elements. So, Nathan Myhrvold’s fascination with cooking, in particular the modernist culinary movement, is right up my alley. His book Modernist Cuisine takes foodies through a journey into the science and beauty of the cooking process.  I must have a copy of this book immediately!
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TEDsters on Living: Sheena Iyengar, Shawn Achor, and Sarah Kay

Sheena Iyengar: How to make choosing easier

As public speaking teachers, we often talk abou the importance of eye contact. Many of us avoid eye contact because we worry about judgment and dislike being the center of attention. Sheena Iyengar develops presentations are dynamic, engaging, and interactive–she also happens to be blind. In this talk that features beautifully unified visuals, Iyengar explores the problem of choice and choice overload–this talk serves as an interesting counterpoint to Malcolm Gladwell’s spaghetti sauce talk.

Shawn Achor: The happy secret to better work

Employers and companies have begun infusing play into the workspace through the use of flexible schedules, bean bag chairs, and desk decorating projects. But what is the real secret to happiness at work? What is it that actually leads to blissful productivity, creativity, and work beyond the average? Achor relays the true power play can have on creativity, work, and happiness with delightful humor, impeccable pacing, and a sense of childlike wonder and play that truly bring his message to life.

Sarah Kay: How many lives can you live?

I was first introduced to Sarah Kay during a previous iteration of the TED analysis through her first TED talk, “If I should have a daughter…”. In this inspiring TEDxEast talk, Kay takes us through multiple lives through spoken poetry. Kay uses the word and the dynamic delivery of that word to bring the experiences of the others in her mind to life.

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TED Educators: John Wooden and Dave Eggers

John Wooden on true success

As an erstwhile college sports fan (I really only paid attention when I was in school), I don’t know much about the greats of college sports lore, apart from the once great Steve Spurrier. So, one must forgive my lack of know how about the late John Wooden, arguably the best college sports coach of all time. Once I watched this talk though, I realized his true impact as a coach came not from wins and championships, but from his understanding of the true meaning of success–hard work, a positive impact on the world, and always doing one’s best.

Dave Eggers’ wish: Once upon a school

One of my favorite facets of TED is the TED prize, which is awarded each year to one idea that would benefit from the kind of exposure and support the TED organization has the ability to offer. Dave Eggers recounts the story of 826 Valencia, an after school program that pairs writers with students in a unique tutoring experiment. Eggers’ enthusiasm, humility, and passion for helping others inspires the superteacher in me to do more.

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February’s TED Roundup: Malcolm Gladwell, Scott Rickard, and David Blaine

Malcolm Gladwell on spaghetti sauce

I love Malcolm Gladwell’s subdued, matter of fact, brilliantly witty storytelling. In this TED talk, Gladwell explores the tale of Howard Moskowitz, who revolutionized the spaghetti sauce industry by honing in on one important idea–there is no perfect spaghetti sauce, there are only perfect spaghetti sauces–in other words, people want choice, but they may not even be aware that they want a choice that is lacking. People crave variety; our ability to choose makes us happy. Diversity is the human experience, and nowhere is this clearer than in our food and taste choices.

Scott Rickard: The beautiful math behind the ugliest music

One of the first TED talks we watch in class is Benjamin Zander’s talk on classical music. Through this talk, I’ve gained an appreciation of the complexities of classical music–the flawless combination of tone/mood and mathematics. What would music without pattern sound and look like? Would it still be pleasing? Beautiful? Is random ugly? Scott Rickard explores this idea in his TEDxMIA talk.

David Blaine: How I held my breath for 17 minutes

Okay, I admit it, I am a magic skeptic; I assume there’s some false angle, mirrors, a trap door, a mystery cubicle. However, for David Blaine, anything is possible, even surviving without air for 17 minutes. I am fascinated by Blaine’s passion for the impossible, for pushing his body to the absolute limit of human experience and beyond. Thankfully, his TED talk allows me to live this experience without the whole thread of bodily harm or death thing.

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Final TED Roundup

So, I made these last night. I promise pics of my actual brownies being devoured later. I used the sugar from a bite of these little wonders to fuel my TED explorations. I’m off to school, but here’s a recap of today’s chosen speakers. I can’t wait to TED it up in class today!

Steven Johnson, “Where good ideas come from”

This talk validates my love of coffee, chaos, and collaborative thinking. Thanks Kevin Savage!

Jill Bolte Taylor, “A stroke of insight”

This is my favorite TED talk in terms of fulfilling the TED spirit of spreading worthy ideas (Benjamin Zander is my favorite in terms of delivery and energy). My favorite moment is the audience’s reaction to Taylor explaining how the brain works with a real human brain. One audience member yells out “Yess!” Great choice, Nikki Barber.

Thandie Newton, “Embracing otherness, embracing myself”

Newton is known for her beauty, but her eloquence and humility are far more admirable. Can’t wait to hear Jessica Cabrera’s analysis!

Kathryn Schulz, “Don’t regret regret”

Regret is a part of the human experience. Schulz argues that we embrace it as opposed to running from it. Brittany Egersett will break this talk down for her classmates.

Rory Sutherland, “Sweat the small stuff”

Mike Poveda chose this charming ad man who makes economics accessible through humor that reveals simple truths.

Kate Hartman, “The art of wearable communication”

This is a fitting choice for the awesome Audrey Peart. I want one of those inflatable hearts…

Sir Ken Robinson, “Schools kill creativity”

This is a must-watch talk if you consider yourself a TEDster. Robinson’s talk is fresh and thought-provoking every time. Thanks to Gernon Tait for sharing this talk with the class!

John Hodgman, “Aliens, love…where are they?”

Of course love and science fiction go hand in hand. I am curious to hear Ben Greger’s take on this talk.

Daniel Goldstein, “Battle between present/future self”

Okay, okay, I definitely need to start saving more. Thanks to birthday boy Eric Merrell for this talk!

J.J. Abrams, “The mystery box”

Jorge Rutmann chose this excellent, energetic, and inspiring talk from Abrams, whose energy is infectious.

While I may never be able to afford the 75oo it takes to go to TED or the 3500 it costs to attend TEDActive or TEDGlobal, each month feels like a mini-TED, and I truly love introducing people to these spreadable ideas.

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My TED choice: Dan Pink on the science of motivation

I’ve been thinking a lot about motivation lately. What motivates us to do what we do? What steers us toward something that is so blissful it generates self-motivation? It’s damn tough to motivate people to act. I talk to my students about motivated sequence and formal strategies of motivation, but I myself find that I am completely powerless to motivate others to really break out of their shell of apathy or self-importance long enough to really try the stuff I’m so excited to share with them.

Dan Pink is twittering up a storm right now, and as I am spending the evening with TED, his tweets led to a revisiting of his TED talk, “The science of motivation” and a very interesting article from my new favorite resource for all things teaching amazingness, The Learning Network courtesy of the New York Times.

Students and teachers alike need to find intrinsic drives for motivation. I encourage students to hold on to one concept or idea to cultivate as they work through class and beyond. But that encouragement doesn’t really stick without the transference of that drive to succeed for intrinsic reasons. Pink believes that incentives don’t work. Incentives don’t create creativity. The self does. True creativity comes when the self generates its own intrinsic motivations. The candle problem cannot be solved by our left brain, which values the logic of figures and tangible incentives. It’s our right brain, which is driven by self-actualization and creativity that truly motivates and drives. Pink breaks this type of motivation into three building blocks: autonomy, the urge to direct our own lives; mastery, the desire to get better and better at something, and purpose, the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger.

It’s like Dan Pink lives in my head. When I read his books, I had one of those really important aha moments. It’s our task as teachers (and our students’ tasks as speakers) to facilitate moments of intrinsic motivation. We have to find ways to facilitate autonomy, mastery, and purpose. This is something that is second nature to me now because I found that switch that turned me on to self-motivation, teaching. It’s a process that takes some of us our entire lives. I may feel entirely inept in many aspects of my life. My calling and craft are not among them. It’s DRIVE!

The exercises crafted by Larry Ferlazzo are meant to generate these sorts of motivation moments. I cannot wait to try number 3 next week! This talk of motivation led me to my next two assigned talks in this night of TED, Tom Chatfield’s “7 ways games reward the brain” and Jane McGonigal’s “Gaming can make a better world.”

Thanks to Tevin Bryant for this excellent talk.

Thanks to Will Kim for this truly enlightening talk.


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Talk, Tweak, and Tip of the Day

Next month, I will be bending like an old willow and allowing my students to complete extra credit assignments in both my on campus and my online class. It’s not that I don’t believe students deserve the opportunity to earn more credit, but I find that much of the time, the person who is asking has not completed all the regular credit and is using the extra credit as a way to replace other required work. It’s also more work for me–let’s face it.

But, this idea has been swimming through my brain lately–how do I offer extra credit while making it not so much work for me, making it a relevant part of class and not an after thought, and give the students another chance to present in front of a group? Thus, “Talk, Tweak, or Tip of the Day” was born.

Then I realized…”Oh man..this is a really good idea for my blog…”

So, here we go. Here are today’s Talk, Tweak, AND Tip of the Day!

Talk of the Day: Emiliano Salinas de Gortari, “A civil response to violence”

Salinas is the son of former Mexican president Carlos Salinas de Gortari, whose presidency was marked by controversy, graft, and corruption, what has become the status quo and common place for many Mexicans. Salinas speaks honestly and passionately about the current violent, deteriorating state of Mexico and his solution to the problem–more Gandhis, more people committed to non-violent resistance. Check out this first Spanish TED talk for a glimpse at what it truly takes to speak eloquently under pressure.

Tweak(s) of the Day: buddcadell’s “What is Strategy?” and Lucy Spence’s “Designing for Bears”

What is Strategy?

I ran across Flickr user buddcadell’s images while looking for a good “strategy” picture. It was late last night, so I wasn’t feeling particularly conceptual, so I figured I’d search for the concept in compfight and work from those results to find a stronger visual metaphor. That’s when I saw this:

Click on the image to check out the entire deck, a series of Q & A responses to "What is Strategy?"

I can definitely see myself referencing this during our visual design talk in class. buddcadell is looking for more suggestions/ideas to draw. Time to start thinking conceptually again!

Designing for Bears

Lucy is a former user experience designer turned product manager. Her take on designing for a particular audience, and breaking down our own design fallacies features hand drawn images, awesome contrast, and a seamless narrative flow. LOVE!

Tip of the Day: The Top Ten Best (and Worst) Communicators of 2011

While this is more of a end of year review than a tip, Kelly and Ben Decker of Decker Communications do impart some excellent lessons regarding presenting and public speaking by analyzing this years best and worst communicators.

Lesson from the Best: Be Human

A surprising best communicator to some (though not to me because I am consistently amazed by her) is #6, Lady Gaga. The Deckers commend her for her humanity and humility, something that seems to be missing from so many in the pop limelight.

Image by nellyfus

Lesson from the Worst: Too Many Communication Fails will Haunt You

On the worst list, not surprisingly, is Charlie Sheen, who had two very boisterous communications fails this year. At least tiger’s blood and winning were sort of in for a minute there…

Even the Banksy girl laments the loss of old school semi-normal Charlie

Who made your best and worst list this year?

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Watch this Talk: John Bohannon’s Modest Proposal

The over use and abuse of Power Point has caused this to be the reaction most of us have to attending a meeting, “workshop”, or lecture.

It’s also caused a sort of creative Renaissance in the public speaking world, a new attention to design, strong development, and engaging delivery.

But, what if Power Point isn’t the best way to convey information, what if, as John Bohannon channeling Swiftian wit claims “bad Power Points are a serious threat to the global economy”? How serious? How’s 250 million dollars per day?

How does Bohannon figure this? By ingeniously calculating the number of work hours wasted on useless or poorly designed Power Points (there are 30 million new presentations created every day). But, the problem is deeper than that, Bohannon explains. Power Point creates “the illusion of understanding.” Power Point has been used as a distraction, as a false crutch for the presenter, as a way to lull the audience into sheer and utter complacency. For, what is Power Point about other than complacency? This is not a dig on Power Point on my part; I use both Keynote and Power Point regularly. However, the death by Power Point approach to creating slides is costly, and a waste of time and energy. Bohannon says, don’t cut the arts, use artists, specifically dancers, to convey information rather than Power Point.

He doesn’t just tell us that dance can help us process complex information more easily, he shows us by using dance throughout his speech. Dancers from the Black Label Movement act out the processes and beautifully executed ideas Bohannon. You can’t help but pay attention, even if the dance distracts you a bit from the speaker. It’s an ingenious and kinetic approach to presenting complex information. As one who tends to dance to match my mood during class, I’m all for a bit of kinetic reinforcement. What do you think?

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