The 100 Best TED Talks and What You Can Learn From Them

By | June 8, 2020 - 87 Minutes Read

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We watched a ton of TED talks, picked out the 100 best, divided them into categories,and wrote down what you can learn from them. Let’s get right into it.

Click a link below to go straight to a category.

On Creativity

1. A powerful way to unleash your natural creativity by Tim Harford

“To do two things at once is to do neither.” Harford begins with this quote, but quickly contradicts it by asserting that people should actually strive to do “two things at once—or three or even four.”

To back up his claim, he tells the audience about Albert Einstein’s pattern of behavior, which Harford describes as “slow motion multitasking.” Einstein often worked on multiple projects at the same time, but not in the hectic way we associate with multitasking in the modern workplace. Instead, insights from one project can inform the other, the way athletes benefit from cross-training.

The big question is, though, “How do we stop all of these projects from becoming completely overwhelming?”

Harford explains how accomplished choreographer Twyla Tharp does it. She takes a cardboard box for every project she’s working on. For each respective box, she places notes, books, movie discs, and other sources of inspiration related to the topic. This helps her keep the projects separate—a tactic people can also do digitally.

Harford ends the talk with this: “Make a list of your projects. Put down your phone. Pick up a couple of cardboard boxes. And get to work.”

Most inspiring quote

“Creativity often comes when you take an idea from its original context and you move it somewhere else. It’s easier to think outside the box if you spend your time clambering from one box into another.”

Storytelling tips

When providing a complex narration, use visuals that aid the audience in understanding the timeline. Harford does this when he explains that 40 of the world’s leading scientists showed that they switched topics as often as 43 times for their first 100 research papers. He keeps the audience engaged by telling them lesser known stories about famous people, such as Charles Darwin’s penchant for studying earthworms when feeling stuck on other research projects. He shows the audience a timeline of Darwin’s projects to explain how they often overlapped.

Key/interesting takeaway

Having multiple projects at the same time isn’t necessarily a sign of lack of focus. ‘Slow motion multitasking’ can help you achieve your goals even though it seems counterintuitive. Lessons learned in one project may benefit another, even if the two seem unrelated at first glance.

2. An astronaut’s story of curiosity, perspective and change by Leland Melvin

When he was five years old, Melvin watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s historic moon landing on a black-and-white TV set with his family. The next day, the kids in the neighborhood started talking about being an astronaut—but Melvin, a self-described skinny black kid in a “somewhat racist town,” never dared dream of becoming one.

But his parents, both educators, helped him expand his horizons. One summer, his father helped him rewire the electric system of a bread truck to transform it into a camper. They took it on a road trip. A little later, his mother gave him a chemistry set. Those experiences taught Melvin that he could be not only an explorer, but also a chemist.

Later in life, while working as a NASA astronaut, Melvin worked in harmony with people of different nationalities. He added that seeing the planet from the perspective of outer space made him realize that people could coexist as one race—humankind. He ends by encouraging the audience to have the right perspective and believe that we can all coexist.

Most inspiring quote

“I would never have had that perspective to think about myself of being an astronaut, if my father hadn’t taken us on a journey in this radical craft that we built with our own two hands.”

Storytelling tips

Melvin delivers the keynote in an animated way by using his hands and body to depict motion as he narrates his adventures. Through humorous storytelling, Melvin keeps the audience engaged, narrating how he joined NASA and became an astronaut. It was on his first space mission that his mindset changed—a perspective of not being able to dream big, and of seeing humanity as composed of starkly different races as a result of his childhood experiences.

Key/interesting takeaway

The astronauts would see a sunrise and a sunset every 45 minutes as they rode around the planet every hour-and-a-half at a speed of 17,500 miles per hour.

3. How kids can help design cities by Mara Mintzer

Mintzer, an urban planner, presents the problem at the beginning of her talk: “Our society routinely makes decisions without consulting a quarter of the population.” She’s talking about children. This is a truth so obvious and striking that we wonder why we’ve never really thought about it before.

She shares her experience as part of ‘Growing Up Boulder,’ a city planning program that consulted children in primary and secondary school on the redevelopment of a park. She engages the audience by showing photos of children’s ideas for the park design.

Towards the end of the talk, Mintzer cited the belief of one city mayor that children are indicator species. If an area is comfortable and accessible for them, chances are, they’re also comfortable and accessible for the elderly, people with disabilities, and the poor.

She ends by exhorting the audience to value children as citizens not just of the future but also of the present.

Most inspiring quote

“If we kill off ideas from the beginning, it limits our creativity and dampens the design process.”

Storytelling tips

When showing photos to the audience, always describe to them the context of the image or explain what they are looking at. For example, Mintzer shows photos of parks and explains what the audience are seeing. She explains that they implemented some of the ideas, such as improving access to a creek for safe swimming for kids, and lighting underpasses brightly so high school students would feel safe walking back home at night. They provided thrill-seeking activities for adolescents. The way toddlers walked down a lane and explored their surroundings taught them to “slow down and design a path where the journey was as important as the destination.”

Key/interesting takeaway

“A city friendly to children is a city friendly to all” because kids are inclusive when they design—they think not just of themselves but also of their grandparents and animals. They also don’t design for cars or corporations.

4. Do schools kill creativity? by Sir Ken Robinson

Sir Ken Robinson explains that kids are inherently creative and unafraid to be wrong. However, as we grow into adults, we learn to fear being wrong, because both corporate and education systems stigmatize mistakes. Also, art subjects are often given the lowest priority in education systems which is a grave mistake.

This is because in today’s world, degrees have become useless and people need creativity to survive. Sir Robinson concludes by talking about Gillian Lynne, the renowned choreographer of Broadway plays like Cats and Phantom of the Opera, and how she couldn’t sit still at school. A specialist discovered she simply loved to dance and encouraged her parents to enroll her in dance school.

That was in the 30s. Nowadays, says Sir Robinson, the likes of Lynne would have been diagnosed with ADHD and given medication to calm down. He ends by encouraging the audience—many of whom are professors—to educate the “whole being” in order to help children today face the future.

Most inspiring quote

“You’ll never come up with anything original—If you’re not prepared to be wrong.”

Storytelling tips

Let your humor flow. Sir Robinson keeps the audience laughing throughout his speech, but that doesn’t mean his topic isn’t serious or urgent. He bemoans the way schools kill creativity, and believes “we can’t afford to go on that way.”

Key/interesting takeaway

“We don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out of it.”

5. Why people believe they can’t draw – and how to prove they can by Graham Shaw

Communications expert Graham Shaw shows how everyone has better drawing skills than they think. He introduces his ideas with a question: “How many of you can draw?”

Shaw argues that much of the drawing skills are impaired not by talent, but by beliefs. So how can we overcome our crippling beliefs and become good at drawing?

One solution is a simple drawing “sequence,” which Shaw demonstrates. Shaw makes his talk interactive by asking the audience to try out the technique, asking each one to grab a pen and a piece of paper. He also shows examples of caricatures.

He also leaves the audience with a final thought: “How many other beliefs and limiting thoughts do we all carry around with us every day?”

Most inspiring quote

“When you say you can’t draw, that’s just an illusion.”

Storytelling tips

Back up your claims through demonstration and provide achievable examples that audience members can aspire to. Shaw demonstrates the simple drawing “sequence,” which allows people to experiment with drawings and create thousands of variations of cartoons and illustrations. To support his idea, Shaw tells stories of people who didn’t think they could draw, yet have eventually managed to incorporate drawing to achieve success in different areas of life.

Key/interesting takeaway

Drawing is actually a very engaging form of communication that can improve the value of any message you’re trying to convey and even improve your self-confidence.

6. How video games turn players into storytellers by David Cage

At the beginning of his talk, Cage presents the problem: Although storytelling mimics life and evokes emotions, it can never really reproduce the notion of making choices. The audience tends to be passive and doesn’t make decisions.

He believes interactive storytelling—including platforms like interactive television, virtual reality and video games—can change that. He explains how his work as an interactive writer differs from that of linear writers, as he needs to consider the dozens of choices that the audience can make in each situation. He ends on an optimistic note on the future of interactive storytelling, which he believes “can become a new form of entertainment and maybe even a new form of art.”

Most inspiring quote

“Interactive storytelling is a revolution in the way we tell stories.”

Storytelling tips

Allow the audience to experience the benefits of the situation that you are explaining or advocating for. Cage does this by inviting the audience to play along in an interactive game he has prepared. Cage presents the narrative and the audience makes decisions for the game’s main character.

Key/interesting takeaway

Where a film script is 100 pages long, an interactive script may be 4,000 to 5,000 pages long as the writer needs to consider thousands of variables, conditions, and possible choices and outcomes.

Examples of creativity

7. Bridges should be beautiful by Ian Firth

Firth, a structural engineer, begins by asking the audience if they could imagine a world without bridges. Now that’s not something we think about every day. He also discusses the impact of bridges on communities, especially in poor, rural areas.

Throughout his talk, he shows the audience examples of bridges that are interesting in their own distinct ways. Some are truly durable, such as a centuries-old stone bridge in France. Others are perilous, like a bridge in Peru made of grass, which has to be rebuilt every year.

Despite this, innovation in the construction of bridges moves at a glacial pace, especially when compared to digital technologies. This is because engineers and clients alike want to avoid safety risks.

But a bridge project in Norway he is working on proves a bridge can be innovative yet very safe, and that even a concrete bridge can be beautiful.

He ends by saying that beauty enriches life and people should stop accepting “ugly environments.” Bridges can contribute to a beautiful environment. “Whether it’s saving lives in rural Africa or stretching the boundaries of long-span technology or just crossing the road next-door, I hope we continue to build elegant and beautiful stuff that saves lives and builds communities,” says Firth.

Most inspiring quote

“Bridges — beauty enriches life. Doesn’t it? It enhances our well-being. Ugliness and mediocrity does exactly the opposite.”

Storytelling tips

Enhance the impact of images by highlighting their stark contrasts. For example, the photo of a sturdy stone bridge was immediately followed by one of a decaying grass bridge hanging between two mountains.

Key/interesting takeaway

In some communities around the world, bridges are the people’s lifeline, connecting them to schools, markets, and basic services, such as healthcare facilities.

8. The genius behind some of the world’s most famous buildings by Renzo Piano 

Through words and videos, Piano hails the unsung heroes of building construction, such as rock climbers and deepwater divers who work at dizzying heights and depths. He shows the audience videos of the construction of famous landmarks around the world, such as the Shard tower in London and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and describes the amount of cooperation required from thousands of workers in order to build them.

As an architect himself, Piano has worked on several of the landmarks and public spaces that he shows the audience during his speech, making him qualified to discuss both the construction and the public impact that these architectural works have.

He explains that architecture is all about telling stories. It is about desire, dreams, and beauty. And this universal beauty, he believes, “is one of the few things that can change the world,” one person at a time.

Most inspiring quote

“Architecture doesn’t just answer to need and necessity, but also to desires—yes, desires—dreams, aspirations. This is what architecture does. Even the most modest hut on earth is not just a roof. It’s more than a roof. It’s telling a story; it’s telling a story about the identity of the people living in that hut. Individuals.”

Storytelling tips

When showing inanimate objects like buildings, use videos that present the object from different viewpoints, instead of simply using a static image. You can also present a video of how the object was created instead of simply showing the finished product.

Key/interesting takeaway

 “Real beauty is when the invisible joins the visible, coming on surface. And this doesn’t apply only to art or nature. This applies to science, human curiosity, solidarity.”

9. What a scrapyard in Ghana can teach us about innovation by DK Osseo-Asare 

Asare starts his talk by introducing the neighborhood of Agbogbloshie in Accra, Ghana. He describes the place and also shows the audience pictures. It is in this neighborhood where one can find a scrapyard, which Asare says has become famous as “a symbol of the downside of technology: The problem of planned obsolescence.” In other words, it’s “a place where devices from around the world end their life.”

However, the usual pictures of Agbogbloshie seen in the media tell an incomplete story, according to Asare. Missing from the narrative is the fact that after Agbogbloshie, devices are remade. In a sense, they also come back to life. Locals put together ‘new’ computers made from the scraps. The scrap materials are sold to technicians who refurbish electronic equipment. Even plastic parts are washed and sold to clothing and furniture factories.

Apart from this cycle of dismantling and remaking, the Agbogbloshie and the economy surrounding it involves a transfer of technical skills, as well as the process of “learning by doing and making.”

This has led him and his partner to come up with an innovation program to connect “the practical know-how of makers in the informal sector with the technical knowledge of students and young professionals in STEAM fields (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics).” He shares some of the results of the program, such as a functional drone built from scrap materials, and a makerspace kiosk for experimentation and experiential learning.

At the end of his presentation, Asare asks the audience to remember the other side of the Agbogbloshie—that it represents a cycle of making, and is leading a circular economy from the grassroots.

Most inspiring quote

“If, in the future, someone tells you Agbogbloshie is the largest e-waste dump in the world, I hope you can correct them and explain to them that a dump is a place where you throw things away and leave them forever; a scrapyard is where you take things apart. Waste is something that no longer has any value, whereas scrap is something that you recover specifically to use it to remake something new.”

Storytelling tips

When showing photos of places, present close-ups of details, as well as people interacting with the area which is humanizing. For example, after showing the scrapyard from a distance, Asare shows close-ups of discarded computer parts and floppy disks, followed by a photo of scrap dealers burning wires and cables at the site to recover copper and aluminum from the items.

Key/interesting takeaway

“There is 10 times more gold, silver, platinum, palladium in one ton of our electronics than in one ton of ore mined from beneath the surface of the earth.”

10. The simple genius of a good graphic by Tommy McCall

In this short ode to the art and science of information design, McCall shows the audience sample infographics he has created, especially massive projects for news publications and book authors. His talk aims to show how graphic design can help people digest data, spot patterns, and gain new insights.

He begins with a brief history of information design, including the creation of the first bar chart, pie chart, and area chart. He then explains the different techniques designers can use to display information. “”Exotic chart forms certainly look cool, but something as simple as a little dot may be all you need to solve a particular thinking task,” says McCall.

He adds that simplicity is often the goal for many infographics, but that designers must embrace complexity when the data calls for it. He ends by sharing his excitement about graphicacy—“the ability to read and write graphics”—which he says is still in its infancy and can help people make new discoveries.

Most inspiring quote

“Graphics that help us think faster or see a book’s worth of information on a single page are the key to unlocking new discoveries.”

Storytelling tips

Provide examples of projects that you have worked on. By choosing projects you know by heart, you can better explain their context to the audience, and also support your credibility as a speaker.

Key/interesting takeaway

It’s a misconception that all infographics need to aim for simplicity. If you need to create a complex infographic to represent the data, then do so. It depends on the information, your audience, and the story you’re telling.

Artists’ Issues

11. How artists can (finally) get paid in the digital age by Jack Conte

Conte begins by reminiscing about his early years as a musician when he uploaded his songs to MySpace and received a depressingly low number of plays—three per day. He then heard about YouTube and began uploading music videos there as well.

Eventually, he and his band made enough money from iTunes sales. The videos drew fans who came to their shows, and they started touring. Ultimately, he was able to buy a house and build a recording studio.

At the time, though, around 2013, the business model for artists to make money online was in its infancy. Much of it was trial-and-error. From one year to the next, their income could drop by as much as 90 percent as more people used streaming services, which paid much less money to artists than iTunes did.

Four years before this TED Talk, Conte and a friend launched Patreon, “a membership platform that makes it really easy for creators to get paid—every month—from their fans to earn a living.” In his talk, he shows examples of creators who, via Patreon, were able to earn as much as $56,000 a month.

Conte ends on a positive note, stating that other online service providers were developing models to improve revenue for artists online, too. This isn’t limited to musicians; one may be a journalist or a comic book creator, for example. He believes being an artist would one day become a respected profession, once more.

Most inspiring quote

“We’re going to get so good at paying creators, within 10 years, kids graduating high school and college are going to think of being a creator as just being an option—I could be a doctor, I could be a lawyer, I could be a podcaster, I could have a web comic.”

Storytelling tips

Provide statistics to enhance the impact of shocking data and strong opinions. For example, Conte shows a snapshot of his YouTube dashboard many years ago. It shows that over 28 days, he had gained 1 million views, but earned a paltry $166.

Key/interesting takeaway

The business model for monetizing art is evolving. Patreon has shown that people will pay for good, creative content.

12. Why must artists be poor? by Hadi Eldebek

Eldebek tells the audience about his five brothers—all scientists and engineers—and an email he once sent them. As the story goes, he was quitting his postgraduate engineering studies to become a full-time musician.

He shares the concerns of his brothers and explains that these are legitimate. After all, many artists struggle to make ends meet through art. Governments underfund art programs and schools de-prioritize art subjects. Although there are alternative sources of funding available, artists have difficulty finding them.

Eldebek presents his solution—Grantpa, an online platform that connects artists with funding programs and providers. 

Most inspiring quote

“I want to live in a society where artists are more valued and have more cultural and financial support so they can focus on creating art instead of being forced to drive Ubers or take corporate jobs they’d rather not have.”

Storytelling tips

Make your conclusion memorable by referencing or resolving your introduction. Eldebek ends his talk full circle by reading to the audience an email he hopes to be able to send his brothers years later. The email would share the success of Grantpa in helping hundreds of thousands of artists make a decent living from art, and thanking his siblings for all their support.

Key/interesting takeaway

Musicians themselves are coming up with tech platforms that empower artists to obtain funding and improve their income.

13. Your elusive creative genius by Elizabeth Gilbert

Gilbert, an author, tells the audience that writing has always been her passion, but that something recently happened that changed her relationship with the craft. She had published a successful book, and now people were asking if she was worried that her next work would not measure up.

Because Gilbert’s book was so successful, people are now concerned for her mental health. This leads to an important question: What is it about creative ventures that makes us nervous about people’s mental health?

To reduce the threat to creative people’s mental health, Gilbert proposes a solution. Artists must build a protective psychological distance between the act of creation (e.g., writing) and the anxiety related to how people react to their work.

Her solution stems from ancient Greek and Roman thinking, which attributes the source of creative genius to an external, unseen being. Such philosophy protects artists both from the narcissism of success and the dejection of failure. To help the audience relate to the idea, she tells the stories of contemporary artists who incorporate this belief into their creative processes.

Most inspiring quote

“But maybe it doesn’t have to be quite so full of anguish if you never happened to believe, in the first place, that the most extraordinary aspects of your being came from you. But maybe if you just believed that they were on loan to you from some unimaginable source for some exquisite portion of your life to be passed along when you’re finished… if we think about it this way, it starts to change everything.”

Storytelling tips

Acknowledge your emotions to the audience, especially if you believe they may have gone through a similar experience. Gilbert describes the anxiety and pressure she felt after publishing a best-selling book.

Key/interesting takeaway

Our current perception of creative genius coming from human beings is a way of thinking that became mainstream only during the Renaissance period. This places a psychological weight on artists.

14. The 4 superpowers of design by Kevin Bethune

Bethune asserts that Charles and Ray Eames were not just designers, but design superheroes, because they used their creative process to solve large problems and address human needs. Through their furniture, they changed the way we live in our homes and even the way we do business.

Still, there’s a huge misconception about designers. People don’t see the problem-solving aspect and the role design plays in facilitating human connections. 

Bethune ends by encouraging people to consider that everyone, in a way, has superpowers, but we need to have room to exercise those powers. He asks businesses to make design a core part of their strategy.

Most inspiring quote

“In a way, we all have superpowers, don’t we?”

Storytelling tips

Use fictional examples, such as heroic stories, that many people understand to explain a niche skill. Bethune presents analogies to draw a connection between a designer’s skill and superhero capabilities. For example, he says designers—like superheroes—have x-ray vision because they can look deep into human needs and deliver strategic design experiences that customers desire.

Key/interesting takeaway

We have to give designers room to breathe, experiment, and innovate in order to experience the best of their superpowers and allow them to solve human problems. 

Leadership & Influence 

15. 4 ways to build a human company in the age of machines by Tim Leberecht

Leberecht begins with an important fact about software and robots replacing half of the human workforce in 20 years. Still, he wants organizations to “remain human.” And he believes that the way to maintain humanity in the age of machines is to create beauty.

Leberecht offers four principles for building a beautiful organization. First, do the unnecessary. One example is how the CEO of the Chobani yogurt company gifted all of his stock to his 2,000 employees.

Second, create intimacy. CARE, a humanitarian organization, did this by holding honest, open conversations with its staff about their experiences in gender equality at work before launching a related campaign in the villages of northern India.

Third, be ugly. Leberecht clarifies that he doesn’t mean being vulgar or cynical, but being able to “speak the ugly truth” when you have to. For example, one manufacturing company identified the obstacles to better performance within the company, displayed them on boards, and placed these boards in “the ugly room.” It helped them cut through bureaucracy and identify ways to improve and to solve problems.

Lastly, remain incomplete. He talks about protest movements that form in response to crisis. “They are movements; they are always imperfect, never fully organized, so they avoid ever becoming banal,” explains Leberecht.

He concludes by sharing his belief that beauty can save the world and keep our organizations and societies human.

Most inspiring quote

“As machines take our jobs and do them more efficiently, soon the only work left for us humans will be the kind of work that must be done beautifully rather than efficiently.”

Storytelling tips

Use photos to illustrate a point and support a story. When presenting slides with text, limit them to very short phrases. A short phrase in bold, white text against a plain black background will have strong visual impact and will not take attention away from the keynote.

Key/interesting takeaway

Instead of viewing the rising use of robots and software as a threat, we can see it as an opportunity to create more value and beauty.

16. How to build a business that lasts 100 years by Martin Reeves

Reeves asks the audience to imagine a hypothetical situation. They’re a product designer that has created “a new type of product, called the human immune system.” Imagine you’re pitching the product. You describe the wonders of the human immune system to a no-nonsense manager, Bob. But he shoots down the idea, calling it an inefficient and complex product.

While efficiency and simplicity are wonderful product features, they’re not applicable to all things. For instance, if we wanted the human immune system to be efficient and simple, people would easily die when they encounter a new virus strain.

Companies after longevity can take a cue from nature. Reeves and a biologist examined biological systems like rainforests to understand what makes them resilient and enduring.

They found six principles that are present in the human immune system, “biologically enduring systems,” “long-lived social systems”—and yes, resilient organizations that have survived for decades and even centuries. These principles are: prudence, diversity, adaptation, modularity, embeddedness in an integrated system, and functional redundancy. Companies, such as Toyota and Fujifilm, have survived by adopting these principles.

Most inspiring quote

“Every company I know spends plenty of time thinking about the central question of strategy: How good is our competitive game? In addition, let’s also consider the second, more biological and equally important question: How long will that game last?” 

Storytelling tips

Act out a dialogue when presenting the audience with a hypothetical situation. When asking the audience to imagine pitching a product, he gives them the fictional name of the imaginary businessman they’re pitching to, and voices out dialogues with the person.

Key/interesting takeaway

The same principles that make nature so enduring can be applied to organizations.

17. 8 lessons on building a company people enjoy working for by Patty McCord

McCord has discovered that it’s not that important for HR professionals to speak the language of management.

For example, “best practices” doesn’t usually mean doing the best things, but copying what other people are doing. So instead of fixating on jargon, companies should focus on adapting to constant change.

McCord provides eight lessons to help companies adapt and build an organization people enjoy working for. They range from treating employees like adults to helping them understand the business. She ends by encouraging organizations to be excited for change, embrace it, and have fun.

Most inspiring quote

“The more we embrace [change] and get excited about it, the more fun we’re going to have.”

Storytelling tips

Don’t be afraid to speak with refreshing honesty. For example, McCord opens her talk by admitting that HR jargon drives her crazy. This allows her to be seen by the audience as more relatable, as she is not hiding behind formal corporate speak.

Key/interesting takeaway

Nostalgia can be detrimental for organizations, being one of the most common challenges to change and evolve past within a company.

Change & transformation 

18. A girl who demanded school by Kakenya Ntaiya

Ntaiya describes the Maasais, a group of people in Kenya who kill lions and whom people cross oceans just to see. She is one of them.

Maasai boys, she says, are brought up to be warriors, while the girls are reared to become mothers. When she was five years old, Ntaiya found out that she was engaged to be married as soon as she reached puberty, at around age 12.

Meanwhile, she went to school encouraged by her mother who never had an education. Ntaiya dreamed of becoming a teacher. However, in eighth grade, she had to undergo a ceremony that marked her passage to womanhood, and afterwards, she would have to be married. She bargained with her father, telling him she would undergo the ceremony only if she could continue going to school afterwards.

The ceremony involved genital mutilation. Ntaiya bled heavily, but survived, and returned to school after three weeks. In school she met a young man from their village who had been to the University of Oregon, and who had come back wearing Western-style clothing. He asked that man’s help to apply for college in the USA. She got a scholarship but had to convince her village to help her raise funds for an airplane ticket.

Unfortunately, her community was against her studying abroad, saying she should be married instead. She eventually convinced them. Eventually, she returned to her village and convinced them to let her build a school for girls. Through the school, she has helped change certain traditions, and has prevented 125 girls from undergoing genital mutilation and being forced to marry at 12 years old.

She ends by challenging the audience to be the first to make a difference in their communities.

Most inspiring quote     

“You are somebody who wants to make our tomorrow better. I want to challenge you today that to be the first, because people will follow you.”

Storytelling tips

If your entire story is so compelling, unique, and moving, it’s alright to devote the majority of your speech to telling the tale, as Ntaiya does.

Key/interesting takeaway

It’s possible to challenge harmful, centuries-old traditions while displaying respect for one’s community and elders.

19. 5 ways to lead in an era of constant change by Jim Hemerling

Organizations today have to adapt to changes at a fast and constant pace. This state of constant transformation is exhausting, but Hemerling argues that it doesn’t have to be so.

First, Hemerling discusses the problems that make transformation so exhausting, such as leaders waiting too long before they act, resulting in a constant “crisis mode.”

As a solution, Hemerling offers “five strategic imperatives” that all focus on putting people first. The first imperative is to inspire through purpose—connect the transformation to a deeper sense of purpose. Next, go all in. Don’t just do one-time initiatives; rather, consider how the company operates and invest in leadership and talent.

The third imperative is to enable staff to develop the capacities needed to succeed during and after the transformation. This is related to the fourth imperative, which is to instill a culture of continuous learning. Lastly, for leaders, they must have a clear vision and roadmap with milestones.

Most inspiring quote

“We owe it to ourselves, to our organizations and to society more broadly to boldly transform our approach to transformation. To do that, we need to start putting people first.“

Storytelling tips

When talking about a problem that involves an organization, find a personal angle to make the audience care more deeply about it. Hemerling begins his talk by asking the audience: “Have you ever noticed when you ask someone to talk about a change they’re making for the better in their personal lives, they’re often really energetic?” He gives examples of personal transformation, such as training for a marathon or learning a new skill.

But there’s another type of transformation that doesn’t evoke the same sense of excitement in people—the transformation of organizations. More often, when we hear that a company is embarking on a transformation, the reaction is: “uh-oh.”

Key/interesting takeaway

Constant transformation doesn’t have to be exhausting if it’s done purposefully and with clear goals.

Teamwork & team-building

20. How to turn a group of strangers into a team by Amy Edmonson

Edmonson begins by recalling the collapse of a mine in August 2010. She provides concrete details of the challenges involved in rescuing the trapped miners, and supports these with images of the incident. Despite the rescue being deemed impossible, all 33 trapped miners were brought to the surface alive within 70 days. This, says Edmonson, is a remarkable example of the power of “teaming”—teamwork on the fly.

Edmonson studies teaming because it’s how many people work today. We have to work with more diverse teams and coordinate with people across the globe. But this is very difficult, especially when people of different expertise and perspectives, such as software engineers and real estate developers, have to work on the same project.

Throughout her talk, Edmonson gives the audience examples of situations of “teaming”, complete with concrete details and journalistic photos. She ends by encouraging the audience to adopt the mindset that none of us can do it alone.

Most inspiring quote

“In our silos, we can get things done. But when we step back and reach out and reach across, miracles can happen. Miners can be rescued, patients can be saved, beautiful films can be created.”

Storytelling tips

When discussing events that have happened, use photojournalistic images that show details and express the magnitude of the challenge that people are facing. Edmonson does this by showing photos of the mine incident.

Key/interesting takeaway

Teaming does not only occur in unexpected situations. In fact, it closely resembles the way many organizations need to operate today in order for people to get their work done.

21. The surprising ingredient that makes businesses work better by Marco Alvera

Alvera shares with the audience his feelings about not having been invited to several friends’ and acquaintances’ wedding. He felt left out, and felt it was unfair. His point is that people tend to get pretty upset when we believe we have been treated unfairly. This not only happens in personal relationships, but also at work. Unfairness makes people disengaged from work.

He shares his experience working in an oil company, where he wondered why they were finding more oil and gas than any of their competitors globally despite not having more advanced tools or poaching genius employees.

Eventually, he understood that their “secret sauce” was fairness. The company was a community who stood by the workers no matter what would happen. As a result, the workers not only delivered good results—they also actually enjoyed being at work. They were able to make decisions based on what was right, not what was convenient or selfish.

Alvera decided to further study the impact of fairness at work and talked to his colleagues, to coaches, headhunters, and neuroscientists. He presents anecdotes and scientific studies supporting his mission to promote fairness at work and to be aware of one’s own biases when dealing with others. He ends by encouraging leaders everywhere to make fairness a priority.

Most inspiring quote     

“If we turn on our hearts, that’s the key to getting the real best out of people, because they can smell it if you care, and only when you really care will they leave their fears behind and bring their true selves to work.”

Storytelling tips

Invite the audience on your journey to discovery by sharing with them the road you traveled in gaining an insight. Alvera first shared his struggle with unfairness, his wondering about his company’s performance, and his discovery, exploration, and confirmation of the impact of fairness in the workplace.

Key/interesting takeaway

Fairness at work doesn’t only improve employees’ engagement and productivity. It makes them happy and at ease as well.

22. How diversity makes teams more innovative by Rocio Lorenzo

Lorenzo admits that 15 years ago, she didn’t think diversity was becoming a problem—after all, at her university, they had a 50-50 split between male and female students. However, as she rose through the ranks in her career as a management consultant in Europe and the US, she noticed how she was often “the only woman in the room.” Companies did not see diversity as a business priority but as a matter of political correctness.

So Lorenzo set to find out how diversity can be a competitive advantage for organizations. For example, when the share of females in management increased, so did innovation revenue. She shares about the experiences of companies that have succeeded in embracing diversity and have proven that it can indeed be a business advantage.

Most inspiring quote

“By embracing diversity, by embracing diverse talent, we are providing true opportunity for everyone.”

Storytelling tips

When showing a bar chart, use strikingly different colors for the bar that you want to emphasize. For example, use the color green while keeping all the other bars red.

Key/interesting takeaways

Diversity has been proven to drive innovation and revenue in businesses. Comparisons between organizations show that only those with more than 20 percent women in leadership achieve growth in innovation revenue, bringing it to above-average levels.

23. How a company can nurture its internal rebels by Shoel Perelman

“Big companies are great… at killing new ideas,” begins Perelman, to the audience’s amusement. He acknowledges that big companies are good at innovation. However, they also need revolutionary innovation.

Most of the time, big companies acquire revolutionary innovation by buying startups. It’s not that there aren’t any people inside the company with revolutionary ideas—just that big companies tend not to listen to these ‘rebels.’

As a result, these rebels tend to leave the company and join smaller ones, or even launch their own startups. But with the majority of startups ending up in failure, these rebels will have left in vain.

He believes that one solution is for big companies to work with small companies, Such as a platform that matches ‘rebels’ with ‘innovation mates,’ which would be smaller companies. This would be a win-win solution, as it allows the larger company to retain its rebels and benefit from their innovative approaches, while it gives the small company access to a larger customer base.

Most inspiring quote

“Finding the right external innovation partner can make a difference between a company killing a rebel’s idea and that rebel’s idea taking hold in that company.”

Storytelling tips

When you need the audience to understand, remember, and dissect a long, complex concept, such as a pitch sentence, display that sentence on screen. As you dissect it, highlight or use bold typeface for the part being discussed, and allow the rest of the sentence to be blurred out. This will guide the audience in focusing on relevant phrases and information.

Key/interesting takeaway

Companies need rebels in order to reinvent themselves from within. Disruption does not have to come from the outside.

Management problems

24. Confessions of a recovering micromanager by Chieh Huang 

The term ‘micromanagement’ comes with negative connotations, so Huang lightens the mood by beginning with humor. He offers a definition of micromanagement: “It’s actually taking great, wonderful, imaginative people—like all of you, bringing them in into an organization… and then crushing their souls (audience laughs) by telling them what font size to use.”

He follows up with a theoretical situation, and then solid facts: A study of hospital staff in 12-hour shifts shows that they felt most fatigued not when they moved around more during their shift, but when they felt they didn’t have control over their jobs.

Despite proof of micromanagement not being effective, it still happens.

Huang’s proposed solution to micromanagement is to trust. He shares his own experiences as a CEO and tells amusing and inspiring anecdotes of what happens when he let the staff decide what to do. He has learned that he can give staff a strategic direction or ask them to solve a problem, and they will come up with innovative solutions when they’re not being micromanaged. There’s the risk of failure at times, but Huang says it pays off because of the benefits gained from letting go.

Most inspiring quote

“I don’t have the CEO thing down pat 100 percent, but I’ve actually learned the most fundamentally challenging lesson I’ve ever had to learn, and that’s this: There is only one solution to micromanagement … and that’s to trust.”

Storytelling tips

Find inspiration within your own operations. Take photos of projects your employees have worked on and showcase their creativity in your speech. For example, Huang shares photos of humorous notes that his staff have written to customers.

Key/interesting takeaway

Micromanagement often stems from the fear that people will make mistakes. However, when you trust people, you also give them room to innovate and succeed.

25. How to break bad management habits before they reach the next generation of leaders by Elizabeth Lyle

As a management consultant, Lyle sees the bad habits of senior leaders in organizations rubbing off on junior managers. She sees capable junior managers putting off change and providing plenty of good excuses for doing so, because they’re afraid to rock the boat and lose the approval of their seniors.

One solution is for junior managers to take the initiative to propose changes to inefficient processes, and for senior leaders to trust their subordinates. Leaders today need to slowly hand over more decision-making responsibilities to their juniors, who will be tomorrow’s leaders. External coaches need to guide both parties in doing so, as they will be acting outside their comfort zones.

Most inspiring quote

“Around 20 years ago, Warren Buffet gave a school lecture in which he said: ‘The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they’re too heavy to be broken.’”

Storytelling tips

Use a simple, everyday scenario to illustrate major, pervasive problems that tend to be ignored because we have come to see them as ‘normal.’ Lyle’s introduction is a situation many of us can relate to: “I am guilty of stacking my dishes in the sink and leaving them there for hours.” 

But what does the habit of letting dishes pile up before washing them have to do with management and leadership? According to Lyle, it’s about forming bad habits.

Key/interesting takeaway

Bad management habits can be passed on from senior to junior leaders. Breaking the habit can be very difficult and may require the help of an external coach.

Conflict resolution

26. How to disagree productively and find common ground by Julia Darh

Dahr begins by describing the current state of public discourse, which she says is broken: “Contempt has replaced conversation.”

Dahr shares how the principles of debate can be applied to public conversations and interpersonal discussions. For instance, people need to find a common ground, and to “separate ideas from the identity of the person discussing them.”

Throughout the talk, Dahr engages the audience with stories of her experiences as a debater, debating coach, and government consultant. She ends on an optimistic note about how the principles of debate can help us open our minds and enable us to disagree productively.

Most inspiring quote

“Once you start thinking about what it would take to change your mind, you start to wonder why you were quite so sure in the first place.”

Storytelling tips

Tell the audience about projects you have worked on. Explain how a certain skill (in this case, debating) helped solve a problem. Dahr shares how the ability to “disagree productively and find common ground” helped her and a government team generate new solutions to long-term unemployment.

Key/interesting takeaway

People tend to get attached to their ideas. But when we separate our identity from our ideas, it makes it easier for us to consider the arguments of the other side.

27. Why I have coffee with people who send me hate mail by Ozlem Cekic

Cekic grounds the talk in the context of her experience in receiving hate mail as a public figure (a member of the Danish parliament). In 2010, she began reaching out to those senders and inviting them to meet for a chat.

She has been doing this for eight years, and tends to meet people at their homes to convey trust. She brings them food so they can eat together. Along the way, she has learned to separate people from who they were and what hateful views they expressed. She also learned that most people feel like they have no influence, no power.

She challenged the audience to do something similar—to invite a person they “demonize” to have a chat over coffee. She reminds them that democracies can fail, and that conversations can help prevent that failure.

Most inspiring quote

“Conversation is the most difficult thing in a democracy and also the most important.”

Storytelling tips

Don’t be afraid to admit your flaws and mistakes which goes a long way to engage the audience. The first time Cekic had a chat with a person who had sent her hate mail, she ended up staying in that person’s house for two and a half hours, chatting over coffee, and discovering the things she and her hater had in common. She eventually realized that “I had been just as judgmental of those who had sent me hate mails as they had been of me”.

Key/interesting takeaway

We all have our biases and prejudices, but it’s possible to build bridges with people whom we totally disagree with.

28. 10 ways to have a better conversation by Celeste Headlee

Headlee starts off by asking two questions to the audience and asking them to raise their hands if they’ve experienced those situations. For example: “How many of you have unfriended someone on Facebook because they said something offensive about politics or religion, childcare, food?”

She uses these questions as a starting point for discussing how society today is more divided than ever in the history when it comes to our opinions. The reason is that we are not listening to each other. “Conversational competence might be the single most overlooked skill we fail to teach,” she says.

Headlee then walks the audience through ten rules on how to discuss opinions with people and how to truly listen to others. She ends with one last piece of advice: Listen to people and be prepared to be amazed. Everyone is special in their way and you can always learn something.

Most inspiring quote     

“You need to enter every conversation assuming you have something to learn.”

Storytelling tips

Use comical slides to make your audience laugh even when you’re discussing a serious topic.

Key/interesting takeaway

When listening, don’t talk about the same experience you had. It’s never the same. Listening is not about you. It’s not the time to prove how amazing you are or how much you suffered.

29. 3 ways to be a better ally in the workplace by Melinda Epler

Epler talks about the time she worked at her “dream job” in an international engineering firm. As the head of marketing and culture, she was able to apply her skills in storytelling, social impact, and behavior change. Then she says something unexpected: “It was the worst professional experience of my life.”

She talked about behaviors and patterns that slowly “chipped away at [her] ability to do [her] work well”. 

One way to deal with these is allyship, or being an ally to a colleague. Allyship seeks to correct the imbalances in workplace treatment and opportunities, and helps others succeed. All of us can be allies for each other, she says.

To be an ally, you can start by doing no harm—for example, don’t interrupt. Another is to advocate for underrepresented people in small ways. Next, try to change someone’s life significantly, and lastly, advocate for change across the organization.

Most inspiring quote     

“Allyship is about understanding that imbalance in opportunity and working to correct it. Allyship is really seeing the person next to us. And the person missing, who should be standing next to us.”

Storytelling tips

When sharing examples of your experiences, take the time to describe how they made you feel. Epler shares concrete examples of painful situations and workplace microaggressions, and how she could have used an ally at those moments.

Key/interesting takeaway

You can create change in your organization by becoming an ally to someone. Everyone needs an ally, and anyone can be an ally.

Speaking with influence

30. How to speak so that people want to listen by Julian Treasure

Treasure presents a paradox at the beginning of his speech: The human voice is powerful enough to start a war or express love, but many of us have experienced having our voices ignored. “Why is that? How can we speak powerfully to make change in the world?” he asks.

He suggests moving away from what he calls the seven deadly sins of speaking. These are: gossip, judging, negativity, complaining, blame-throwing, embroidery/exaggeration/lying, and dogmatism.

He suggests standing on four cornerstones to make our speech powerful and impactful: honesty, authenticity, integrity, and love. Treasure also provides practical suggestions, such as adjusting our voice register, timbre, prosody (sing-song), pace, pitch, and volume.

He then engages the audience in six vocal warm-up exercises. “Any time you’re going to talk to anybody important, do these,” he instructs. Treasure concludes his talk by encouraging the audience to consider the possibilities of a world where people not only spoke with purpose, but also listened consciously.

Most inspiring quote

“What would the world be like if we were speaking powerfully to people who were listening consciously in environments which were actually fit for purpose?”

Storytelling tips

Use a suitable visuals for the concepts and techniques you introduce. Treasure varies the types of visuals he uses—including stock photos, word lists, and concept diagrams—according to their relevance to the concept or technique. The variety also helps prevent monotony.

Key/interesting takeaway

We can, to an extent, control how people react to our speech by exercising certain principles and practical techniques.

31. The art of misdirection by Apollo Robbins

“Do you think it’s possible to control someone’s attention? Even more than that, what about predicting human behavior?” Robbins asks. This can be done through the art of misdirection, which Robbins has been studying and practicing for 20 years.

Robbins explains how our attention steers our perception and our reality. He demonstrates how he can exploit people’s attention through the art of misdirection. The surprise ‘trick’ for the audience comes at the end, and it truly demonstrates how powerful attention can be.

Robbins ends his talk the way he began it—with a thought-provoking question: “If you could control somebody’s attention, what would you do with it?”

Most inspiring quote

“The things right in front of us are often the hardest to see, the things that you look at every day that you’re blinded to”

Storytelling tips

Make the audience a part of your keynote. Robbins explains the art of misdirection by engaging different audience members in conversation, without their noticing that he has taken or returned their watch or their wallet.

Key/interesting takeaway

It’s possible to control people’s attention and affect their reality. Doing so is a powerful skill that also comes with great responsibility, as one can exploit people’s attention for both good and bad purposes.

Leadership examples

32. How great leaders inspire action by Simon Sinek

Sinek starts by asking a series of thought-provoking questions related to outliers. For example, how are people able to achieve things that others are unable to? He then uses Apple as an example and asks: “Why is Apple so innovative?” Martin Luther King and the Wright Brothers are also cited as examples of outstanding folks.

Sinek then pulls the audience deeper into his story by telling them that 3.5 years ago, he discovered that there’s a “pattern” to what makes someone great.

He describes “the golden circle” concept, which explains why some organizations are able to inspire others and why some are not. The journey is all about organizations discovering the “why” beyond the “what,” and what their purpose or cause is behind what they do. 

However, most organizations try to drive sales by stating why they are better than the competition, but customers are typically unmoved. This is because it is expressing the “what” instead of the “why” behind the company and product. The main conflict here is companies are failing to inspire potential customers.

Sinek suggests that companies look beyond the “what” to the “why” to inspire customers which changes the way they communicate. Because “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” The goal is to do business with people that believe what you believe.

Most inspiring quote     

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

Storytelling tips

Sinek uses a white board and a marker to draw the golden circle and other charts to prove his point. He also keeps the audience engaged by using colorful examples. For example, Dell and Apple both produced MP3 players but everyone bought one from Apple because they sold it in a different way. He also uses cognitive science to back up his arguments.

Key/interesting takeaway

People respond to a purpose and cause, and not facts and figures. It speaks to the part of the brain that drives behavior and creates loyalty (and ultimately drives sales).

33. Women entrepreneurs, example not exception by Gayle Lemmon

Lemmon talks about how she began writing about women entrepreneurs in conflict and post-conflict settings. And in many conflicts, women tend to be the majority of those left in the aftermath. For example, after the Rwanda genocide, the country’s remaining population was 77 percent female.

She shares the stories of the women entrepreneurs that she has written about. There were women who refused high salaries to start businesses, saying it was critical to their country’s future and survival.

Unfortunately, these women tend to get labeled as ‘micro’—and so they’re deemed to have micro-hopes and micro-ambitions. Lemmon advocates for moving “from micro to medium and beyond”. She ends by encouraging the audience to think bigger.

Most inspiring quote     

“Here were girls who braved danger to become breadwinners during years in which they couldn’t even be on their streets. And at a time of economic collapse when people sold baby dolls and shoe laces and windows and doors just to survive, these girls made the difference between survival and starvation for so many.”

Storytelling tips

When sharing other people’s stories, make it more relatable by telling the audience their names and showing their photos.

Key/interesting takeaway

After a conflict, the remaining population tends to consist mostly of women. These women then create businesses to rejuvenate their communities.

Our Inner Lives

34. Depression, the secret we share by Andrew Solomon

Solomon shares how he had always thought of himself as tough and how he held himself together during a series of losses in 1991. In 1994, though, he found himself depressed, losing interest in almost all things.

He narrates his experience with depression, as well as therapy, medication, and relapse. He talks about the numerous people he has interviewed who are suffering from depression, and shares their stories to the audience. He also describes the various treatments being practiced.

Solomon concludes by sharing what he has learned from his depression. One thing he learned is that negative emotions can be intense—but so can positive ones. His depression has made him look for joy, and cling to it.

Most inspiring quote

“I have discovered something inside of myself that I would have to call a soul that I had never formulated until that day 20 years ago when hell came to pay me a surprise visit.”

Storytelling tips

Use literature to lead into the talk and invite them to think more deeply about the topic. Solomon quotes a poem at the beginning of his talk:

“I felt a Funeral, in my Brain, and Mourners to and fro kept treading — treading — till [it seemed] that Sense was breaking through — And when they all were seated, a Service, like a Drum — kept beating — beating — till I [thought] my Mind was going numb…”

Key/interesting takeaway

Depression isn’t just an American middle-class problem. It affects people from all backgrounds and walks of life—mostly those in poverty.

35. How to make stress your friend by Kelly McGonigal

At the beginning of the talk, McGonigal takes a quick poll of the audience to see how many of them have experienced little, moderate, or a lot of stress in the past year. She explains that as a health psychologist, she aims to “help people be happier and healthier.”

For the past 10 years, she has been telling people that stress makes you sick—but she has recently changed her mind about stress and wants the audience to do the same.

A study of 30,000 adults showed that people who experienced more stress had a higher risk of dying—but only when they believed that stress was harmful to their health. So McGonigal set out to discover how to change the way people think about stress in a way that would make them healthier.

She asks the audience to imagine being participants in a social stress test, and describes the process of the test. She explains a few more research studies showing biological responses to stress, as well as to the belief that stress was positive because it energizes the body.

Most inspiring quote     

“Stress gives us access to our hearts. The compassionate heart that finds joy and meaning in connecting with others, and yes, your pounding physical heart, working so hard to give you strength and energy. And when you choose to view stress in this way, you’re not just getting better at stress, you’re actually making a pretty profound statement. You’re saying that you can trust yourself to handle life’s challenges.”

Storytelling tips

Use shapes to represent complex processes. For example, to represent constricted and non-constricted blood vessels, McGonigal uses a thick circle and a thin circle, respectively (see 5:55 to 6:52).

Key/interesting takeaway

The way we view stress can change the effect stress has on our health.

36. My stroke of insight by Jill Bolte Taylor

Taylor tells the audience that she dedicated her career to the study of the brain because she her brother had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. One day, however, she discovered she also had a brain disorder caused by the explosion of a blood vessel.

She then describes to the audience what was going on in her mind during her illness, which she took eight years to recover from. The effect was like a severed connection between the left and right sides of her brain.

She connects her experience to our human experience of having “two cognitive minds”—one focused on rationality, the other on beauty. Her disconnection from the left—the rational—side of the brain made her appreciate the function of the right hemisphere.

Most inspiring quote     

“I believe that the more time we spend choosing to run the deep inner-peace circuitry of our right hemispheres, the more peace we will project into the world, and the more peaceful our planet will be.”

Storytelling tips

When showing examples of objects, don’t be afraid to use the real thing. In this talk, Taylor showed the audience an actual example (not a photo) of a real human brain.

Key/interesting takeaway

Both sides of our brain continually work together to help us comprehend our reality and our own being.

37. Why we choke under pressure — and how to avoid it by Sian Beilock

Beilock studies cognitive science, and wants to discover psychological tools that can help people reach their limitless potential.

She explains that we choke under pressure because our worries make us “concentrate too much.” It makes us try to control things “that are best left on autopilot”. In other words, we suffer paralysis by analysis.

To avoid this pitfall, we need to practice being in high-pressure situations, like an athlete playing in front of an audience. It can also help to write down your worries before a stressful event as this helps you “download them from the mind.” People around us, like parents and bosses, can also influence our performance.

Beilock concludes with a story and words of encouragement about how we can control what goes on in our minds so we can overcome our limits.

Most inspiring quote

What happens in our heads really matters, and knowing this, we can learn how to prepare ourselves and others for success.

Storytelling tips

It’s easy to talk about solving a problem, but another thing to actually overcome it. If you have applied the solution that you’re sharing in your keynote and have attained the desired outcome, tell the audience your story. Beilock shares her experience as a young athlete and the humiliation of choking under pressure during one game. She then talks about her journey to find a solution, and how it has improved her performance under pressure.

Key/interesting takeaway

Even something as simple as journaling can help us relieve our worries and avoid paralysis by analysis.

Harnessing your personality and traits

38. The power of introverts by Susan Cain

Growing up, Cain experienced many situations that implied being introverted was wrong. Despite disagreeing with this deep down, she tried hard to be more extroverted and chose a career as a Wall Street lawyer instead of a writer. She notes that many introverts do the same—negate their true natures—and that doing so ends up in a loss for introverts, their colleagues, and their communities.

This bias against introversion is present in classrooms and workplaces, despite some of history’s most transformative leaders and most creative people having been introverts. So Cain calls for a better cultural balance between introversion and extroversion.

Specifically, she provides three calls to action. Number one: “Stop the madness for constant group work.” Two: “Go to the wilderness.” Three: “Take a good look at what’s inside your own suitcase and why you put it there.”

She ends by asking introverts to “open up your suitcases for other people to see, because the world needs you and it needs the things you carry.”

Most inspiring quote     

“The more freedom that we give introverts to be themselves, the more likely that they are to come up with their own unique solutions to these problems.”

Storytelling tips

Before presenting your argument, share a defining moment that tells the audience how your beliefs and struggles formed and evolved. At the beginning of her keynote, Cain tells the audience how she went to summer camp for the first time as a kid, and brought with her a suitcase full of books. But when she tried to read during a break, another kid couldn’t understand why, and the camp counselor lectured her about camp spirit and the need to be outgoing. So she put her books away for the rest of the camp.

Key/interesting takeaway

There’s a cultural bias against introversion, but we are now seeing such attitudes begin to shift to acknowledge the power of introverts.

39. Your body language may shape who you are by Amy Cuddy

Cuddy discusses body language and how humans are fascinated by it. What does our own body language communicate to other people? Cuddy shares examples using photos and also through demonstrating different postures. She also shares how we can use non-verbal communication to change how we think or feel, Such as adopting a confident posture if we’re nervous. This can help us to eventually feel more confident.

She asks the audience to share the science of non-verbal communication with other people and help them change the outcomes of their lives.

Most inspiring quote

“Don’t fake it till you make it. Fake it till you become it. Do it enough until you actually become it and internalize. The last thing I’m going to leave you with is this. Tiny tweaks can lead to big changes.”    

Storytelling tips

Try to let the audience experience the scenario or solution you are describing. Cuddy asks the audience to do a quick ‘lie hack’ by changing their posture for two minutes, as she believes that doing so has an effect on how they feel about themselves.

Key/interesting takeaway

Something as simple as our posture can have an effect on the way we feel and the way we think about ourselves.

40. The power of vulnerability by Brene Brown

Brown is a qualitative researcher and storyteller, and tells the audience a story about a research that “changed the way that I live and love and work and parent.”

When researching about human connection, she found that people with the strongest sense of love and belonging were those who embraced vulnerability and believed they were worth loving. They saw vulnerability as a necessity. She encourages the audience to embrace authenticity and vulnerability in our relationships.

Most inspiring quote

“When we work from a place, I believe, that says ‘I’m enough’ … then we stop screaming and start listening. We’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.”

Storytelling tips

Begin by making the audience laugh. Brown shares a funny anecdote concerning her professional description for an event in which she was slated to make a speech. The person making the description hesitated to call her a “researcher,” saying that no one might come as they might think she is “boring and irrelevant.”

Key/interesting takeaway

The people with the strongest human connections are also those who embrace vulnerability as a necessity in relationships.

Motivation & drive

41. Inside the mind of a master procrastinator by Tim Urban

Urban adds a lighthearted twist to the discussion of procrastination through honest and humorous narratives, complete with quirky symbolism and cartoonish illustrations. He begins by telling the audience how he always writes college papers at the last minute. The same happened with his thesis, which he ended up beginning to write only three days before the deadline.

Today, Urban is a successful blogger. A few years ago, he started writing about procrastination to explain why people put off completing tasks.  

Urban also explains that there are two types of procrastination—those that are short-term for tasks that come with deadlines, and those that don’t have strict timeline, like exercising, working on a relationship, or starting a business. This long-term kind of procrastination causes much unhappiness and regret, and that’s the kind that we should be wary about.

Most inspiring quote     

“So I think we need to all take a long, hard look at that [life calendar]. We need to think about what we’re really procrastinating on… And because there’s not that many boxes on there, it’s a job that should probably start today.”

Storytelling tips

Don’t be afraid to use your own illustrations, even if they’re amateurish. With the right tone, such as with a humorous talk, such illustrations can work.

Key/interesting takeaway

Everyone is a procrastinator. What’s more important is to avoid long-term procrastination.

42. The puzzle of motivation by Dan Pink

Pink begins by sharing a study that debunks the belief that you must incentivize people with rewards if you want them to perform better. However, science shows that for complex problems, intrinsic motivation is more effective. He encourages businesses to consider autonomy, mastery, and purpose as strong motivators for good performance.

Throughout his talk, Pink keeps the audience interested by sharing various studies and adding humor to his explanations. He also gives examples of companies that have successfully harnessed the power of intrinsic motivation. He concludes by saying that if we change our notions of motivation, businesses can solve complex problems and maybe even change the world.

Most inspiring quote     

“The secret to high performance isn’t rewards and punishments, but that unseen intrinsic drive—the drive to do things for their own sake. The drive to do things because they matter.”

Storytelling tips

It’s alright to use very simple illustrations if you want the audience to focus on analyzing a scenario instead of appreciating its beauty. Pink uses quite simple but easily understandable drawings to illustrate some of his experiments.

Key/interesting takeaway

The idea that we all respond to rewards does not apply to certain situations. When it comes to complex, significant matters, intrinsic motivation is more effective, and extrinsic rewards may even be detrimental.

43. Why we do what we do by Tony Robbins

Robbins shares with the audience his work as a coach and understanding why people do what they do. He wants to know how to drive human performance to help people contribute to a cause beyond themselves.

For Robbins, “emotion is the force of life” and is “the ultimate resource.” He talks about the importance of understanding human needs and emotions, which has helped him in his career, where he coaches people to get through critical situations.

He concludes by inviting the audience to explore the needs, beliefs, and emotions that control them, and to appreciate what drives other people.

Most inspiring quote     

“If we get the right emotion, we can get ourselves to do anything. If you’re creative, playful, fun enough, can you get through to anybody… If you don’t have the money, but you’re creative and determined, you find the way.”

Storytelling tips

Get the audience to participate, even if it’s just to voice their agreement. Throughout the talk, Robbins interacts with the audience, asking them to raise their hands or to respond to questions or statements with “aye.”

Key/interesting takeaway

We often talk about the connection between performance and mentality, and may even believe that emotions negatively affect our performance. However, when we know how to harness our emotions, we can perform to the best of our abilities.

44. Why you should define your fears instead of your goals by Tim Ferriss

Ferriss shows the audience a photo of himself as a senior in college. He said he was “really, really happy” at the moment the picture was taken. And then, less than two weeks later, he had decided he would commit suicide.

How do we prevent emotional free falls like this? Ferriss proposes stoicism. He encourages the audience to think of it not as an ancient philosophy or an academic notion, but “as an operating system for thriving in high-stress environments, for making better decisions.”

He also presents a framework for mentally preparing yourself for situations. Define the worst thing that could happen if you make a certain decision, identify how you can prevent it, and how you can repair it should it occur.

Ferriss concludes by reminding the audience of the words of the Roman Stoic philosopher, Seneca: “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.”

Most inspiring quote     

“The hard choices—what we most fear doing, asking, saying—these are very often exactly what we most need to do.”

Storytelling tips

Add humor to your speech by showing unexpected images. For example, when he first mentioned stoicism, Ferriss showed the audience images of things that might come to mind. The first was Spock, the popular Star Trek character. The second was a cow standing in the rain.

Key/interesting takeaway

Imagining worst case scenarios can be productive when we consider how we can avoid and repair them.

Positive emotions & experiences

45. The surprising science of happiness by Dan Gilbert

Gilbert delves right into a discussion of the evolution of the human brain. One reason that the human brain tripled in size over two million years is that it grew new structures, especially the prefrontal cortex.

One of the most important functions of the prefrontal cortex is to simulate experience, allowing humans to “have experiences in their heads before they try them out in real life.” He then engages the audience in a ‘pop quiz’ on simulation, in which he asks them to imagine the happiness of a paraplegic and a lottery winner one year from that day.

While a similar experiment showed that many believed the lottery winner would be happier, the real data shows that their happiness levels were actually the same. Gilbert explains that this is due to “impact bias,” which is the tendency “for the simulator to make you believe that different outcomes are more different than, in fact, they really are.” That’s because people can ‘synthesize’ happiness.

Gilbert shares news stories of real-life people who experienced great misfortunes but still expressed happiness at the end. He adds that synthetic happiness, or finding a way to be happy despite the situation, is just as real and significant as the happiness we experience when we get what we desire.

Most inspiring quote

“Our longings and our worries are both to some degree overblown, because we have within us the capacity to manufacture the very commodity we are constantly chasing when we choose experience.”

Storytelling tips

When providing numerous examples and research studies to the audience, supplement these with visuals showing the experiment or the results. When sharing a meaningful quote, show the quote on screen.

Key/interesting takeaway

Synthesized happiness is just as real and significant as the happiness from getting what we desire.

46. What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness by Robert Waldinger

“What keeps us healthy and happy as we go through life? If you were going to invest now in your future best self, where would you put your time and your energy?” Waldinger asks the audience.

He answers the first question by sharing data on a study he helped conduct at Harvard University. For 75 years, they tracked the lives of 724 people. Every year, they checked in on the participants’ lives and health. They visit the participants, scan their brain, and perform other interviews and tests.

After 75 years, the data showed conclusively that the thing that keeps people happier and healthier is having good relationships. Waldinger further expounds on some lessons learned from the study and concludes that the “good life is built with good relationships.”

Most inspiring quote     

“The good life is built with good relationships.”

Storytelling tips

Humanize the participants of your research studies by sharing the photos (provided that they give you permission to do so).

Key/interesting takeaway

Good relationships are the most important thing to achieve a healthy, happy life.

Sales & Marketing

47. We’re building a dystopia just to make people click on ads by Zeynep Tufekci

Tufekci talks about how technology “threatens our freedom and our dignity in the near-term future” because of companies that capture and sell our data and attention to advertisers and other Internet giants.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is now elevating this threat to a whole new magnitude. With AI, companies can analyze our every activity and match our online records with our offline data.

There’s no simple way to change this practice, says Tufekci: “because we need to restructure the whole way our digital technology operates.” However, she pushes for all stakeholders to begin a conversation on how to do so.

Most inspiring quote     

“We need a digital economy where our data and our attention is not for sale to the highest-bidding authoritarian or demagogue.”

Storytelling tips

Use popular culture as a frame of reference, as the audience will easily understand what you mean. For example, Tufekci hints at common misconceptions about AI problems by referring to the Terminator movie and George Orwell’s 1984.

Key/interesting takeaway

A total systemic change needs to occur in order for us to regain control over our data and protect our privacy and dignity.

48. Life lessons from an ad man by Rory Sutherland

Sutherland acknowledges the bad reputation that advertising that tends to get. He explains how advertisers’ solutions differ from those of engineers, medical professionals, and scientists. That’s because the latter group try to solve problems of reality, while the former solve problems of perception.

He tells the audience that value is subjective, and that persuasion is often better than compulsion. For example, funny signs have been shown to be more effective than fines and penalty points at warning motorists about their driving speed. He also discussed how advertisers create intangible value to replace material value.

Sutherland ends by encouraging another type of perception and value creation—that of appreciating what already exists.

Most inspiring quote     

“When you place a value on things like health, love, sex and other things, and learn to place a material value on what you’ve previously discounted for being merely intangible, a thing not seen, you realize you’re much, much wealthier than you ever imagined.”

Storytelling tips

Be honest with the audience when explaining the tricks of your trade. Self-deprecating humor helps when talking about aspects of your industry that aren’t always deemed positive. Sutherland jokes that as an ad man, he usually attends TED Evil, where Kim Jong-il once held a keynote about how to get teens to start smoking again.

Key/interesting takeaway

Sometimes, what we view as problems of reality are actually merely problems of perception.

Inspirational marketing examples

49. How Christmas lights helped guerrillas put down their guns by Jose Miguel Sokoloff

Sokoloff talks about his country, Colombia, and how it has beautiful flora and fauna but also has major problems, such as having the oldest standing guerrilla conflict in the world. At the time of his talk, Colombia is in peace talks with the FARC guerrillas, who are the main guerrilla group in the country. The country is trying a new tactic to achieve peace—by using Christmas lights.

Colombia planted gigantic trees in strategic pathways in the jungle, and covered the trees with Christmas lights. The trees helped demobilize 331 guerrillas. At night, the trees were lit, illuminating signs that said: “If Christmas can come to the jungle, you can come home. Demobilize. At Christmas, everything is possible.” 

The trees sprang from the development of a communications strategy for the government to appeal to guerrillas in the jungle. Sokoloff shared that he and the communications team talked to the guerrillas to understand them and view them as human beings and not as soldiers.

Most inspiring quote

“We needed to step away from talking from government to army, from army to army, and we needed to talk about the universal values, and we needed to talk about humanity. And that was when the Christmas tree happened.”     

Storytelling tips

Instead of just explaining the process and results, share the stories of the people whose lives were affected by your work.

Key/interesting takeaway

Storytelling is a powerful tool that helps different sides of a conflict understand each other. Communication, especially the type that appeals to universal values and human emotion, can be an agent of change.

50. Selling condoms in the Congo by Amy Lockwood

Lockwood used to be a marketer and transitioned to work in international development. She tells the audience about her time in Congo, which faces many health issues, including a high rate of HIV infection. However, at the time of the talk, only three percent of people in the country used condoms, despite knowing about them.

During her stay in Congo, she found out that people who bought condoms went for generic condoms instead of branded ones, even though the latter are often provided for free or at a lower cost by aid agencies.

Lockwood examined the marketing campaigns for these products to understand why people chose one type over the other. She found a mismatch between the aid agencies’ marketing messages on the better but cheaper condoms and the mindset people have when they go to buy these products. The aid agencies used fear; the marketers of the generic versions used pleasure, which was closer to the anticipation people felt in the moment they chose to buy a condom.

Lockwood ends by reminding the audience to think about their customer. After all, doing so might save their lives, as in the case of Congo.

Most inspiring quote     

“It doesn’t really matter what you’re selling; you just have to think about who is your customer, and what are the messages that are going to get them to change their behavior. It might just save their lives.”

Storytelling tips

When short on time, focus on a single story that you can then use as the main example for your talk. Lockwood doesn’t provide plenty of different examples in her keynote, instead focusing on a single story.

Key/interesting takeaway

Understanding your audience can help you sell a product that might just save their lives.

51. What physics taught me about marketing by Dan Cobley

Even though he works in marketing, Cobley’s first passion is physics. He tells the audience that he will convince them that physics can teach us a few things about marketing.

For example, from Newton’s Law, we know that it takes more force to change the direction of a larger particle than a smaller one. This is the same with brands. The more massive a brand, the more force is required to change its brand positioning as it comes with plenty of reputational baggage. That’s why, for example, big companies create new brands for different products.

Cobley continues to share more physics principles and connect them to marketing. He ends by affirming his hope that he has convinced the audience that physics can teach us something special, even about a different field, such as marketing.

Most inspiring quote     

“[If] you can’t fight it… embrace it and find a way to work with it.”

Storytelling tips

State the purpose of your talk at the beginning if you’re planning to tell the audience something they may not have heard before (such as how physics principles relate to marketing principles).

Key/interesting takeaway

Certain principles of physics and nature apply to brands and marketing strategies as well.

52. How to start a movement by Derek Sivers

Sivers shows a video of an actual movement and narrates how it unfolds, from start to finish. He explains what the audience is seeing—for example, how a leader needs to stand out and have the guts to be ridiculed. He then gains his first follower and embraces him as an equal. “The first follower is what transforms a lone nut into a leader,” says Sivers, eliciting laughter from the audience.

He continues doing this until the movement gains momentum. He then recaps some lessons learned from the video. The most important, he says, is that leadership is over-glorified. Sivers says the first follower is the one that transforms the first person into a leader. So he encourages the audience to have the courage to be a follower.

Most inspiring quote     

“If you really care about starting a movement, have the courage to follow and show others how to follow. And when you find a lone nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first one to stand up and join in.”

Storytelling tips

Use a video of a simple event—in this case, a man dancing in a public place and getting others to join him—to explain your point to the audience. Sivers uses a video as an example and a narrative guide throughout his keynote. This helps him provide a simple visual analogy in explaining his ideas.

Key/interesting takeaway

The first follower that plays a major role in a movement. Without him/her, there would be no leader.

53. The tribes we lead by Seth Godin

Godin has been studying the process of changing the status quo in societies. He shares stories related to this process of trying to make big, important changes.

He also introduces the idea of tribes, which he says is about “leading and connecting people and ideas”. Because of the Internet, tribes are now everywhere. He also asks the audience three questions related to building tribes in the process of changing the status quo: “Who exactly are you upsetting?”, “who are you connecting?”, and “who are you leading?” He ends by encouraging the audience to create a movement that matters.

Most inspiring quote     

“You don’t need permission from people to lead them. But in case you do, here it is: They’re waiting, we’re waiting for you to show us where to go next.”

Storytelling tips

Provide anecdotes and stories to add force to your arguments. For example, Godin talks about the events that he has been invited to speak to. One keynote was at an event for people who dress up as mascots at big sporting events. Another time, he was invited to speak to people who make balloon animals. It struck him that these groups of people knew exactly what they did for a living.

Key/interesting takeaway

When people want to start a movement, they also need to lead tribes.

Tech & Humanity

54. 3 ways to make better decisions — by thinking like a computer by Tom Griffiths

In this TEDxSydney speech, Griffiths talks about the difficulty of finding a place to buy or rent within the city. He offers a solution based on mathematics and computer science to help people decide on a property purchase or rental.

As a kid, Griffiths thought it was enough to apply reason to every decision. As he grew up, he found that this technique didn’t work for adult problems, like romantic relationships. Now, as a computational cognitive scientist, he analyzes problems in everyday life and applies computer science principles to decision-making.

He ends his talk by explaining that sometimes, the best decision-making process is based on taking a chance rather than finding the absolute best solution.

Most inspiring quote     

“You can’t control outcomes, just processes. And as long as you’ve used the best process, you’ve done the best that you can.”

Storytelling tips

When explaining steps or complex strategies, use visuals to guide the audience along. Griffiths does this when explaining mathematical and computer science solutions to problems.

Key/interesting takeaway

Computer science methods of decision-making allow room for failure and human error.

55. How data is helping us unravel the mysteries of the brain by Steve McCarroll

Despite developments in treating diseases like cancer, there are still other illnesses that science hasn’t been able to really help people with, such as schizophrenia.

He explains that scientists need to understand “which of our cells matter to each illness, and which molecules in those cells matter to each illness.” That’s his mission as a biologist. But with his background in computers and math, he is trying to “turn the brain into a big-data problem.”

He shares stories, challenges, and techniques from his work, including discoveries about the genetics of schizophrenia. He shares his hope and mission that one day, people suffering from mental illnesses will be treated and experience a life filled with opportunities for work, joy, and human connection.

Most inspiring quote     

“Millions of cancer survivors like my sister find themselves with years of life that they didn’t take for granted and new opportunities for work and joy and human connection. That is the future that we are determined to create around mental illness — one of real understanding and empathy and limitless possibility.”

Storytelling tips

Tell the audience why a topic matters to you. McCarroll does this by sharing a personal experience about how his sister was diagnosed with cancer nine years ago. Just a few months before the McCarroll’s talk, his sister received a new, innovative medical treatment that significantly reduced her illness. 

Key/interesting takeaway

Experts from different fields are coming together to analyze mental illness from a new angle and develop innovative solutions.

56. The secret to scientific discoveries? Making mistakes by Phil Plait

People have plenty of misconceptions about science, says Plait at the beginning of his talk. They fail to see that science is a process. Science aims to understand objective reality based on evidence, but the problem is that humans are subjective.

That’s why an important part of the scientific process is admitting your hypothesis is wrong. He tells of how astronomers over the years—himself included—have thought they had discovered a planet orbiting a star that wasn’t the sun, only to end up being wrong. One year, a team found two such planets. Astronomers have been able to find more ever since, and now we know there are many of them.

He concludes by saying these discoveries have been made possible not only by the scientists who built observatories and observed the data, but also by those who have made errors and been brave enough to admit them, so that others could build on their mistakes.

Most inspiring quote     

“Science is at its best when it dares to be human.”

Storytelling tips

When showing imagery that may be unfamiliar to the audience, such as photos of astronomical bodies, be sure to clearly explain what the audience is looking at.

Key/interesting takeaway

When a scientist admits he has made a mistake, he benefits the wider scientific community by allowing them to build on those errors.

Tech & humanity issues

57. A funny look at the unintended consequences of technology by Chuck Nice

Nice dives right into the topic of exploring the unintended consequences of tech, specifically social media. He also discusses the problem of perfecting artificial intelligence without perfecting “artificial emotions,” and asks the audience to imagine a robot acting like an emotional teenager.  

Nice’s main point is that technology is not scary—but more so people and they will use it. It might reveal the best of our humanity or our “deepest, darkest demons.”

Most inspiring quote     

“Will we allow [technology] to expose our humanity, showing our true selves and reinforcing the fact that we are indeed our brother’s keeper?”

Storytelling tips

Back up your claims with examples. After claiming that technology has had unintended consequences, Nice shows the audience photos of people beside each other, looking only at their phones. He shares an amusing tweet he received from a troll. He mentions cyberbullying and how apps have changed dating.

Key/interesting takeaway

Technology can bring out both the best and worst of humankind.

58. How to be “Team Human” in the digital future by Douglass Rushkoff

Rushkoff discusses how digital technology has evolved to focus on competitiveness and data, and to de-value creativity. He tells the audience we need to stop viewing humanity as a problem and technology as the solution. He concludes by saying we need to stop insulating ourselves from the world and instead focus on making that world a better place—one that we don’t need to fear or escape from.

Most inspiring quote

“Human beings are special. We can embrace ambiguity, we understand paradox, we’re conscious, we’re weird, we’re quirky. There should be a place for humans in the digital future.”

Storytelling tips

Explain how a problem can be universal, affecting people from different walks of life—even those with much power. Rushkoff narrates an experience when he was invited to discuss the digital future with five tech billionaires. They spent an hour discussing the question of maintaining control over their security staff after a doomsday event. Rushkoff was struck by how these influential people felt powerless to influence the future.

Key/interesting takeaway

Popular discourse presents humans in a negative light. While we have made drastic mistakes and decisions, we need to recognize that we have the power to change our world for the better, too. Technology is only part of this solution.

59. How to keep human bias out of AI by Kiti Sharma

“How many decisions have been made about you today, or this week or this year, by artificial intelligence?” asks Sharma. She explains the human biases that enter AI algorithms. People reinforce these biases when we interact with AI.

However, as a maker of AI technology, she has experienced feeding AI diverse experiences to learn from. She adds that we need people of different genders, races, sexualities, and backgrounds to work on building AI. She encourages the audience to do their part in convincing governments and companies to build “AI for everyone, including the edge cases.”

Most inspiring quote

“I feel incredibly positive about this technology. This is our chance to remake the world into a much more equal place. But to do that, we need to build it the right way from the get go.”

Storytelling tips

Race is a sensitive topic, but sometimes you need to address it head on. Sharma does this in her keynote, especially when providing examples of human biases in AI algorithms. For example: “A black or Latino person is less likely than a white person to pay off their loans on time.”

Key/interesting takeaway

As users of AI, we tend to reinforce human biases that are built into algorithms. We need more diversity in the building of AI to reduce these biases.

60. The human insights missing from big data by Tricia Wang

Wang explains how people in ancient Greece made big decisions by consulting an oracle. These days, our ‘oracle’ is big data, and it’s a US$122 billion industry. However, three-fourths of big data projects aren’t profitable.

So why isn’t big data helping people make better decisions?

Wang shares her observations gathered as a technology ethnographer who has worked with companies such as Nokia. Ethnography provides insight into human experience; but some companies fail to accept these insights simply because they’re not based on big data. However, big data tends to fail to account for new, evolving human conditions.

As a solution, Wang proposes that organizations combine big data with thick data, which comes from human stories, emotions, and interactions. Wang concludes that this combination of big data and thick data can produce better output and help people make better decisions.

Most inspiring quote     

“There is no greater risk than being blind to the unknown. It can cause you to make the wrong decisions. It can cause you to miss something big.”

Storytelling tips

Back up your solutions by explaining how influential organizations have applied them. Netflix, for example, has made us of both big data and thick data. In fact, it was through an ethnographer that they discovered that people loved to binge-watch and didn’t feel guilty about it—insight that Netflix’s big data couldn’t provide.

Key/interesting takeaway

Even in this day and age of big data, qualitative data-gathering methods like ethnography are still relevant and can provide us insights that quantitative data misses.

61. Why tech needs the humanities by Eric Berridge

Berridge says the USA is making “a colossal mistake” in fiercely pushing STEM subjects in the education curriculum at the expense of the humanities and arts. He proposes instead that we value the sciences and humanities equally.

Berridge discusses the advantages of studying humanities in a technical world. He concludes by saying that with technology getting easier and more accessible, it should free up the workforce to “study whatever they damn well please.”

Most inspiring quote     

“Yes, you can hire a bunch of artists and build a tech company and have an incredible outcome.”

Storytelling tips

Companies may tend to be protective about their strategies—that’s why they call them “secrets” to success. But sharing your solution can improve your industry, too. 

Berridge tells the audience about the time he and his team went into a bar and came out with a $200 million business. As a software consulting firm, they were failing to satisfy a big client that needed to deploy a new system. Long story short, they ended up sending the bartender, Jeff, in a moment of desperation to the client. Jeff was not a programmer, but he did help solve the client’s problem.

This experience ushered in a change in their recruitment preferences. While they continued to hire computer engineers and computer science majors, they also began hiring artists, musicians, and writers. The result was a replication of Jeff’s success.

Key/interesting takeaway

In one of the world’s most successful software consulting firms, only around 10 percent of staff are computer engineers or computer science majors. 

62. Technology hasn’t changed love. Here’s why by Helen Fisher

Fisher talks about polygyny, or a man having several wives—a practice that is apparently permitted in 88 percent of human societies. In practice, though, only five to 10 percent of men in these societies do have several wives.

She then presents her central argument: That technology isn’t really changing love. This conclusion is the result of her studies of the human brain. Technology is changing the way we court and express sexuality, but not the way we love and who we choose to love.

However, technology has ushered in the paradox of choice, where people get overwhelmed by so many choices and end up not making any decision. This has led to “slow love,” a form of courtship manifested in a few ways, such as living long-term with a person before deciding on marriage. She concludes by saying that any human relationship must take into account the “unquenchable, adaptable and primordial human drive to love.”

Most inspiring quote     

“Love and attachment will prevail, technology cannot change it.”

Storytelling tips

Intersperse scientific facts and statistics with anecdotes and jokes. Fisher discusses how she created a questionnaire that 14 million people in 40 countries have answered. The questionnaire measured how people fit into one of four very broad styles of thinking and behaving, which showed that people have “natural patterns of mate choice,” and that technology hasn’t changed that.

Key/interesting takeaway

Even though studies show that technology is changing parts of the human brain or how it works, it has not changed love.

63. Why you should quit social media by Cal Newport

This is how Newport introduces himself at the beginning of his talk: “You probably don’t realize that right now, you’re actually looking at something quite rare. Because I am a millennial computer scientist book author standing on a TEDx stage, and yet, I’ve never had a social media account.”

Although this began as a random decision, he has realized that he is better off without social media. He explains to the audience the benefits, both personally and professionally, of not having a social media account. He then tries to convince the audience to quit social media, doing this by talking about the usual objections people raise against his choice.

Newport describes life without social media ending on a humorous note: “Some of you might disagree, some of you might have scathing but accurate critiques of me and my points, and of course, I welcome all negative feedback. I just ask that you direct your comments towards Twitter. Thank you.”

Most inspiring quote     

“It’s surprising how much you can get done in a eight-hour day if you’re able to give each thing intense concentration one after another.”

Storytelling tips

When presenting a controversial premise, anticipate the objections, then debunk them. For example, one common objection to Newport’s advocacy is that there’s no harm in using social media. Newport presents evidence that social media does bring with “significant harms,” such as breaking up our attention and permanently reducing our concentration. This is detrimental to our capacity to exert deep effort to create work that’s valuable in the digital economy. Research also associates social media use with feelings of loneliness.

Key/interesting takeaway

Social media is not a fundamental technology, and even in this day and age, one can live a full life without it.

Innovative technologies

64. How we can teach computers to make sense of our emotions by Raphael Arar

Arar describes his work at an AI research lab and predicts that decades from now, people will want to connect with computers “in deeply emotional ways.” That means “the technology has to be just as much human as it is artificial.”

He believes that art is the way to bridge both sides of the equation.

To explore this idea, Arar built an art installation that asked people to share a story. The computer then analyzes it, breaks down the emotions, and comes up with a “nostalgia score.” The higher the score, the rosier the color of the art installation becomes. It’s a reference to looking at the world through rose-colored glasses.

There are other applications of this idea, such as helping AI bots have more human conversations. He also describes a project of his that tries to connect human intuition with AI. To summarize, he explains that he’s “trying to embed more humanness” into AI.

Most inspiring quote     

“Art is a way to put tangible experiences to intangible ideas, feelings and emotions.”

Storytelling tips

When talking about something as complex as AI, explain and show parts of the process instead of just the end product, which we all have an idea about. For example, Arar shows and dissects a sample conversation using an AI bot.

Key/interesting takeaway

It may be possible to embed deep human emotions into AI.

65. The thrilling potential of SixthSense technology by Pranav Mistry

When interacting with the digital world, how can we leverage our knowledge about everyday objects and gestures? This is the question that Mistry sets out to answer.

He tells the audience about an experiment he performed in 2000, where he took apart two computer mouse devices and ended up creating a cheap motion-sensing device. He talks about other projects involving gestures and computer interfaces, and shares photos and videos to help the audience understand what he’s talking about.

These experiments eventually led him to create SixthSense, a device that lets people use any surface as a digital interface and that understands the user’s hand gestures. To conclude, Mistry says that integrating information into everyday objects helps bridge the divide between the physical and digital worlds. It also allows us to interact with technology while staying connected to our physical surroundings.

Most inspiring quote     

“Integrating information to everyday objects will not only help us to get rid of the digital divide, the gap between these two worlds, but will also help us, in some way, to stay human, to be more connected to our physical world.”

Storytelling tips

Provide plenty of photo and video examples when explaining technology that the audience may not have used before.

Key/interesting takeaway

We can change the way we interact with our devices by integrating physical gestures with digital information.

Work Issues

66. 3 myths about the future of work (and why they’re not true) by Daniel Susskind

Susskind addresses the anxiety surrounding the future of work, including the possibility of certain human jobs being replaced by machines. However, Susskind asserts that technological unemployment is a good problem to have.

The important thing to focus on is maintaining a balance between machines and humans. However, he reiterates his claim that technological unemployment is a good problem, because it’s far better than the problem of having very little work available in the first place.

Most inspiring quote     

 “The future is both troubling and exciting.”

Storytelling tips

One popular tip for giving presentations and speeches is the “rule of three”—break down concepts into three sections or major points. In his keynote, Susskind presents and debunks three myths related to the future of work. 

One is the Terminator myth, where robots aim to become substitutes for human beings in the workplace. However, Susskind says robots will complement rather than replace humans.

Another is the intelligence myth: “The belief that machines have to copy the way that human beings think and reason in order to outperform them.” However, AI systems today are trained to use pattern recognition algorithms. We mustn’t equate human capabilities and limitations with those of intelligent machines.

The third is the superiority myth—thinking that humans are best suited to perform a task. In fact, machines may become more capable of certain tasks.

Key/interesting takeaway

We haven’t figured out how to maintain the balance between machines and humans. Unfortunately, the balance currently falls in favor of machines.

67. How to train employees to have difficult conversations by Tamekia Smith

Smith explains how people like retail clerks gather customer data by asking simple questions, like a person’s zip code. But it’s a different story when they need to ask difficult questions. 

When staff aren’t trained to ask such questions properly, people decline to answer, and businesses end up with bad data and possibly a bad image. So Smith developed a training program to teach people to ask these questions with “respect and compassionate care.”

Most inspiring quote     

“When teaching human beings to communicate with other human beings, it should be delivered by a human being.”

Storytelling tips

Provide concrete examples of issues that you want to address. Smith provides examples of gray areas backs in the form of difficult questions that staff at establishments are forced to ask. These include sexuality or being born in the USA (a sensitive question due to the risk of deportation).

Key/interesting takeaway

Companies can risk ruining their image in the eyes of their customers by failing to train their staff on ways to gather data.

68. This is the side hustle revolution by Nicaila Okome

Okome provides a context and history of the side hustle, which is a bit different from having a second job. A side hustle not only provides extra income, it’s also aspirational and captures an entrepreneurial drive.

Based on interviews of more than 100 women with side hustles, Okome arrived at a few observations. One is that people are seeing more opportunities within their communities. Another is that more and more people want to become their own boss. Third, people are “multi-passionate”. Lastly, people “want to make a bet on themselves.”

She ends by sharing how side hustles help us find happiness and hope in our work.

Most inspiring quote     

“Side hustles are about embracing that hope that we can be the ones making the decisions on how we spend our work lives.”

Storytelling tips

Instead of just using photos, show videos of passionate people in action. Okome uses videos to share the stories of women who love their side hustles. For example, one started a beauty company after experimenting with making fragrances and hair oils—not out of necessity or unhappiness but because of how good she felt when she came home from work every day.

Key/interesting takeaway

Side hustles can empower people, especially those belonging to minority groups.

69. What are you willing to give up to change the way we work? By Martin Danoesastro

Danoesastro asks the audience to visualize a flock of birds flying together. Scientists believe these birds follow simple rules that allow them to make autonomous decisions while flying in sync with the group. 

This reflects Danoesastro’s proposition for a new way of working—one that allows people to make decisions independently but keeps them aligned to the same purpose. 

He presents the example of one company that he helped with implementing change. He shares the challenges and solutions implemented, including breaking down silos between different departments in order to create multidisciplinary teams. 

Most inspiring quote

“The world is getting faster and more complex, so we need to reboot our way of working. And the hardest part of that change is not in structure or process or procedure… We all have to lead the change.”    

Storytelling tips

Ask the audience a question and repeat it at least once during your keynote. Begin and end with the question to call the audience to action. In this TED Talk, Danoesastro asks the audience: What are you willing to give up?

Key/interesting takeaway

Organizations can implement a new model that provides teams with autonomy while ensuring that they are aligned to one and the same purpose.

70. Why jobs of the future won’t feel like work by David Lee

By changing the nature of work, we can generate innovation and create jobs and work environments that people will love. He also narrates his experience in working with a bank to introduce more innovation into its company culture. They asked staff to build anything they want, beyond their job descriptions. As a result, the company discovered skills and talents in their employees that were useful for the types of problems they wanted to solve.

Lee concludes by inviting the audience on his journey to “bring more humanity to our working lives.”

Most inspiring quote     

“I believe that the key to preventing our jobless future is to rediscover what makes us human, and to create a new generation of human-centered jobs that allow us to unlock the hidden talents and passions that we carry with us every day.”

Storytelling tips

Before explaining your advocacy, convince the audience that there’s a need for it. Lee sets the context by citing widespread concerns about a jobless future where technology has replaced human workers. He advocates for designing new kinds of jobs that will retain their relevance in the age of robotics.

Key/interesting takeaway

When people are allowed to innovate and create, their jobs don’t feel like work, even if they have to put in intense effort.

71. How generational stereotypes hold us back at work by Leah Georges

Georges begins by saying that for the first time in America’s modern history, five generations are interacting at work. This interesting fact leads her to discuss the characteristics of each generation.

Then, she presents an unexpected spin on this narrative: “What if I told you these generations may not exist?” Georges’ research has led her to doubt that these generations are real, and that there are strict definitions of who belongs to them. These generations are also described differently around the world.

She argues that stereotypes about our generations often tend to become self-fulfilling prophecies. Georges adds that this emphasis on generational cohorts has made us forget “that people are people.” She advocates meeting people and learning about them as individuals, instead of judging them based on their generation.

Most inspiring quote     

“To really understand the beauty of the multi-generational workplace, I think we just have to meet people where they are. And that doesn’t require that we unpack and live there with them. But we might find, at least on occasion, it’s a beautiful place to visit.”

Storytelling tips

If you’re trying to dispel widely accepted, long-held beliefs and perceptions, try not presenting your argument right away. Present examples of these perceptions until it becomes clear that the one thing they have in common is that they are too generalized. Once you lead the audience to this realization, then present your argument. This is what Georges does when she introduces her argument that the concept of generations is not realistic.

Key/interesting takeaway

The concept of generational cohorts may not be as realistic and widely applicable as we believe it to be.

72. Why working from home is good for business by Matt Mullenweg

Mullenweg introduces himself as the CEO of Automattic, which is the company behind some famous Internet products such as WordPress. He shares that the company has over 800 employees who are spread out across 67 countries. Their location doesn’t matter to Mullenweg, as long as they can find good WiFi.

He explains that Automattic made a “conscious choice from the beginning” to have a distributed workforce. One reason is that “talent and intelligence are equally distributed throughout the world. But opportunity is not.”

He provides ways to make a distributed workforce a success. For example, teams should have as much communication as possible online. People should also have the flexibility to choose or create their own work environment. He ends by encouraging listeners to consider how they can tap into global talent while giving people autonomy in the way they live and work.

Most inspiring quote     

“Give people autonomy to live and work where they feel they should and still participate fully in whatever it is that you’re creating together.”

Storytelling tips

When presenting a seemingly radical solution, provide the audience with concrete, actionable steps. Mullenweg advises companies that when they transition to a remote workforce, they must use suitable tools that enable collaboration. They should also “create productive, face-to-face time” between team members.

Key/interesting takeaway

In the next decade or two, around 90 percent of companies, especially those looking to change the world, will have a distributed workforce.

Personal growth & development

73. How to get back to work after a career break by Carol Cohen

Relaunching a career after a break can be difficult, but there are people who have done so successfully. Cohen tells stories of these people or ‘relaunchers,’ complete with pictures and information on the length of their career breaks—as long as 25 years for one social worker. Cohen herself is a relauncher.

Some companies are now offering re-entry internship programs for relaunchers, as this allows them to assess people based on their projects rather than their resumes. Cohen believes the same concept can be applied for veterans and retirees. She aims to convince more employers to adopt re-entry internships.

Most inspiring quote     

“It’s the relauncher’s responsibility to demonstrate to the employer where they can add the most value.”

Storytelling tips

When telling people’s stories, share their photos to add a more personal touch to the narrative.

Key/interesting takeaway

Prestigious institutions are now seeing the value that relaunchers bring to the table. It’s now possible to get back in the game even after a career gap of 10 or 20 years.

74. The happy secret to better work by Shawn Achor

Positive psychology has become a widespread concept. Psychologists have found that the lens through which we view the world shapes our reality. Changing this lens allows you to change your happiness. Achor’s research has shown that it can improve educational and business outcomes, too.

He concludes by saying that we can train our brains for happiness and success and create ripples of positivity and change.

Most inspiring quote     

“It’s not necessarily the reality that shapes us, but the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality.”

Storytelling tips

Use a very simple example to explain an abstract or scientific concept. Achor recalls a time as a kid when his sister fell from their bunk bed while they were playing a game. He convinced his sister not to cry by suggesting that she was a unicorn because she had landed on all fours. The trick worked; his sister decided to accept her newfound identity instead of fixate on the pain.

Key/interesting takeaway

It’s possible to train your brain for happiness—and doing so can also set you up for success.

75. The career advice you probably didn’t get by Susan Colantuono

Colantuono presents statistics about women in the workforce and asks: “Why are there so many women mired in the middle [management], and what has to happen to take them to the top?”

She points out that to reach the top, you need to be known for your leadership skills. You also need to prove business, strategic, and financial acumen. However, women are not often given this advice. Women in the workplace also tend to receive different types of mentoring than men. Colantuono gives an example where a mentor said he trained women to be confident and men to learn the business.

Colantuono encourages the audience to spread the career advice that women are not often given in order to close the gender gap at the top.

Most inspiring quote

“It’s important for women and men who are in management positions to examine the mindsets we hold about women and men, about careers and success, to make sure we are creating a level playing field for everybody.”

Storytelling tips

Colantuono anchors her talk on the story of one woman leader’s experience. This allows her to provide a personal, relatable angle to the abstract business concepts she discusses.

Key/interesting takeaway

Women managers are often trained in a different way from male managers, diminishing the former’s chances of reaching the top of their organizations.

On job hunting

76. Why the best hire might not have the perfect resume by Regina Hartley

Hartley asks the audience to imagine a hypothetical hiring scenario and choose which candidate they would pick. One potential candidate had advantages in life, like a good education. The other had to fight against tremendous odds to get to the same point.

As a human resources director, Hartley has learned over the years that resumes tell a story. And a series of odd jobs isn’t necessarily a sign of inconsistency, but may reveal a person’s committed struggle against hardships. She urges the audience to give such candidates a chance by interviewing them. She also cites studies that show how adversity leads to resilience in people.

Hartley concludes her talk by encouraging the audience to “choose the underestimated contender, whose secret weapons are passion and purpose.”

Most inspiring quote     

“The conventional thinking has been that trauma leads to distress, and there’s been a lot of focus on the resulting dysfunction. But during studies of dysfunction, data revealed an unexpected insight: That even the worst circumstances can result in growth and transformation.”

Storytelling tips

Sharing photos of your childhood and family can make you more relatable to the audience by establishing a more personal, open communication approach.

Key/interesting takeaway

Job hopping isn’t always a negative reflection of a person’s character. A career history that looks like ‘patchy quiltwork’ may be telling the story of determination in the face of adversity.

77. How to find work you love by Scott Dinsmore

Dinsmore shares with the audience the worst career advice he ever received: “Don’t worry about how much you like the work you’re doing now. It’s all about just building your resume.” 

Fortunately, at around the same time he came across quite different advice from Warren Buffett: “Taking jobs to build up your resume is the same as saving up sex for old age.”

So Dinsmore left his job at a Fortune 500 company, where he was quite unhappy, to find work that he felt made an impact. He also set out to discover what sets apart the people who do passionate work that changes the world.

Dinsmore eventually developed a three-step “passionate work framework.” First step is to become a self-expert and understand yourself. Second is to understand the priorities that drive our decisions. Third is to learn from our experiences.

He ends by imagining a world where most people love the work they do. He asks the audience to ask themselves: “What is the work I can’t not do?”

Most inspiring quote     

“Surround yourself with passionate people. The fastest way to do things you don’t think can be done is to surround yourself with people already doing them.”

Storytelling tips

Include inspirational quotes by other people in your speech, For example, Dinsmore cites a quote from Jim Rohn: “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” These quotes can be used to support your argument.

Key/interesting takeaway

Instead of asking what it is you want to do, try asking what it is you cannot stop yourself from doing. This may point you towards the type of work you can do that you’re passionate about and that can help change the world.

78. Looking for a job? Highlight your ability, not your experience by Jason Shen

Shen begins his talk with a tongue-in-cheek statement: “You know who I’m envious of? People who work in a job that has to do with their college major.” He shares how he had difficulty landing a job before being hired as a product manager at ecommerce platform Etsy. Brian Acton, an engineering manager, was rejected by Facebook and Twitter before cofounding WhatsApp.

These lead to Shen’s point, which is that the “hiring systems we built in the 20th century are failing us and causing us to miss out on people with incredible potential.” With AI and robotics, many of us now have to do jobs we’ve never done before.  

He offers three ideas to help solve this problem: Expand your search, hire for performance, and get the bigger picture by getting a holistic view of a person. 

Most inspiring quote     

“Let’s stop equating experience with ability, credentials with competence. Let’s stop settling for the safe, familiar choice and leave the door open for someone who could be amazing.”

Storytelling tips

Have a consistent design style on all your slides.

Key/interesting takeaway

Many jobs today will require us to do work we’ve never done or studied for in the past.

Social & moral issues

79. The danger of a single story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Adichie tells the audience about “the danger of the single story.” For example, as a kid, the children’s books available for her to read were British and American. So, at the age of seven, she started writing stories about blue-eyed characters who played in the snow—despite that fact that she lived in Nigeria and had never before left the country.

She became convinced that books had to have foreigners in them. That all changed when she discovered Nigerian books. She realized that people like herself could also exist as characters in literature.

The single story is related to power, too, as those in power tend to determine which stories get told. The consequence of the single story, says Adichie, is that it robs people of their dignity and emphasizes differences instead of similarities between peoples.

Adicihie ends with this thought: “When we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise.”

Most inspiring quote     

“Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.”

Storytelling tips

Be honest with your audience and don’t be afraid to show vulnerability. Adichie not only talked about the humiliation she experienced but also confessed how she, too, had been guilty of believing in a single story and letting it dictate how she saw other people and places.

Key/interesting takeaway

A story, told again and again, can shape our perspectives of people and places that we have never even encountered.

80. The new age of corporate monopolies by Margrethe Vistager

Vistager takes the audience back to 1957, during the creation of the European Union (EU), which she called a “peace project” for the war-torn member nations. One of the building blocks of the Union was a common market guided by fair competition. Now, as commissioner for competition, it’s her job to make sure businesses in Europe comply with fair competition rules.

She then explains why we need rules for competition in the first place. “When greed and fear are linked to power, you have a dangerous mix,” says Vistager. The EU’s rules prevent greed and fear from overcoming fairness. Companies will not be able to misuse their power to sabotage the competition and monopolize the market.

Vistager ends by expressing her strong belief in the role that fair competition plays in society.

Most inspiring quote

“We can trust each other if we are treated as equals.”    

Storytelling tips

Make political and economic concepts understandable by providing everyday examples. Vistager explains how cartels that fix the prices of car parts make the end product more expensive. Because of competition rules, the European Commission has been able to investigate these cartels in order to stop the collusion and prevent car prices from ballooning.

Key/interesting takeaway

Trust cannot be imposed—it must be earned. This is true for markets, businesses, governments, and individuals.

81. To solve the world’s biggest problems, invest in women and girls by Musimbi Kanyoro

Kanyoro tells the audience about her mother’s philanthropy in their community through a practice known in their language, Maragoli, as “isirika.” 

Isirika “is a pragmatic way of life that embraces charity, services and philanthropy all together.” She tells the audience stories about isirika in action, such as the community contributing money to send a neighbor’s child to school.

Kanyoro believes we can improve philanthropy by embracing isirika, and she does that today in the work she does with women’s groups and advocates. 

Most inspiring quote     

“Isirika is the evergreen wisdom that lives in communities. You find it in indigenous communities, in rural communities. And what it really ingrains in people is that ability to trust and to move the agenda ahead.”

Storytelling tips

Localize your story by sharing words in your own language with the audience.

Key/interesting takeaway

Philanthropy and pragmatism don’t necessarily clash. They come together in the concept of “isirika.”

82. What it’s like to be the child of immigrants by Michael Rain

Rain shares examples of misconceptions about immigrants that he encountered as he grew up, as well as complex cultural issues that he had to struggle with. Now, working as a digital storyteller, he captures similar stories and issues. He launched a project called Enodi, which tells the story of first-generation immigrants like himself.

He invites the audience to discover the immigrants in their midst and engage them in conversation to learn about their lives.

Most inspiring quote     

“We’re walking melting pots of culture, and if something in that pot smells new or different to you, don’t turn up your nose. Ask us to share.”

Storytelling tips

Narrate a single incident as a microcosm, or an example of a larger, prevailing issue in society. Rain recalls a day in his third grade when his mother sent him to school with “fufu,” a Ghanaian staple dish. They were living in the US, and his classmates did not appreciate the fufu’s smell. After that, Rain begged his mother never to pack fufu for his school lunch again. This small incident serves as an example of the everyday misconceptions that immigrants encounter.

Key/interesting takeaway

The majority of American adults don’t know that the fastest-growing demographic in the United States are African immigrants, not Latinos.

83. What are the most important moral problems of our time? by Will MacAskill

MacAskill talks about a philosophy and research program that he and his colleagues have been developing for a decade. It’s called effective altruism. It uses evidence and reasoning to determine how we can do the most good. This can be applied to many issues, like global health, factory farming, and existential risks. He discusses his framework for addressing such problems.

MacAskill concludes by admitting that effective altruism is still in its infant stage. But he expresses optimism that this way of thinking can help us make a large difference in the world today and in the future.

Most inspiring quote     

“The Scientific and Industrial Revolutions transformed both our understanding of the world and our ability to alter it. What we need is an ethical revolution so that we can work out how do we use this tremendous bounty of resources to improve the world.”

Storytelling tips

Ground your keynote in history. MacAskill begins by presenting to the audience a graph representing “the economic history of human civilization.” It showed that for most of human history, people lived on the equivalent of a dollar a day, up until the scientific and industrial revolutions. The graph, says MacAskill, shows that humans, now more than ever, have the means to change the world but that “our ethical understanding hasn’t yet caught up with this fact.” So he calls for an ethical revolution.

Key/interesting takeaway

Humans today are in a good position to make a tremendous difference in the world, with the potential to make an impact that will last for centuries to come.

84. How does income affect childhood brain development? by Kimberly Noble

Noble dives right in and discusses a study of the brains of more than 1,000 children and adolescents from diverse homes in the USA. She shows a picture that represents the average of all the participants’ brains. The research showed that family income was associated with a larger cortical surface area, which in turn is correlated with higher intelligence.

This link is strongest at the lowest income levels and does not depend on race, ethnicity, age, or sex. Moreover, the results showed great variability from one child to another.

However, there’s a way to help children from disadvantaged families. This can be done through school-based initiatives, as well as other experiences such as nutrition, health care, and the home language environment.

Most inspiring quote     

“If we can show that reducing poverty changes how children’s brains develop and that leads to meaningful policy changes, then a young child born into poverty today may have a much better shot at a brighter future.”

Storytelling tips

Establish your credibility by telling the audience about how your work relates to your keynote. As a neuroscientist, Noble knows that experiences change the human brain, which is why she’s able to offer solutions to the problem at hand.

Key/interesting takeaway

Exposing children to consistent and diverse conversation can improve their intelligence, no matter their family’s income level.

85. Why I train grandmothers to treat depression by Dixon Chibanda

Chibanda tells the audience of a young mother who looks dejected, and an 82-year-old woman, known to the community as Grandmother Jack, who offers her comfort and a listening ear. 

The young woman is suffering from depression, like more than 300 million people around the world, according to estimates by the World Health Organization. But there are not enough psychiatrists and psychologists to deal with this problem. In fact, Chibanda is one of only 12 psychiatrists in his country, which has a population of around 14 million.

Eventually, Chibanda hit upon the idea of having grandmothers help with this problem. After all, there are plenty of grandmothers in the country. In 2006, he started training grandmothers in evidence-based talk therapy. By the time of his talk, there were hundreds of trained grandmothers working in more than 70 communities, holding therapy sessions on park benches. One mother treated over 30,000 people within a year.

Results in clinical trials showed that the grandmothers were achieving good results, even six months after a person had received treatment. They even had better results than doctors. This has led the psychiatric community to expand Chibanda’s program.

Most inspiring quote

“Imagine if we could create a global network of grandmothers in every major city in the world, who are trained in evidence-based talk therapy, supported through digital platforms, networked. And they will make a difference in communities. They will reduce the treatment gap for mental, neurological and substance-use disorders.”

Storytelling tips

Humanize statistics by supporting them with anecdotes. For example, in explaining the ratio of psychiatrists to patients in his country, Chibanda told the story of how he was called one evening to the emergency room of a hospital where a patient of his had taken an overdose of pills. The hospital was 200 kilometers away, so he had to make do with making an assessment over the phone.

Key/interesting takeaway

We can mobilize our communities—and yes, our grandmothers—to provide evidence-based therapy to people suffering from depression.

86. What really motivates people to be honest in business by Alexander Wagner

Wagner begins by asking the audience a question: “How many companies have you interacted with today?” From showering to eating breakfast, commuting to work and dealing with clients, you might interact with at least seven companies on any given day.

He juxtaposes this with a shocking fact—that one out of seven large, public corporations commit fraud every year. For the past 10 years, Wagner has been conducting research on fraud in corporations, and on what motivates people to be honest.

He and his fellow researchers have found that people have “protected values,” and that people are willing to pay a price to uphold these values. He concludes by suggesting that while organizations can appeal to incentives to maintain honesty, it’s also important to select people who share the values that are most important to the company.

Most inspiring quote     

“Selecting the right people with the right values may go a long way to saving a lot of trouble and a lot of money in your organizations. In other words, it will pay off to put people first.”

Storytelling tips

Engage the audience by asking them to imagine themselves in hypothetical situations and having to make a choice.

Key/interesting takeaway

People have protected values, but researchers are still studying whether these values spring from nature or from nurture.

87. When workers own companies, the economy is more resilient by Niki Okuk

Okuk immediately establishes a connection with her audience by asking a question that’s both relatable and amusing: “Are you tired of your boss?”

She talks about being tired of capitalism despite being a capitalist herself, as a business owner. She started a tire recycling company to create what some people call “green-collar jobs,” or environmentally responsible jobs. She says she would like the company to become a cooperative and “fire the boss.”  

Okuk shares examples of cooperativism, where workers own the companies they work for. She provides the audience with strategies to bring about cooperativism in their cities. She ends with a quote from the writer Arundhati Roy about challenging our empires and bringing about a corporate revolution.

Most inspiring quote     

“I would like for them to fire the boss—that’s me.”

Storytelling tips

When telling your story, acknowledge the aspects that might not seem as appealing. For example, Okuk admits that she was able to start a company partly because of her “white privilege,” and points out that racism and capitalism are bedfellows.

Key/interesting takeaway

Cooperativism is a viable business model alternative to capitalism.

Other topics 

88. Personal success stories

How I became an entrepreneur at 66 by Paul Tasner

Tasner was fired from a directorial position at the age of 64. He spent the next two years as a consultant for companies, but “without any passion whatsoever.”

He then started thinking about starting a business that would help address his concern for the environment and so he started a clean technology company. He shares how daunting his entrepreneurial experience was, but that the company today is profitable, growing, multi-awarded, and contributing to solving the plastic pollution crisis.

But when he was starting out, he yearned for role models—entrepreneurs his age. So he wants to encourage a public conversation around people who become entrepreneurs for the first time when they are already in their senior years.

Most inspiring quote     

“Aren’t the accomplishments of a 70-year-old entrepreneur every bit as meaningful, every bit as newsworthy, as the accomplishments of a 30-year-old entrepreneur? Of course they are.”

Storytelling tips

Get the audience to understand why your situation is unusual and difficult. For example, Tasner shares how few entrepreneurs in his city were older people like himself, and how investors typically invested in young, promising founders and startups.

Key/interesting takeaway

In the USA, older entrepreneurs have a 70 percent success rate in business.

89. How I held my breath for 17 minutes by David Blaine

Blaine, a famous magician in the USA, describes some of the most challenging tricks he has done in order to “create images that make people stop and think.” For example, he once allowed himself to be buried alive in a coffin for a week, subsisting only on water.

After describing similar feats, Blaine introduces the next challenge he sought to overcome—seeing how long he could go without breathing. He describes the attempts he made, as well as the warning he received from doctors about damaging his brain.

He found inspiration in pearl divers and freedivers, who could swim underwater for four minutes with a single breath. After months of gruelling training, he was able to hold his breath for 17 minutes and four seconds.

Blaine ends his speech on an emotional note about magic enabling him to push through pain.

Most inspiring quote     

“[Magic] is practice, it’s training, and experimenting, while pushing through the pain to be the best that I can be.”

Storytelling tips

Blaine engages the audience by telling stories, which are accompanied by photos of his experiments and training. He captures the audience by being honest, providing concrete details and descriptions of his experiences, and not being afraid to show raw emotion.

Key/interesting takeaway

Magic isn’t simply about tricks and illusion. It’s about testing the limits of possibility.

90. How to make a profit while making a difference by Audrey Choi

Choi believes that big institutions can drive change, and that individuals can influence the directions that these institutions take. Many people may be skeptical of this statement, and she voices out their concerns: If this is true, then “why aren’t we able to make our voices heard?”

Choi suggests that people can influence institutions by becoming investors and backing companies that promote social good. She provides proof that sustainable investing can provide high returns and can truly help responsible institutions grow. The obstacle, she says, is merely in our limited perspectives.

Most inspiring quote     

“Passionate clarity: That’s what I think we need to drive change. Passion about the change we want to see in the world, and clarity that we are able to help chart the course.”

Storytelling tips

Alternate between sharing research data and telling stories. This helps add credibility to your argument but also enables the audience to relate with it on a personal level.

Key/interesting takeaway

Sustainable investing is a $20 trillion market. It can provide twice as much returns as businesses that simply aim to make money without committing to a mission beyond profits.

91. A 12-year-old app developer by Thomas Suarez

Suarez talks about his passion for technology and describes the apps that he created as a kid. He explains that a lot of kids want to not only play games, but also to make them. However, it’s difficult to find the right support and resources.

This raises the question of what we—the adults—are doing to support and nurture the progress of children. Suarez ends by saying he’d like to keep creating new apps and find ways for students to share knowledge and up their skills in programming.

Most inspiring quote     

“For soccer, you could go to a soccer team. For violin, you could get lessons for a violin. But what if you want to make an app?”

Storytelling tips

Use simple examples to make it easier for the audience to relate to your story, especially if you’re talking about a niche skill like app development.

Key/interesting takeaway

It’s surprisingly hard to find a place where people, in particular kids, can develop their passion for programming.

92. A feminine response to Iceland’s financial crash by Halla Tomasdottir

Tomasdottir tells the story of Audur Capital, a financial firm that she and another woman founded. They both left their lucrative jobs in finance because of the overwhelming male culture of the industry. She notes that a lack of diversity leads to disastrous problems.

They decided to incorporate ‘feminine’ values into the world of finance through their firm. These include risk awareness, honesty, doing “emotional due diligence,” and making profit with principles. She encourages the audience to focus on developing good, sustainable businesses and to embrace our differences.

Most inspiring quote     

“Consumers… are going to change the face of business and finance from the outside, if they don’t do it from the inside.”

Storytelling tips

Provide context by discussing the wider geopolitical background of your story. Tomasdottir’s talk is told in the context of the 2008 economic recession and financial crisis, making her experience even more relevant.

Key/interesting takeaway

When systems fail us, we tend to spend time trying to rebuild them instead of looking for new business or economic models to work with.

93. In praise of conflict by Jonathan Marks

Marks introduces the line of thinking that he wants to change: “We are constantly told that conflict is bad that compromise is good; that conflict is bad but consensus is good; that conflict is bad and collaboration is good.” He calls this perspective a “far too simple vision of the world.”

He believes that conflict shouldn’t necessarily be avoided, especially when it comes to relationships between the public and private sectors. He provides examples, from India to London, that he discovered during his research, in which the avoidance of conflict led to the creation of new problems.

Marks’ recommendation is for institutions, especially governments, to engage with conflict. This is notably important when governments deal with corporations, as the latter tend to act in their own interests while the former is mandated to protect and promote the common good.

Most inspiring quote     

“We cannot know whether conflict is bad unless we know who is fighting, why they are fighting and how they are fighting. And compromises can be thoroughly rotten if they harm people who are not at the table, people who are vulnerable, disempowered, people whom we have an obligation to protect.”

Storytelling tips

Begin with a story that allows you to introduce the ideology that you will be talking about. Marks tells the audience a story about a friend of his who worked at the British Foreign Office, and the reasons why he left his job. His friend saw that the government was unwilling to engage in conflict with other countries, despite the extent of harm being done to innocent lives in those places.

Key/interesting takeaway

The avoidance of conflict may result in compromises that do not solve the problem, but instead give rise to new ones.

94. Our dangerous obsession with perfectionism is getting worse by Thomas Curran

Curran claims that many people are actually quite proud of having perfectionism as their flaw. He says that people tend to see perfectionism as a sign of worthiness and success.

He shares his research, which shows that perfectionism is increasing. Young people today are obsessed with arraigning “the perfect life and lifestyle.” We grow up being told that if we want something badly enough, we can attain it.

However, says Curran, it’s a complete fiction that people are in total control of their destiny. Still, this idea persists. He shares examples that he witnessed first-hand as a mentor of young people.

There is hope, although treatment is complex. Curran prescribes self-compassion. He also notes the importance of kids’ formative years and the role that parents play. Adults need to teach children that failure is not equal to weakness.

Most inspiring quote

“In a chaotic world, life will often defeat us, but that’s okay. Failure is not weakness.” 

Storytelling tips

Avoid making your speech sound like an attack on a certain type of personality. One way to do this is to confess having a similar weakness. Curran begins his keynote by admitting that he’s “a bit of a perfectionist.” which he does not deem as a positive thing.

Key/interesting takeaway

It’s very difficult for a perfectionist to stop being one. Treatment is complex and requires not just the individual’s efforts, but also a change in society and its expectations.

95. The brain benefits of deep sleep — and how to get more of it by Dan Gartenberg

Gartenberg shares the question that has captivated him for the past decade: “What if you could make your sleep more efficient?” This is a pressing question, as people today are not getting the sleep they need. Some even boast about the fact that they can function on little sleep.

He shares his research about deep sleep, which scientists believe to be the most regenerative part of sleep. He narrates how he experimented with plenty of gadgets to try to achieve deep sleep, but failed. Finally, he came across research at a sleep lab in Germany that showed certain sounds could stimulate deep sleep.

He and his research partner developed a small device to play a certain pattern of sounds, and ran experiments to show that these actually stimulated brain waves to induce deeper sleep. 

Most inspiring quote     

“Our sleep isn’t as regenerative as it could be, but maybe one day soon, we could wear a small device and get more out of our sleep.”

Storytelling tips

When talking about a new technology or product, don’t simply ask the audience to imagine it. Bring proof of concept, such as an example of the device that you’re developing. If it involves audio, as Gartenberg’s device does, don’t stop short of describing the sounds to your audience. Play the actual sounds for them to listen to.

Key/interesting takeaway

The quality of our sleep affects not just our physical health, but also our personality. We lose regenerative delta waves associated with deep sleep as we age, but with the help of sounds, we can stimulate these waves.

96. How to spot a liar by Pamela Meyer

Meyer begins with a bold statement: “I don’t want to alarm you but it has come to my attention that the person next to you is a liar.” 

She points out that we’re all liars. We live in a post-truth society where deception is our daily bread and butter. We’re against lying, but we accept it and that’s how our society has been working. So how can we not only spot a liar but also seek truth to build better relationships?

Meyer teaches the audience how to detect liars, as well as truth-tellers. She shows the manners and “hotspots” used by those trained to recognize deception—and argues that honesty is a value worth preserving.

Most inspiring quote     

“Don’t overdo the botox. Nobody will think you’re honest.”

Storytelling tips

Displays photos that illustrate your points. When talking about how lying is a cooperative act, Meyer shows an image of a couple and a third person where the boyfriend holds hands with the third person behind his partner’s back. She also plays the video of Bill Clinton lying about Monica Lewinsky as an example.

Key/interesting takeaway

Lying is a cooperative act meaning that sometimes when we’re lied to, we agreed to get lied to. Studies show that at any day we might be lied to from 10 to 200 times. Lie-spotters detect lies 90% of the time while the rest of us do so with a 50% chance.

97. Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model. by Cameron Russell

Russell talks about how she has been a model for 10 years and makes an outfit change on stage. She introduces her journey with FAQs she has been asked throughout her life about her modeling career.

She presents her conflict about dealing with an industry of gender and racial oppression when she is one of the biggest beneficiaries. She also points out that we as a society often promote bias based on looks without even realizing that we’re doing it. She ends by exhorting the audience to acknowledge “the power of image in our perceived successes and our perceived failures.”

Most inspiring quote     

“Image is powerful but also… image is superficial.”

Storytelling tips

When talking about your experiences, structure them in the form of FAQs. Russell presents FAQs and alternates between serious and funny questions.

Key/interesting takeaway

While many models may say they’re having the time of their lives, deep down, modelling also makes them extremely insecure, unhappy, and uncomfortable.

98. Can we all “have it all”? by Anne-Marie Slaughter

Slaughter recalls the time she had the chance to be promoted to large, important role in the US State Department, and her surprising decision to decline it. She made that painful choice because she had been spending the past two years commuting between Washington and her hometown, and was seeing the toll it was taking on her husband and children. That decision, though, led her to reassess “the feminist narrative that I grew up with and have always championed.”

This leads her to a discussion on gender equality, and the belief that true equality means creating a much wider range of “equally respected choices” for women and men. That means having to change our culture, policies, and workplaces. She provides evidence that these changes are beginning to take place—but ends by telling the audience that how far the change goes, and how fast, is up to us.

Most inspiring quote

“The two great forces of human nature are self-interest and caring for others. Let’s bring them both together. Let’s make the feminist revolution a humanist revolution.”

Storytelling tips

Allow yourself to be vulnerable to the audience. Slaughter does this by sharing how painful her decisions was, and how it made her reassess the way she viewed herself and her ideas of feminism and equality.

Key/interesting takeaway

Equality means allowing people to make choices that would be deemed respectable regardless of their gender.

99. The investment logic for sustainability by Chris McKnett

McKnett observes that investors don’t appear to be paying enough attention to some of the biggest drivers of change in the world. This includes sustainability. He says that sustainable investing is high-performing and isn’t that complicated to achieve.

Throughout his talk, he shares examples of how investment in businesses that focus on sustainability pays off. Sustainable investing not only provides you with a good return on investment. It is also an investment in your future, as you are helping reduce the risk to our planet.

He ends with a quote from Mark Twain: “Plan for the future, because that’s where you’re going to spend the rest of your life.” 

Most inspiring quote     

“Sustainable investing is less complicated than you think, better-performing than you believe, and more important than we can imagine.”

Storytelling tips

Harness social proof to back up your argument. McKnett tells the audience that “about 80 percent of global CEOs see sustainability as the root to growth in innovation and leading to competitive advantage in their industries.” Meanwhile, 93 percent of global CEOs believe that environment, social, and governance performance are important to the future of their business.

Key/interesting takeaway

Sustainability investing is not just for your bank account; it also helps you protect yourself from future losses by supporting businesses that aim to improve the planet’s condition.

100. Why you should talk to strangers by Kio Stark

Stark says that she is “obsessed” with talking to strangers. Seven years before her TED Talk, she started documenting her experiences with strangers, which she said were unexpected pleasures and genuine emotional connections.

She also presents arguments in favor of talking with strangers. For example, researchers have found that people often feel more comfortable being honest about their inner selves with strangers than with close friends and families.

She then provides the audience tips for talking to strangers, as well as unspoken rules that different cultures follow. She concludes by saying that talking to strangers can help us become less suspicious of others and create a space for change.

Most inspiring quote     

 “When you talk to strangers, you’re making beautiful interruptions into the expected narrative of your daily life and theirs. You’re making unexpected connections.”

Storytelling tips

Understand how your audience may perceive your advice differently from the way you intended it. Stark acknowledges that people may find it dangerous to completely apply her advice when talking to strangers. She argues that we must use our senses instead of our fears.

Key/interesting takeaway

Even brief interactions with strangers can result in poignant, emotional connections and pleasant memories.