Saturday, June 12, 2010

The TED Standard

I have come to think of TED Talks as the gold standard for presentations. While not all of the TEDs are pure glorious intellectual entertainment, enough are to make the standard hold. It's worth asking -- what do the best TED talks have in common to set them apart from the run-of-the-mill lecture or mediocre PowerPoint presentation?

We can learn from TED talks when we think about education, about inspiring others to think and to learn. This is what was on my mind today when I attended TEDxHouston. First, you know there has to be some powerful chi at work when you have that many smart, articulate people in one room. The air pops with their enthusiasm -- they are so happy to have found one another. I found that the best talks are also conscious of their purpose, which is to be worthy of the "ideas worth spreading" label. Which basically means they are meant to inspire us in some amazingly thoughtful way. Finally, the best talks are expert performances (and the less good ones not so much). The "talks" come across as conversations meant to enthrall and amuse, while they also tackle the big questions of the world. One final note: the best speakers use big, powerful images and only a select few words as written text in their digital presentations -- or they use no digital presentations at all. The best speakers connect with their audience and do not merely speak from on high.

Here are some of the highlights from today's delicious deli tray of ideas:

Dr. Brene Brown:
"Stories are just data with a soul."
"Embracing vulnerability as beautiful is the birthplace of joy, creativity, love."
"You cannot selectively numb your emotions."
"We pretend that what we do doesn't affect other people."
"We need to let ourselves be seen, love with our whole hearts, practice gratitude, lean into joy."
"I am enough."

Dan Phillips
"Appollonian concepts create mountains of waste."

Cristal Montanez Baylor
"In order to empower women, men have to be participants."

Drs. Rebecca Richards-Kortun and Maria Oden
Institute for Global Health Technologies
"Students can solve global health challenges."
Haitian saying: "You do not learn to swim in the library, you learn to swim in the river."
"When our students put their ideas into action, they become the leaders of the 21st century."

Stephen Klineberg
Houston Area Survey
"No city in America has benefitted more from immigration than Houston, Texas."

Mark Johnson
Questions we need to ask:
"What is authentic? What is sustainable? What is design integrity?"

Monica Pope
"We say eat where your food lives. Hell, I say, eat at a table."
"We need the new campfire -- cooking, eating, being together at the table, sharing who we are...."

Dominic Walsh
Dominic Walsh Dance Theater
"There's a beauty in the uncertain."
"Dance is a way of observing the spirit in the physical body."
"When I watch dance, I look for the space in which I can participate. This is the creative space meant to be filled."

Dr. David Eagleman
"What we really learn from a life in science is the vastness of our ignorance."
"We need to not 'cowboy up,' but geet out."
"Lead a life that is free of dogma....Celebrate possibility and uncertainty!"

Finally, congratulations to the brave and awe-inspiring young people at Culture Pilot who made TEDxHouston happen! What a day -- my head is still spinning.


  1. I know what you mean. I attended TEDxNYED last March, and it was amazing. Thanks for the summary here....looks like a great line up!

  2. For me it was this humdinger: "By 2015, 75% of US adults will be overweight or obese, and 41% will be obese." (The speaker said "morbidly obese" but I later looked it up and found she had misspoken)