7 Inspiring TED Talks Every Event Pro Should Watch

With an library of nearly 2,000 talks collected from its conferences, TED offers plenty of ideas and inspiration for meeting and event professionals.

By Anna Sekula March 16, 2015, 7:00 AM EDT

The TED2015 conference begins today, bringing another set of game-changers and influencers to speak in front of more than a thousand attendees at the Vancouver Convention Centre. The theme of this year's event is Truth or Dare and the lineup includes performance artist Marina Abramovic, former White House intern turned social activist Monica Lewinsky, 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi, foreign policy strategist David Rothkopf, and iPod creator Tony Fadell.

For those looking to get in the spirit of TED and the innovative thinking it promotes, here is a brief—and highly subjective—selection of videos from the conference (and its sibling conferences) to inspire change, new ideas, and smarter strategies.

Simon Sinek on importance of why
When the author of Start With Why gave his talk on how great leaders inspire action, it wasn't at Chris Anderson's flagship conference, it was at a small TEDx event in Washington State. But the 2009 talk became a viral hit and sits on TED's list of the most popular talks of all time. For event and meeting professionals, Sinek offers a glimpse into the reasons behind Apple's success and his theory that "People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it. The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe."

Bonus: Simon Sinek's "Why good leaders make you feel safe" from TED2014.

Seth Godin on passionate communities
The author, blogger, and entrepreneur is widely considered a thought leader and a powerful voice in the marketing space. In 2008 he published Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us and spoke at TED2009 in Long Beach, California about the concept of tribes, people connected by interest that can make a bigger impact than mass marketing. "It turns out that it's tribes—not money, not factories—that can change our world, that can change politics, that can align large numbers of people. Not because you force them to do something against their will, but because they wanted to connect."

Bonus: Artists Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn on how painting entire neighborhoods involved and inspired communities from TEDGlobal 2014
Plus: A Q&A with Godin on what makes an event worthwhile

Sherry Turkle on how technology has impacted human connection and communication
The director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self studies people's relationships with technology and has produced several books, including The Second Self: Computers and The Human Spirit and Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. In her talk for TED2012, Turkle explores how technology has created hyper connectivity, but also the illusion of companionship. It's an interesting perspective for industry professionals, showing how the digital landscape has redefined the value of building in-person relationships and having face-to-face conversations.

Bonus: Jennifer Golbeck's "Why social media 'likes' say more than you might think" from TEDxMidAtlantic 2013
Plus: The impact of digital and technology on events and meetings

Jinsop Lee on designing for all five senses
The industrial designer shared an important lesson he learned in his career: that engaging all five senses leads to more memorable experiences. "You see, up till now, us designers, we've mainly focused on making things look very pretty, and a little bit of touch, which means we've ignored the other three senses… So what if we started using the five senses theory in all of our designs?"

Bonus: Julian Treasure on the importance of designing spaces for our ears from TEDGlobal 2012
Plus: Tips for using color to communicate an event's message from color expert Kate Smith

David Grady on bad meetings
An information security manager, Grady pokes fun at inefficient meetings, arguing that while the gatherings are important to collaboration, participants should understand more about the goals rather than mindlessly accepting the invitation. For meeting professionals, Grady's talk from TED@State Street Boston could inspire new strategies for making conferences, conventions, and other meetings more productive and enjoyable.

Bonus: Nilofer Merchant's "Got a meeting? Take a walk" from TED2013
Plus: Why people attend meetings and conventions

Morgan Spurlock on brand transparency, identity, and sponsorship
The filmmaker explains why and how he created The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, a documentary that explores advertising, marketing, and product placement. Spurlock's talk at TED2011 shows his conversations with marketing executives and agencies, his experience defining his brand personality, and that he sold the naming rights to the presentation itself.

Bonus: Tim Lebrecht's "3 ways to (usefully) lose control of your brand" from TEDGlobal 2012

Joi Ito on bottom-up innovation
The director of the MIT Media Lab describes himself not as a futurist, but a "now-ist," that innovation can fairly often be about creating in the moment, rather than building for it. At his talk for TED2014, Ito shared how he formed a group online to track radiation levels after the 2011 earthquake in Japan. "This is a fundamental new way of thinking about innovation. It's a bottom-up innovation, it's democratic, it's chaotic, it's hard to control. It's not bad, but it's very different, and I think that the traditional rules that we have for institutions don't work anymore, and most of us here operate with a different set of principles."

Bonus: TED curator Chris Anderson's "How web video powers global innovation" from TEDGlobal 2010

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