TED Talks on 60 Minutes – Remember, these are “Talks” (Should we call them TED Speeches?)

Chris Anderson, Curator of TED
Chris Anderson, Curator of TED

What we’re trying to do is to make difficult knowledge accessible.
Chris Anderson, Curator of TED (from 60 Minutes Overtime)


Last Sunday night, on CBS’ 60 Minutes, Charlie Rose profiled the TED Talks.  View and read the segment here.

What a terrific segment!

Here’s how it started:

It has become a place where big ideas find a global audience. It is known simply as TED. And TED Talks are little presentations that anyone can watch online for free. There are TED Talks on almost every subject you can imagine: building your own nuclear reactor; stopping cyberbullies; exploring Antarctica; a better way to tie your shoes. But what sets TED Talks apart is that the big ideas are wrapped up in personal stories and they’re mostly from people you have never heard of before. And it is those stories that have captured the imaginations of tens of millions of viewers around the world. Giving a TED Talk can be life-changing even if some speakers don’t always realize what they’re getting into.

Amy Cuddy
Amy Cuddy

I am an unabashed and enthusiastic fan. I have watched a lot! of TED Talks. One of the Talks highlighted on the 60 Minutes segment was the one by Amy Cuddy: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.

I show this video to every one of my speech classes. It is a great reminder that our bodies play a huge role in our communication– even our communication to ourselves — (a main point of her talk).

But… I have a simple observation. As you read about the TED Talks, and as you watch them, and get caught up in their stories, don’t forget the obvious: these are “talks.”

Oh, sure, it may be new “packaging,” but this is simply a testament to the power of speaking well in front of an audience. If you know anything about history, you know that history is shaped, and understood, by the speeches given throughout the ages.

The TED Talks are actually TED “speeches.” And they take the task seriously. They audition, they practice, they coach. (After being asked, I have coached two TEDxSMU speakers).

So, call them what you want – speeches, presentations, talks. But don’t forget the obvious. Being able to speak well – yes, by including a moving and compelling story (that’s not new either) – is a skill worth developing, even as we learn much from those who do it so well at TED.

We have TED to thank for their role in keeping the power of speaking alive and well.


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