A few years ago while attending TED, I found myself sitting next to a gentleman a couple years older than me. As is the custom at TED, he said hello and asked what I did for a living. I told him a little about Silverpop, and as the conversation progressed I was excited to discover that he was an architect and had designed several buildings. You see, I’ve always loved architecture and sometimes even joke that perhaps I missed my true calling. Had he done any buildings I might have seen, I asked? I’ll never forget his response:
“Have you been to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao?”
Yep, I was sitting next to the world-renowned architect Frank Geary, which was totally cool. Even cooler was the fact that he was the one who started the conversation. But that’s one of the many things that’s so neat about TED—the people there, no matter how famous, remain ridiculously approachable.
It dawned on me when I attended TED earlier this month that I’ve been going for a full decade now—making the pilgrimage to California for this annual gathering of fascinating thinkers and doers that’s been called a “four-day symphony of the mind.” When I first started attending the conference, the leadership was transitioning from founder Saul Wurman to publisher Chris Anderson, and it’s been fun to watch it grow even as it’s remained a truly mind-expanding experience.
Under Anderson’s leadership, TED hasn’t been afraid to try out-of-the-box stuff. I like to see them exploring new ideas and concepts. I remember thinking it was heretical to share conference videos online, for example. Yet it turned out to be a fantastic experiment—the awareness of TED and, more importantly, the sharing of ideas has been extraordinary. Likewise, the decision to expand and create “TEDx”—miniature TEDs scattered around the country—sounded good, but I wasn’t confident they could match “big TED” (as it’s called). Again, I was pleasantly surprised—the ones I’ve attended have been true to the lofty standards of the main TED event.
From the Gospel for Teens singing to Pixar whiz Andrew Stanton revealing the art of storytelling, from inner-city kids performing Shakespeare to brain researcher Jill Bolte Taylor sharing what it was like to have a stroke herself, TED never ceases to amaze me. And the result of all these incredible speakers and thought-provoking conversations has been a ton of “TED moments”—flashes of ideas and inspiration.
In short, I feel very privileged to have been a part of watching TED evolve for more than a decade. In honor of the occasion, here’s a look back at my 10 favorite TED videos (in no particular order):
1) Derek Sivers: How to Start a Movement
In this short presentation, Sivers provides an entertaining and insightful view into the fundamentals of leadership.
2) Pattie Maes and Pranav Mistry demo SixthSense
TED is often a mind-expanding experience, and that’s certainly true here. Incredible innovation—the true merger of design, creativity and technology.
3) Robert Gupta and Joshua Roman duet on "Passacaglia"
I was sitting in the front row for this performance, about eight to nine feet from Gupta and Roman, and I could see the sweat forming on their brows. I could see how they watched each other. The music was as real as the keyboard I'm typing on. I’ve never experienced anything like that before.
4) Bill Gates on Energy: Innovating to Zero!
Gates is a remarkable speaker—his ability to distill an impossibly complex discussion down to something that is simple and inarguable was perfectly applied here to the problem of energy innovation.
5) Vijay Kumar: Robots that Fly ... and Cooperate
I’m an unabashed fan of robots and had been following Kumar's work for a long time. Seeing him live and hearing him tell the story of his team's work was a real treat. This is about as cool as it gets.
6) Ken Robinson Says Schools Kill Creativity
Perhaps one of the best TED talks ever. Brilliant and new insights into a serious problem.
7) Jennifer Lin Improves Piano Magic
This is probably one of the astonishing displays of raw talent I have ever seen—and from a girl just 14 years old at the time. Make sure to watch the part starting at 17 minutes where she’s given five random notes and composes a beautiful piece on the spot.
8) Theo Jansen Creates New Creatures
These moving sculptures are a metaphor for life—absolutely ingenious. Jansen brought one of them to the conference and I spent a while examining it and playing with it on the Monterey beach.
9) Sarah Kay: If I Should Have a Daughter …
I had no idea what to expect from a speaker labeled as a poet, but Kay was astonishing. Her wisdom and insight exceeded her years. And her humility and genuineness made her presentation all the more engaging.
10) Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action
An incredibly powerful and insightful view into how great leaders inspire. (This is actually from TEDx, but it's one of my favorites.)
So, what are your all-time favorite TED videos? Please share your picks in the Comments section.
More Blogs from 10 Years of TED:
1) “Marketing Meets Physics”
2) “Rediscovering Wonder at TED”
3) “Marketing: A Smart Way to Tell Any Story Better”
4) “The World Is Changing”