TED – A critical review

How to get people excited about prime numbers

A talk on prime numbers, doesn’t sound exciting, does it? Yet, TED has managed to bring hundreds of people together in a room for the very same talk. That is the magic of TED talks, the ability to bring a varied crowd on diverse topics ranging from science to product design or life experiences. This enchantment extends beyond the event itself enticing viewers to browse through the plethora of TED talks videos made available for free on Youtube. Icing on the cake: subtitles are provided in almost any language. Many already assessed TED’s success. But what are the reasons behind such a triumph?

The perfect format

First the format is adapted to viewers’ habits. Each video is 20 minutes long. Long enough for the talk to have enough details. And short enough to retain the viewers attention. Moreover it is a video, a medium that requires less effort than reading a text. Finally the recommendation tool is very efficient and keeps you clicking through the web of videos available online. TED also provides playlists on certain topics, for instance The power of Film. These playlists represent a good entry point to TED content. Indeed it makes it easier to start watching videos, otherwise users would feel swamped by the amount of content available.


Appealing content

Second, the teams behind TED unearth new talents and new perspectives on the world. This guarantees an interested audience. Thus they acquired the reputation of being an innovative channel of education. Their mission is to contribute to knowledge sharing. Thanks to TED talks anyone can have a sneak peak into the world of a research biologist or behind-the-scenes of animated feature films. CEOs of large corporations come on board to share their expertise in the industry while benefiting from the trending image of TED. This is free positive advertising for them.

Most interesting and best TED talks

Standardized way of delivering a speech

Nonetheless I have one criticism about TED. In the end, no matter the topic that is being talked about, the tone of voice of the speakers is always the same. TED speakers are trained by the TED team and rehearse their speech three times ahead of the event. As a result the talks are spotless, the flow is perfectly calibrated for the audience to smile, to laugh and to wipe away a tear when planned. The American storytelling at its greatest. It is a bit disappointing to reach such a level of standardization when the speakers come from all over the world and could bring new ways to deliver information, different from the American way.

Yet, go on www.ted.com and enjoy learning!

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