TED talks have seemed to become ever present in education over the last decade, as well as growing in popularity all across social media. This is no doubt related to the rise of youtube, and an ever growing access to TED talks on all different subjects and industries. My public speaking class last semester was almost entirely based off of TED talks, learning from the mistakes and more commonly the successful strategies that speakers have used throughout the years. The talks draw attention from people because the main qualifier is that the speaker is interesting, which opens up the stage to many people who would otherwise remain unknown.
TED, which stands for Technology, Education, and Design, is a conference that was first held in 1984, and has been held annually since 1990. TED is a non-profit and operates under the slogan of “ideas worth spreading” and with that in mind has grown to include many talks on science and cultural events, as well as those on tech, education and design.
There are not many requirements for those who speak at TED events. The most important requirement is that the speaker presents their topic in at most 18 minutes in as creative and innovative a way as they can to engage the audience. The length of the talk is more important than it might seem. Not only does putting the time limit force speakers to choose the most interesting information to share, but it also allows the audience to be the most attentive it can be. Longer talks have a tendency to lose the interest of those listening and therefore less memorable. The time restriction has also worked very well for TED’s online presence. Most viewers would be wary of videos over 18 minutes long as being tedious and not worth the time, however because of the relatively short lengths more people are willing to take the time to watch talks and expand the reach that they have.
You may be wondering how TED talks have anything to do with social media and digital business, and that is a fair question. However, I would argue that through the topics that speakers present at TED conferences, many of which are about social media or digital business, that TED has helped shape the technology industry by opening up the ideas of established industry leaders with those who are looking to be the future. In addition, TED relies heavily on social media to spread its talks. With only a few thousand people invited to be part of the audience each year, most of those who view the talks do so through the TED website and youtube, and are shared by users across platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
TED is an example of an organization that used technology to its advantage. The change from a conference with a few thousand loyal supporters to nearly 750 million views on youtube, and over a billion total, started taking place in 2006 with the launch of TED.com and TEDs youtube channel. TEDs ability to take advantage of social media and digital media is a model that many companies would be lucky to imitate.
What helps TED find success when other speeches may not get much attention is not only the platform itself, but the desire to spread the talks to the public for free. TED does not pay its speakers, they use the size of their platform to draw the interesting people that they hope to have present, and nothing more. They rely on peoples desire to have their ideas seen and heard by others. It may be this strategy which helps lend itself to being popular on social media. Many TED talks have gone viral over the years, with many viewers exposed to the talks on Facebook and Twitter. TED’s current curator Chris Anderson has talked about the organizations digital strategy stating: “It used to be 800 people getting together once a year; now it’s about a million people a day watching TED Talks online. When we first put up a few of the talks as an experiment, we got such impassioned responses that we decided to flip the organization on its head and think of ourselves not so much as a conference but as “ideas worth spreading,” building a big website around it. The conference is still the engine, but the website is the amplifier that takes the ideas to the world.” (https://www.departures.com/lifestyle/technology-gadgets/ted%E2%80%99s-chris-anderson)
In a world where more information is being shared online each day than in the entire history before 2000, it is amazing to see how TED has developed a digital strategy to compliment its mission of spreading the ideas of those who speak with as many people as possible. Most companies would be smart to try and imitate the strategy that TED has taken and implement it for their digital presence.