TED celebrates great speakers, thinkers and doers. For many, having their ideas shared online has amplified their work beyond imagination. Some say having their talk posted on TED.com led to new directions in their careers; others say it even changed their lives.
We asked a few of our classic speakers: "How did your TED Talk impact you?" Read their answers below. Or download this text doc with replies from all the speakers we asked -- an amazing document.
It is not a feeling, it is a fact, that my TED Talks are more important than the rest of my professional life.
My TED Talks have been seen by about 7 millions. That is on average 12 min x 7,000,000 persons = 80 million person-minutes = about 1 million person-hours.
Compare that to an average of 20 one-hour lectures per week for 40 weeks per year to a class of on average 50 students and you get 20 x 40 x 50 = 40,000 person-hours of attention per year. I did that for 30 years, so it is a total of 1.2 million person-hours of attention in lecture.
Add 100 scientific papers, each read by 100 persons during one hour, that is 10,000 person-hours of attention.
Add a textbook written with three others that requires 20 hours to read and it has been read by 5,000 giving a total of 100,000 person-hours of attention.
Add 40 year of team work with 5 persons during 40 hours per week during 40 weeks a year. A total of about 60 000 person-hours of attention.
Pre-TED professional life reaches 1.37 million.
TED-life gave five-fold more attention. Hope there will never be a post-TED life.
TED Prize winner Neil Turok writes:
The talk I gave at TED2008 was simply transformative. I spoke about the importance of mathematical skills in modern society and the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS). I expressed the wish that the next Einstein be African.
The talk gave huge and immediate visibility to our then-small AIMS project, which was struggling from one funding crisis to the next. When I proposed a plan to create 15 AIMS centres all over Africa, this generated enthusiasm and, ultimately, funding.
And our alumni, many of whom saw the talk online, were inspired by the thought that an organisation like TED, representing the most forward-looking thinkers, creators and entrepreneurs in the world, cared about them.
Two-time speaker Alain de Botton writes:
I can honestly say that doing a TED talk changed my life. Though I've been writing books for a decade, it brought me a whole new audience, a different but compatible sort of audience, and a truly global one.
The quality of the debate around a talk is also mind-boggling. People look to TED not just for information, but also for guidance, for a source of wisdom and direction in a confusing world. I never do blurbs, but this is an honest gush.
Sunitha Krishnan writes:
The publication of my TED Talk was the greatest boost for the anti-trafficking mission. Thousands of individuals were inspired to respond in their own personal capacities in their countries against human trafficking.
For me personally, the most humbling times were when I got mails from men and women who have been sexually abused disclosing for the first time.
The impact on my organizational growth cannot be described in words. Today, if Prajwala has a huge global following, it is the result of the publication of my TED Talk.
Aaron Huey writes:
My TED Talk lead to a huge chain reaction that continues to this day.
My talk was on American POW camps (Indian reservations), and my TED wish was this: "Give back the Black Hills." The TED platform inspired me to move into new territory and to choose a side on an issue I had been documenting for years.
After the TEDx talk the emails and phone calls started coming in ... Everyone wanted to know what to do, and how to take it to the next level. The Lakota began using the talk to educate people about the treaty issues. Teachers in high schools and universities around the country contacted me to say that they have started using it as curriculum.
Two exciting projects began as a direct result. A collaborative street art project has now appeared in a dozen American cities with art from Shepard Fairey (the most prolific street artist in America who also designed Obama's HOPE campaign image) and Ernesto Yerena (activist artist known for his work on the Alto Arizona campaign). The poster/billboard campaign was all funded through crowdsourcing. Find out more >>
More radical collaborations will continue.
Erin McKean writes:
In short, because of my TED Talk:
-- I went from being a traditional lexicographer to a startup founder
-- Every day, more people visit Wordnik.com than ever bought most of the print books I ever worked on
-- There are 10x more words on Wordnik than are in the OED
-- We've built a huge word graph and a meaning discovery engine that takes the static knowledge about words and makes it a real dynamic tool for connecting people to relevant content
... and so much more!
Two-time speaker Gever Tulley writes:
The impact of my TED Talks? Imagine never having to make a cold-call for anything, ever again. Imagine putting your best ideas out into the world and having the world help you make them better. To say that TED changed my life would be an understatement. Thank you all for the opportunity.
Alison Carr-Chellman writes:
My talk on boys and gaming to re-engage learning went live in 2011. It dramatically changed my work overnight.
My work prior to TED was generally split into several ongoing projects, but almost all of my time now has moved into the boy culture space, with an invitation to participate on the commission for a White House Council on Boys to Men, and appointment to the advisory board of the Boy's Initiative. I have spoken on the radio and delivered several parent-and-teacher-education seminars; talking more with these populations has helped me evolve my ideas on boys, schools and games. I have a book proposal under consideration for a popular-press book, something I never imagined as an academic.
It is thrilling and humbling to realize that the one thing I probably will ever do in my career that will reach more people than any article, or conference presentation, academic book, or research study I may publish, that one thing is my TED talk. It was a talk of a lifetime, and I hope it will move people into deep consideration for the issues boys face and into action on behalf of young boys in schools.
Frequent speaker Steven Pinker writes:
My TED Talk on the decline of violence led to something much, much bigger. In response to the interest aroused by the talk, I put my research on language and social relationships on the back burner, devoted the following four years of my life to the topic, and ended up with an 850-page book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.
Elizabeth Gilbert writes:
On a professional level, speaking at TED brought an entirely new audience to me and my writing. After the publication of Eat, Pray, Love, I had been rather firmly pigeonholed into the category of Chick Lit Author, and while that isn't anything to complain about (as any pigeon can tell you, some holes are quite cozy), that categorization certainly drove away some readers from my work. My TED Talk brought those readers back, almost offering them up a badge of intellectual legitimacy, or permission to consider me anew. I always smile when I see those people at my speaking events. They're the ones who say, "I never imagined I would like your writing, but then..." (I can always fill in the rest of the sentence without fail: "...but then I saw your TED Talk.")
On a more personal level, the opportunity to speak at TED gave me a chance to refine an idea I'd been quietly brewing for years. With the deadline for the talk approaching, I was forced to tumble down my idea from something scattered and instinctive and inarticulate into something smooth and brief and firm, which I could then toss into the audience. That clarion moment -- the moment in the middle of my TED Talk, when I felt my idea actually leave my hands and go flying out into the world -- was one of the most gratifying and powerful experiences of my life. Thank you for giving me that chance."
Sophal Ear writes:
I can't count the ways in which my TED Talk about Escaping the Khmer Rouge has had an impact. I get messages and meet people who constantly tell me what it means to them on a deep, personal level. It's simply been transformative.
For me, the talk itself was an incredible opportunity to honor my mother in person, while she was still alive, for saving my four siblings and I from the Killing Fields.
As you may know, my mom passed away eight months after I gave my talk (four months after my TEDTalk went online) very unexpectedly. I know that when she was alive, she was terribly proud of having had the opportunity to stand up in that auditorium in Long Beach to take a bow and receive a standing ovation. She watched the TED Talk with me and it was really our TED Talk.
Jennifer 8. Lee writes:
I've been recognized on the streets of Vancouver during the Olympics, at a banquet in Sydney and by my bank teller in New York City's Koreatown -- all because of a talk I gave on General Tso and his chicken on TED.com.
Frequent speaker Rives writes:
I do sometimes wonder if I hold the record for fan tattoos based on a TED Talk.
But for me, the most charming and unpredictable result of my first TED Talk going online was hearing cover versions of it from young people ... High school speech and debate competitors like to tackle it. And when they do, they sometimes like to send me videos -- from the US, from Australia, from Ireland. And since they've memorized the TED Talk version of "Mockingbird," when they get to the freestyle section -- where they really should be quoting their fellow speakers -- I hear "my" codified lines coming back at me in the words of Al Gore or Burt Rutan or Sirena Huang or Matt Groening.
Imagine -- somewhere there is a video of an Irish teen quoting a video of a poet quoting a scientist who is paraphrasing the inscription on a clock tower bell from his student days: "It is the voice of life that calls us to come and learn." And so it all makes perfect, lyrical sense somehow.
And TED speaker Sebastian Wernicke has updated his legendary stats-based analysis of what makes a great TED Talk. See his findings »
And read many more speaker responses here »