My 5 Favorite Inspirational Speeches from TED

Inspirational speeches are grounded in authenticity. Plenty of people can give a speech with authority, but when you add genuine passion, then you have the makings for a truly inspirational speech.

TED Talks are a great source of inspiration for people everywhere. Some of these videos have been seen by tens of millions of people. Here are five that resonate with me (in alphabetical order by speaker’s last name, because I couldn’t choose which one I liked best—they are all so solid).

1. Brené Brown: Inspirational Vulnerability

A research professor, Brown doesn’t just study vulnerability; she demonstrates it. Her topic—“The power of vulnerability”—could have simply focused on her research, which is fascinating and educational. We can’t build strong relationships without openness, which is something most of us fear. She studied people with high self-worth and discovered that “as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were, which you have to absolutely do that for connection.” Her brilliance is that she dug even deeper, and showed how her research inspired her own journey to understand herself. Her first person account and clear message inspires listeners to expand their capacity for vulnerability. This talk (and others by her, on topics such as empathy) is why storytelling matters in inspirational speeches. And humor! She will make you laugh, and tying a message to a strong emotion is the goal of a great speaker. Through her own authenticity, she achieves what she sets out to do: hack what makes us tick, and lay out the code.

2. Amy Cuddy: Inspirational Postures

A social psychologist at Harvard Business School, Cuddy’s expertise wouldn’t be half as powerful on paper. On video, her topic—“Your body language shapes who you are”—is demonstrated as well as explained. There’s no substitute for showing instead of telling, especially if you want your message to stick. Your audience is far more likely to take away an image than what is said. The data behind body language fascinates me because I have seen first hand how important an open posture is to negotiations and relationship building, especially for sales teams and other corporate groups. Women are an important audience for this knowledge because we are too often expected to diminish ourselves and our abilities, and the way we carry ourselves sends signals that are more powerful than what we say. No one wants to be powerless or intimidated; this talk shows you how to project confidence even when you may not feel it. Practical advice backed up by real data always inspires me.

3. Sasha Dichter: Inspirational Practice

Does doing something smart always mean it’s right? That’s the provocative question in this talk by the director of business development at Acumen Fund, a nonprofit venture capital for enterprises serving the poor. His topic—“The Generosity Experiment”—is about a month of saying “yes” and becoming the open, action-minded person he thought he already was. Perhaps we can do what is smart and right as we share our resources. This video helped inspire me to share profits from my new book. Until Sept. 27, 100 percent of net royalties will benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. A generous gift from Timothy “Timbaland” Mosley, Monique Mosley and their Always Believing Foundation will match each dollar up to $1 million. It’s part of Great Futures: The Campaign for America’s Kids. I didn’t think it was possible for me to be more excited about my book launch, but the tie-in to giving makes me thrilled that this project isn’t just about commerce, but about values too. Thanks for the inspiration, Sasha!

4. John O’Sullivan: Inspirational Change

An author, speaker and coach, O’Sullivan wanted to know why 70 percent of America’s 40 million young athletes quit before age 13. His topic—“Changing the game in youth sports”—breaks down the stress and pressure heaped on our kids through hypercompetitive, parent-driven leagues. They are dropping out because of criticism, fear of mistakes, the win-at-all-cost mentality, and reduced playing time. He calls this, “The Race to Nowhere.” So what’s the solution? O’Sullivan rejects participatory awards, the “everyone gets a trophy” mentality, and offers a new, simple way of bringing the fun back to sports for our children. This method is built on the understanding that the positive, high performing mindset is more important than talent; encouraging your child to set goals and take ownership of their performance; letting them fail and learn from it. His idea worth spreading is five words long: “I love watching you play.” The more that parents can say and demonstrate this attitude, the more they will promote a balanced mentality toward competition, and a more balanced child. Inspiration wrapped in five words? That’ll stick.

5. Simon Sinek: Inspirational leadership

A management theorist, Sinek probed how extraordinary leaders become that way. How do they build trust and cooperation? His topic—“Why good leaders make you feel safe”—reveals how safety of humans must always be more important than revenue. When safety and trust are established, people respond with trust, cooperation and extra effort. “We call them leaders because they will choose to sacrifice so that their people may be safe and protected and so their people may gain, and when we do, the natural response is that our people will sacrifice for us,” he says. “They will give us their blood and sweat and tears to see that their leader’s vision comes to life, and when we ask them, ‘Why would you do that? Why would you give your blood and sweat and tears for that person?’ they all say the same thing: ‘Because they would have done it for me.’ And isn’t that the organization we would all like to work in?” Sinek’s talk is barely 10 minutes long, but he demonstrates that a powerful thought can be concise and effective. I love that he leaves the audience with a question that can be a decision making tool: as a leader, are you choosing people or profits?

What’s your favorite TED Talk?  Send me a link to your most inspirational speech on Twitter @MollyFletcher

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Molly Fletcher helps inspire and equip game changers to dream, live and grow fearlessly. A keynote speaker and author, Molly draws on her decades of experiences working with elite athletes and coaches as a sports agent, and applies them to the business world. Her Game Changer Negotiation Training™ has helped organizations and individuals across all industries more effectively ask for what they want, build stronger relationships and close more deals faster. Sign up here to receive our monthly newsletter.