When someone says, “It’s time for a TED Talk,” usually, it’s not something to look forward to. Many find it boring, scary, or a waste of time. On the contrary, many find some of the topics shared by the actual TED conference educative, entertaining, and inspiring; they are willing to pay an arm and a leg to attend the live shows. However, did you know the organization has existed since 1984? Keep reading to find more fascinating TED (conference) facts.

1. It Is an Acronym

TED is an acronym for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. Most of the takes on these conferences center on these three main pillars.

2. TED Is a Non-Profit Organization

Using the slogan “Ideas worth spreading,” TED is an American-Canadian non-profit organization. Over time, its main task has been hosting and distributing free international talk posts using its social media platforms, mainly YouTube.

3. TED Was Founded in 1984

Even though technology wasn’t as developed and content distribution wasn’t as easy as now, TED has existed since February 1984. It was founded by Harry Marks, a British-American broadcast designer, and Richard Saul Wurman, an American graphic designer and architect.

4. TED Conferences Started in 1990

While TED’s existence started in 1984, it took about six years for the now famous annual TED Conferences to take off. Today, TED talks are popular worldwide, covering every possible topic, and are available in more than 100 languages.

5. There Was a TED Prize

Introduced in 2005, the TED Prize was invented to reward three individuals who “wished to change the world” with $100,000. However, this only lasted between 2005 and 2010, after which the policy was changed to award only one winner. The goal was to ensure that TED put maximum effort into facilitating the winner’s wish.

Other than 2012, when the prize was not awarded to anybody, there was a TED Prize winner from 2005-2017. After the winning amount was increased to $1 million in 2013, the competition saw five different winners before it was recast as The Audacious Project in 2018.

6. TED Talks Attract Notable Speakers

Over time, the TED Conference has attracted notable speakers, depending on the theme. For instance, the event was hosted in Vancouver, British Columbia, in April 2022, with “A New Era” as its theme. The chief speakers for this event included Elon Musk, the new owner of X and Tesla’s CEO, AI Gore, Allyson, Felix, and Garry Kasparov. Bill Gates also graced the occasion in 2015 when he spoke about Truth and Dare.

7. TED Is Different from TEDx

Founded by Lara Stein, TEDx is a different organization from TED. The two hold independent but similar events. Anyone can organize a TEDx presentation as long as they agree to stick to specific principles and seek a license from TED before going ahead. Similarly, TEDx events don’t aim at making profits. In some instances, organizers can charge some fees or seek commercial sponsors to cater to its costs.

Additionally, TEDx speakers are not paid but are required to relinquish the rights to their materials. In some cases, TED can edit or share the material under its parent company’s license.

8. TED Is Not All About Talks

While TED talks are very popular, viewers and listeners can benefit from TED-Ed, also from the organization. TED-Ed has a YouTube account that streams lessons from successful animators and educators with whom it collaborates. At the time of writing, TED-Ed’s YouTube account has more than 19.2 million subscribers.

9. Specific Topics Receive Boosted Attention in TED Talks and Conferences

While the organization has thousands of videos on its platforms, topics on vulnerability, happiness, and orgasms receive the most attention. Since its founding, the most popular TED Talks are How Schools Kill Creativity by Ken Robinson, The Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown, How Great Leaders Inspire Action by Simon Sinek, and Your Body Shapes Who You Are by Amy Cuddy.

10. The Tickets to a TED Conference Are Quite High

A typical TED Conference lasts five days, attracting over 70 speakers and short performances that include comedy and music. While watching online is free, getting to one of these events is not a walk in the park. For instance, for patron membership (which has its perks), you have to pay about US $250,000, while standard membership goes for US $12,500. The most affordable ticket is a TED Conference Vanguard membership, which sells at US $6,500.

11. Bill Gates Released Mosquitoes to the Audience While Giving a TED Talk

When Bill Gates, Microsoft’s owner and once the richest person, gave his TED talk in 2015, he released mosquitoes to the audience. He stated that poor people should not be the only ones to feel the experience of the malaria-causing insects.

12. A Parrot Once Gave a TED Talk

A parrot named Einstein once gave a TED talk to a listening audience. Apparently, the bird had about 200 words to “say.”

13. Some TED Talks Can Be Pulled Down

While some TED talks have received worldwide acceptance, some have been annoying or, worse still, inflammatory. For example, most people found the 2013 talk The Good News about Poverty by Bono very irritating. TED curators have pulled down derogatory ones, while others have been removed upon the speaker’s request. This mostly happens when they do not feel secure or probably do not share the same views anymore.


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Last Update: November 1, 2023