The best TED talks for corporate communicators

If you want to know the secret behind employee engagement, how Disney writes unforgettable stories and whether texting is ruining English, watch these TED talks.

(Editor’s note: This was one of the top viewed stories of 2014. We’re rerunning it as part of a look back at the articles that captivated our readers the most.)

Have you ever wanted to ask Disney filmmakers how they write magical and unforgettable stories?

Do you think it would be fun to chat with a linguist about whether adding “selfie” to the dictionary signals the demise of English?

Do you want to know what the man who curates TED talks thinks makes a compelling speech?

If so, today is your lucky day.

Those topics are among the nine TED talks corporate communicators should watch. The others discuss even more pertinent issues, like how to get engineers to cut back on jargon, and how your body language not only affects how others see you, but how you see yourself.

Without further ado, here are the talks. Let us know if you have any to add to the list.

1. “Txtng is killing language. JK!!!” (John McWhorter)

What it’s about: John McWhorter, an American linguist and political commentator, explains why texting does not mark English’s demise.

Why you should watch: If you worry that texting and social media are destroying language, this talk will ease your fears. McWhorter’s references to teachers and authors from history lamenting bad grammar will make you smile.

Quote: “There are always people worrying about these things, and the planet somehow seems to keep spinning … What we’re seeing is a whole new way of writing that young people are developing, which they’re using alongside their ordinary writing skills.”

2. “What makes a word ‘real’?” (Anne Curzan)

What it’s about: Words like “defriend,” “selfie” and “hangry” were recently added to the dictionary. Anne Curzan, a language historian, explains how they got there and why that isn’t a bad thing.

Why you should watch: Like McWhorter’s talk above, Curzan’s will reassure you that the evolution of language is fascinating and worth studying.

Quote: “It’s really a question of attitude. Are you bothered by language fads and language change, or do you find it fun, interesting and something worthy of study as part of a living language?”

3. “The clues to a great story” (Andrew Stanton)

What it’s about: Filmmaker Andrew Stanton, the writer behind the three “Toy Story” movies and director of “WALL-E,” describes the science behind storytelling.

Why you should watch: You will not only learn the formula behind your favorite Disney movies, but become inspired to become an even better storyteller.

Quote: “Can you invoke wonder? Wonder is honest. It’s completely innocent. It can’t be artificially invoked. For me, there’s no greater ability than the gift of another human being giving you that feeling. To hold them still, just for a brief moment in their day and have them surrender to wonder … the best stories infuse wonder.”

(Note: Some of Stanton’s language is not suitable for work.)

4. “What makes a great talk” (Chris Anderson)

What it’s about: Chris Anderson, TED’s curator, explains the qualities of the best TED talks. He covers everything from how speakers can connect with their audiences to the basics of presentation structure.

Why you should watch: TED talks have earned the reputation of being some of the best examples of public speaking. After hearing from the man who chooses TED’s speakers, you’ll know what it takes to make your next speech powerful and memorable.

Quote: “What would happen if you wanted to persuade a bunch of people to come with you on a journey? What are the two things you need to do? Well, you’ve got to start where they are, and you’ve got to give them a reason to come with you.”

5. “Your body language shapes who you are” (Amy Cuddy)

What it’s about: Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist, explains how our body language doesn’t just affect those around us, but ourselves, as well. By striking certain stances or making certain gestures, she says, we can make ourselves feel happy, sad, confident or passive.

Why you should watch: Cuddy’s insights will help you recognize your nonverbal signals, and understand how you should change them to increase your chances of success in the professional world.

Quote: “When we think of nonverbals, we think of how we judge others, how they judge us and what the outcomes are. We tend to forget, though, the other audience that’s affected by our nonverbals, and that’s ourselves.”

6. “The secret structure of great talks” (Nancy Duarte)

What it’s about: Nancy Duarte, CEO of Duarte Design, explains how every speech—from Steve Jobs’ iPhone pitches to Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream”—follows the same pattern. She then describes how you can use the pattern to ensure your speeches are successful.

Why you should watch: Her talk provides a formula for memorable and engaging speeches.

Quote: “Now maybe some of you guys have tried to convey your idea, and it wasn’t adopted—it was rejected. And some other mediocre or average idea was adopted, and the only difference between those two was the way it was communicated. Because if you communicate an idea in a way that resonates, change will happen.”

7. “Talk nerdy to me” (Melissa Marshall)

What it’s about: Melissa Marshall once had to teach a communications class to engineering students. In this 4-minute talk, Marshall explains how she taught the engineers to better communicate their work to a general audience.

Why you should watch it: If your job involves communicating what the engineers, doctors, analysts or other technical professionals do at your company, send them this talk so they can better understand how together you can communicate their innovative work to customers.

Quote: “We desperately need great communication from our scientists and engineers in order to change the world. Our scientists and engineers are the ones that are tackling our grandest challenges, from energy to environment to health care, among others. And if we don’t know about it and understand it, then the work isn’t done.”

8. “The puzzle of motivation” (Dan Pink)

What it’s about: Dan Pink, a career analyst, explains that the key to motivating employees isn’t money, but autonomy. Money used to adequately motivate employees, but jobs have changed, and motivators must, too.

Why you should watch it: Pink’s analysis provides a clear answer to the million-dollar question: “How can companies engage employees?”

Quote: “There’s a mismatch between what science knows and what business does. And what worries me as we stand here in the rubble of the economic collapse is that too many organizations are making their decisions, their policies about talent and people, based on assumptions that are outdated, unexamined and rooted more in folklore than in science.”

9. “How great leaders inspire action” (Simon Sinek)

What it’s about: Simon Sinek, author of “Start with Why” and “Leaders Eat Last,” explains how individuals and brands can be inspirational leaders.

Why you should watch it: If you’re a manager, you’ll learn how to win over your staff and inspire them to do great things. If you’re in communications, you’ll learn how to change the way your organization operates to attract more customers.

Quote: “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it … The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.”

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