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Top 12 Best TED Talks and Speakers of All Time

Best TED Talks of All Time Paul Nicklen Polar Photographer
November 28, 2023

TED Talk speakers have been known to spark creativity, imagination, and innovation amongst their audience members. To make it as a speaker for a TED Talk or TEDx is an honor to many who have taken the stage, speaking highly of their ability to motivate and inspire an audience. Over the decades of TED and TEDx, there have been numerous speakers who have made a positive impact on their listeners. In this article, we will share with you the 12 best TED Talks of all time, including the best TED Talk speakers.

1. Best TED Talk for Artificial Intelligence

TED Talk Speaker: Anima Anandkumar

Trinity of Artificial Intelligence (October 2018)

Dr. Animashree Anandkumar is a Bren Professor at the California Institute of Technology and Director of Machine Learning Research at NVIDIA. She develops machine-learning algorithms that enable computers to process dimensional data using tensors. She finds ways to make these algorithms scale more effectively. She earned several prizes for her work including the Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, NSF Career Award, and faculty fellowships from Adobe, Google, and Microsoft. Additionally, Anandkumar was nominated to the World Economic Forum’s network of experts for many fields including academia, business, and the arts.

2. Best TED Talk for Arts & Entertainment

TED Talk Speaker: DeMaurice Smith

Players or gladiators? at TEDxStLouis (October 2013)

The injury rate in the National Football League is 100%. DeMaurice Smith, Executive Director of the National Football League Players Association, believes that the only way to ensure the safety of football players, from the amateur to the professional, is for us as a society to openly engage in an ethical discourse on the morality of sport.

Prior to joining the NFLPA, DeMaurice Smith was a trial lawyer and litigation partner in the Washington, D.C. offices of Latham & Watkins and Patton Boggs, serving as the chair of the firm’s government investigations and white-collar practice group. Smith previously served as Counsel to then-Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder in the U.S. Department of Justice before entering private practice. He spent ten collective years with the U.S. Attorney’s office and the Department of Justice, working on issues such as national security and prison construction. Smith has also represented Fortune 500 companies and argued numerous cases before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

3. Best TED Talks for Business

TED Talk Speaker: Molly Fletcher

Secrets of a Champion Mindset at TEDxBuckhead (October 2021)

Hailed as the “female Jerry Maguire,” Molly Fletcher is a former top sports agent and now speaker, author and host of the “Game Changers with Molly Fletcher” podcast. This event was curated by Jercori Freeman. Hailed as the “female Jerry Maguire” by CNN,  Molly Fletcher made a name for herself as one of the first female sports agents. During her almost two-decade career and as President of CSE, Molly negotiated over $500 million in contracts and represented over 300 of sports’ biggest names, including Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz, PGA TOUR golfer Matt Kuchar, broadcaster Erin Andrews and basketball championship coaches Tom Izzo and Doc Rivers. 

4. Best TED Talk for Climate Change & Environmental Issues

TED Talk Speaker: Paul Nicklen

Animal tales from icy wonderlands (March 2011)

Diving under the Antarctic ice to get close to the much-feared leopard seal, photographer Paul Nicklen found an extraordinary new friend. Share his hilarious, passionate stories of the polar wonderlands, illustrated by glorious images of the animals who live on and under the ice.

Paul Nicklen lives a life of art, purpose, and adventure, combining a career as an assignment photographer for National Geographic Magazine and co-founder of the conservation society, SeaLegacy. In addition to being one of the world’s most acclaimed nature photographers, Paul is an acclaimed polar specialist, speaker, author, conservationist, National Geographic Fellow, and a regular contributor to National Geographic Magazine with 20 completed stories to date. He has garnered more than 30 of the highest awards given to any photographer in his field, including the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the year and the prestigious World Press Photo for photojournalism. Paul has written several books including Seasons of the Arctic, Bear, Spirit of the Wild, Polar Obsession and his newest monograph, Born to Ice.

5. Best TED Talk for Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

TED Talk Speaker: Hill Harper

Transcending Mental Bars at TEDxSingSing (February 2015)

 This talk focuses on the deep seated beliefs, both individual and cultural, that hold people back from achieving their true potential, and ways to move past them.

Hill Harper is an American film, television and stage actor, and an author. He is best known for his portrayal of coroner-turned-crime scene investigator Dr. Sheldon Hawkes in the CBS television show CSI: NY. He is also the author of several books including Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny; Letters to a Young Sister: DeFINE Your Destiny; The Conversation: How (Black) Men and Women Can Building Loving, Trusting Relationships; and Letters to an Incarcerated Brother: Encouragement, Hope and Healing for Inmates and Their Loves Ones. He is a member of the Obama for America National Finance Committee.

Harper graduated from Brown University with a Bachelor of Arts degree and from Harvard with a J.D. and master’s in public administration. He is a full-time member of Boston’s Black Folk’s Theater Company. Harper’s Bazaar wrote, “You might expect Hill Harper to be the next actor vying for the presidency… but he has other things on his agenda.”

One of those things was the creation of the Manifest Your Destiny Foundation, a youth serving organization whose mission is to provide underserved youth a path to empowerment and educational excellence through mentoring, academic enrichment programming, college access skills obtainment and the facilitation of psychosocial and physical development strategies.

6. Best TED Talk for Economy & Finance

TED Talk Speaker: Dambisa Moyo

Economic growth has stalled. Let’s fix it. (December 2015)

Economic growth is the defining challenge of our time; without it, political and social instability rises, human progress stagnates and societies grow dimmer. But, says economist Dambisa Moyo, dogmatic capitalism isn’t creating the growth we need. As she shows, in both state-sponsored and market-driven models, capitalism is failing to solve social ills, fostering corruption and creating income inequality. Moyo surveys the current economic landscape and suggests that we have to start thinking about capitalism as a spectrum so we can blend the best of different models together to foster growth.

7. Best TED Talk for Government & Politics

TED Talk Speaker: Bob Woodward

What I learned investigating Nixon at TEDxMidAtlantic (October 2016)

Legendary investigative journalist Bob Woodward shares the inside story of President Richard Nixon’s downfall, and what was learned from the notorious White House tapes. In his 2016 TEDxMidAtlantic talk, he warns that we are entering a new era of secrecy that harkens back to Nixon’s days. We think we are resilient, he says, but if we are infected with hate and lack of knowledge, we could lose our democracy.

Bob Woodward gained international attention when he and Carl Bernstein uncovered the Watergate scandal in 1973. Since then, he’s worked to shine a light on the inner-workings of secret government. Woodward’s non-partisan revelations to readers and speech audiences provide a view of Washington they’ll never get elsewhere. Woodward has written about the last nine U.S. presidents and chronicled how the power of the presidency has evolved. He is author of 20 bestselling books – 13 were #1 – more than any contemporary nonfiction writer. His latest bestseller, Fear: Trump in the White House, is the deepest dive ever made into the first months of any American president.

8. Best TED Talk for Healthcare & Wellness

TED Talk Speaker: Nancy Frates

Meet the mom who started the Ice Bucket Challenge (October 2014)

Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge craze the summer of 2014? Meet the mom who started it all. When Nancy Frates’s son Pete hurt his wrist in a baseball game, he got an unexpected diagnosis: it wasn’t a broken bone, it was ALS, and there is no cure. In this inspiring talk, Nancy tells the story of what happened next.

Driven by the unacceptability of her son’s prognosis, Nancy Frates utilized her business acumen, communication skills, and mama bear drive to network, advocate, and create worldwide awareness in the fight against ALS/MND. In August 2014, her son Peter championed the historic global movement known as the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (ALS IBC) which ignited a media maelstrom, raising over $220 million in just five weeks.

9. Best TED Talk for Geopolitics

TED Talk Speaker: Ian Bremmer

The next global superpower isn’t who you think (April 2023)

Who runs the world? Political scientist Ian Bremmer argues it’s not as simple as it used to be. With some eye-opening questions about the nature of leadership, he asks us to consider the impact of the evolving global order and our choices as participants in the future of democracy.

A dedicated intellectual entrepreneur, Ian Bremmer is the president of Eurasia Group, the leading global political risk research and consulting firm. Bremmer’s career spans academic, investment, and policymaking communities, with a focus on global macro-political trends and emerging markets in which “politics matter at least as much as economics for market outcomes.”

10. Best TED Talk for Leadership & Management

TED Talk Speaker: Carla Harris

How to find the person who can help you get ahead at work (November 2018)

The workplace is often presented as a meritocracy, where you can succeed by putting your head down and working hard. Wall Street veteran Carla Harris learned early in her career that this a myth. The key to actually getting ahead? Get a sponsor: a person who will speak on your behalf in the top-level, closed-door meetings you’re not invited to (yet). Learn how to identify and develop a productive sponsor relationship in this candid, powerful talk.

Carla Harris has extensive industry experiences in the technology, media, retail, telecommunications, transportation, industrial, and healthcare sectors. In August 2013, Ms. Harris was appointed by President Barack Obama to chair the National Women’s Business Council.

11. Best TED Talks for Motivation

TED Talk Speaker: Cassandra Worthy

Sustaining a Fulfilled Life through Curiosity at TEDxAlpharettaWomen

Have you ever met…you? Curiosity is a powerful tool that when turned within leads us on the life-long journey of learning ourselves and as a result, increases our ability to pursue what will bring sustained fulfillment. In this talk, Cassandra Worthy shares her personal journey of leveraging the power of curiosity to better understand herself which subsequently allowed her to embrace her alcoholism and begin living each and every day on purpose and more fulfilled.

With contagious energy that radiates throughout every room she steps into, Cassandra Worthy is the world’s truly disruptive thought-leader on change that companies need to build organizational resilience and adaptability.

12. Best TED Talk for Technology & Innovation

TED Talk Speaker: Jamie Metzl

Are You Ready for the Genetic Revolution? at TEDxPaloAlto (May 2019)

The future arrived last year: In 2018, a Chinese scientist genetically modified twin babies to be genetically superior. In February 2019, the World Health Organization expert advisory committee, developing global standards for the governance and oversight of human genome editing, appointed Jamie Metzl, a leading technology futurist, geopolitical expert and sci-fi novelist. 

Jamie Metzl has been changing the dialogue around human genome editing and using the medium of sci-fi thrillers to bring it to a wide audience. His published work includes history books examining the western response to human rights abuses during the Cambodian genocide, historical novel The Depths of the Sea, sci-fi thrillers Genesis Code and Eternal Sonata and his latest book Hacking Darwin: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Humanity, to be released April 23, 2019.

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