If you are in the professional world you’ve likely been invited to, attended, participated in, or at the very least heard of a conference related to your industry. I work in education and our high-level district staff and board members attend a conference every year that gathers people together from large, urban districts around the country to share ideas and best practices. Conferences are great opportunities to network but are often out of reach for small businesses, non-profits, or individuals due to the cost of attendance.

In 1990 TED Conference kicked off in Monterey, California. This was the second attempt by founders Richard Saul Wurman and Harry Marks and the focus was on technology, entertainment, and design. Quickly the scope broadened to include talks on a wide-range of issues such as music, religion, philosophy, science, politics, business, and nearly anything else you can think of wanting to hear about. There is now a TEDGlobal conference, TED-Ed with videos and lessons of an educational nature, TEDx which allows others to host conferences and events under the TED banner, and TED Talks where the audio and video of speakers at TED events are shared online for free. In 2012 TED Talks hit 1 billion views.

I have the TED Talks app on both my phone and my Amazon FireTV. I have watched TED Talks that have made me cry, that have inspired me, and that have made me rethink a viewpoint. If you go to the TED website or are on the app you can sign-up and pick things that inspire you which is used to give you recommendations for talks. You can create watch lists of talks you would like to watch. On each talk there are details about the talk, the talk is transcribed in 30 languages, some have Footnotes, and there is a comments section that tends to be much more respectful than the comments sections of most news articles or YouTube videos. If you click on Discover you can explore TED Talks based on different topics from augmented reality to gender equality to 3D printing. Click on Watch, go down to Playlists, and you can find playlists curated by the people at TED relating to different themes such as “The pros and cons of digital life” or “Talks by brilliant kids and teens.”

TED continues to branch out and find new ways to connect and inspire people. On the website you can find a link to their newsletter, Ideas Blog, and even TED books. I am a book addict and although I do not yet own any TED books, they’re on my list. You can find out information on attending a TED Conference or other event in person. Lastly, TED allows you to participate not just in each TED Talk via the comments section, but by organizing a local TED event, nominating someone for a TED Award, helping to translate TED materials into more languages, or becoming a TED Fellow.

Following is a list of TED talks related to the area of social media to get you started, but it is definitely a space that is worth exploring and discovering new things on your own in as well. Finally, we can all afford to attend the conferences on any topic we want from the comfort of our own homes, connecting with, learning from, and being inspired by some of the most brilliant minds in the world.

Discover more at the amazing world of TED, http://www.ted.com

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