TED started life in 1984 as a one-off conference in Silicon Valley. The main focus was technology and design (TED stands for technology, entertainment, and design) but that's moved out into science, research, and culture in general.
Since 1990, TED has been a regular conference. There are now over 700 free talks avail. For those who have never seen a TED talk, here's five talks to get you started. Most of the talks last in the region of 20 minutes.
Sheena Lyengar — The Art Of Choosing
Lyengar has spent the last seven years or so researching how people choose. www.ted.com/talks/sheena_iyengar_on_the_art_of_choosing.html
Seth Godin — On Sliced Bread
An engaging talk from one of the most admired bloggers and marketing gurus of the internet generation.
Seth talks on being remarkable, the purple cow in the room. He also gives some interesting case studies along the way of why things did work and why things failed.
It's all about being remarkable. Go to http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/seth_godin_on_sliced_bread.html
Richard Branson — My Life at 30,000 Feet
A full-scale interview by Chris Anderson at TED with Branson. If you want to know about bootstrapping, his life, and Sex Pistol's court case about a certain album title, then this is the talk for you. Branson, as ever, is totally entertaining and engaging.
Jamie Oliver — Teach every child about food
The Naked Chef gives his TED prize speech about the work he is doing to educate parents and children about real food and the benefits of it. What this isn't is an all-out assault on the fast food industry — there'll always be a place for that. If you have children then watch this, if you don't then watch it and tell someone who has.
David McCandless — The Beauty Of Data Visualisation
McCandless, the mind behind the brilliant Information is Beautiful shares some interesting observations in his work. From Facebook statuses to military spend against gross domestic product, it's all here.