When TED Does It Right

I know that TED talks have many fans. They’re slickly produced, blessedly short and focused on fresh ideas and issues. Plenty of positives. I only wish I could like the average TED talk more than I do.

Why? Because at times, I feel as though the speakers are manipulating my emotions in an overtly Spielbergian way. The presentations come off as staged and glib, and we’re shown only the best, most beautiful aspects of what is probably a far more complex and ambiguous concept. They’re like very small IMAX films sans the celebrity voice-over. A neatly tied present where the box and wrapping are far more pleasing than the Olive Garden gift card inside.

The talks I dread most are those where the speakers begins to break up, emotionally overcome, as they work to their dramatic conclusion. I have witnessed this several times, and it gets old. Why can’t he or she hold back the tears, I wonder, as the speaker relives what is clearly a well-practiced storyline. And so I begin to pull away from the narrative, which now comes off as disingenuous.

So why do I still watch TED videos? Because an amazing talk does occasionally come along that ends up having a tremendous impact on my life. The one below, from Joe Smith, is less than five minutes long, and it gives a simple, almost elegant solution to the issue of paper waste. After watching this one last year, I have wholly adopted Joe Smith’s hand washing process, and not only are my hands clean, but so is my conscience. Enjoy!