The 10 Most Annoying TED Talks Of All-Time

Bill Gates, David Cameron and other smug speakers

Whether it's unpopular politicians pretending to be your mate or rockstars sermonising on poverty, here are the ten worst TED talks of all time.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

10: Simon Sinek - How Great Leaders Inspire Action (2009)

Motivational speaker Simon Sinek asks: "Why is it that Apple is the market leader?" "Why is it that Martin Luther King led the civil rights movement?" Sinek provides reasonable answers to these questions — it's all about the fundamental, inspiring passion — but this is surface-skimming stuff, and the juxtaposition of Apple, Martin Luther King, the Wright brothers and TiVo is glib and politically naïve.


Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

9. Kate Hartman - The Art of Wearable Communication (2011)

Wacky artist, designer and author Kate Hartman demonstrates the quirky things that she has designed: offbeat silly hats which have a sort of funnel that allows you to talk to your own brain. Or something. If this was a spoof it would be… sort of not funny.


Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

8. Jason Seiken - If PBS Can Do It, So Can You! (2012)

Jason Seiken is the former digital chief of America's venerable Public Broadcasting Service who spoke about how very clever he was in making boring old PBS super-hip in the online age. This content of this self-important video is what got Seiken a brief and ill-fated job as editor-in-chief of The Daily Telegraph.


Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

7. Brené Brown - The Power of Vulnerability (2010)

Smug, platitudinous and all but meaningless. An awful lot of self-help waffle here about the importance of letting yourself be vulnerable, because without laying yourself open you won't experience joy or emotional growth: let yourself "be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen". Of course, Brown is herself a very smooth performer who I suspect would die rather than actually be "vulnerably seen" at a prestige event like this.


Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

6. Bill Clinton - My Wish: Rebuilding Rwanda (2007)

Clinton is a TED turn who is also much mocked by other TED speakers. And his unendurably boring and conceited waffling about how we can help Rwanda build a better healthcare system is all too obviously, at least in part, a matter of pulling moral rank on everyone with a huge moral subject. He just drones on and on and on.


Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

5. Bill Gates - Innovating to Zero! (2010)

Wait. Did I say Bill Clinton was boring? Bill can match Bill, stifled yawn for stifled yawn. His talk is about energy and climate change, impeccably important subjects, of course, but delivered in a kind of unvarying, muted harangue of self-regard.


Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

4. Malcolm Gladwell - Choice, Happiness and Spaghetti Sauce (2004)

Gladwell is a natural TED star but this is annoying. He is smugly promoting his book, entitled Blink. Then he launches into an almost self-parodic Gladwellian riff — the discovery of something offbeat and super-quirky and little-known, in this case the career of market researcher Howard Moskowitz and his ideas about spaghetti sauce. It's a bit dull, compared with the great days of The Tipping Point.


Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

3. David Cameron - The Next Age of Government (2010)

Horrendous and intolerable. Pink-cheeked Cameron smugly embraces the open-necked-shirtness of TED but looks and sounds like someone at the Eton College Debating Society with much false modesty about how unpopular politicians are. He goes in for heavy-handed and redundant PowerPoint questions flashed up on screen. The main one is: why on earth are we listening to you?


Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

2. Elizabeth Gilbert - Your Elusive Creative Genius (2009)

Elizabeth Gilbert has selected a sleek all-black outfit for this occasion, which is almost insufferable. Her sense of her own bestselling super-celebrity and faux bemusement at how silly it is, are hard to take. She quotes the poet Ruth Stone on the importance of grabbing inspiration when it comes. There's nothing wrong with this. But her own prestige is worn as heavily as medieval armour.


Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

1. Bono - The Good News on Poverty (2013)

In his TED talk, Bono delivers that distinctive part of himself in a much purer form than that which is revealed on stage while singing — his profound inability to get over himself. The fact that it is him up on that TED stage, him, is something that Bono finds absolutely fascinating and intriguing. Poverty relief is his passion. Fair enough. But did he need to be so self-congratulatory about it?