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6 TED Talks for Email Marketers

3 min

Ever heard of a TED talk? If you haven’t, stop everything, read this, then go to

TED is non-profit organization dedicated to “ideas worth spreading”. They host several annual conferences around the world, collecting the smartest, most engaging and interesting speakers anywhere. Name the big thinkers of our time: Bill Gates, Al Gore, Malcolm Gladwell, Tony Robbins – they’re all TED speakers.

From cell division to social change, robotics to dating, space exploration to life hacks, TED Talks have earned a reputation as a treasure trove of ideas for smart people and revolutionaries.

There are over 1,600 TED Talks, and the list is growing all the time. You can view the talks from the TED site,, via their mobile apps, or on YouTube.

TED Talks can’t be more than 20 minutes long, so they’re perfect for a brainy coffee break. You can even sort them by time length in the apps, which means your morning walk to the train or drive to work could now become the most interesting part of your day.

Speaking of interesting… there’s a secret benefit to listening to a few TED Talks every day. The enthusiasm of the speakers rubs off. You, too, will get a sparkle in your eye when certain subjects come up. You’ll begin to see opportunities for change and greatness where once only problems dwelled.

Sounds too good to be true? Maybe. But listen to three every day for a month, and see if your outlook on life isn’t brighter.

Dare you.

I got lost on the TED site again recently, looking for a few especially interesting talks suited to email marketers. To be honest, none of the talks I found are specifically about email marketing, but they all draw from disciplines and skills essential for good email marketing – skills like storytelling and persuasion; disciplines like user experience and interface design. All of them will reveal new ways to think about our favorite marketing tool, and the original killer app: Email.

So, without further ado, here’s the list.


1. Seth Godin: The tribes we lead

Seth Godin is one of the most revered voices in marketing. Sure, Seth writes a blog, and has written over a dozen books, including one about tribes. He’s shaped the thinking of influencers and marketers around the world, and continues to do so. But he also gives TED Talks. This talk about tribes is a great introduction to Seth on TED. If you like it, there are two more by him: “How to Get Your Ideas to Spread” and “This is Broken”. While you watch this talk about tribes, think about how your email subscribers are your tribe.


2. Renny Gleeson: 404, the story of a page not found

This 4-minute talk will give you one of the best web optimization ideas around. Your 404 page (what visitors see when they come across a broken link) is an opportunity to engage with your visitor at a moment when they need you the most.


3. Sheena Iyengar: How to make choosing easier

If you have an ecommerce store, or a site with lots of content, you need to see this. Anyone who is trying to get users through a series of steps to fill out a survey, or an online application, will also find this extremely helpful.

Here are just some of Sheena’s findings discussed here:

  • Limiting choices ends up creating more sales and/or more participation
  • Increasing choices increases buyer’s remorse
  • To reduce the number of overwhelming choices – add categories
  • Gradually increase complexity of choices if you want people to finish a multi-step process (like customizing a car)


4. Scott McCloud: The visual magic of comic

This starts out as a talk about comics, then evolves into an analysis of storytelling, interface design, and how much can be conveyed in an image. Given the rise of “the visual web” and our obsession with stories, can a spike in the of comics in marketing be far behind?


5. Omar Ahmad: Political change with pen and paper

If the last talk looked forward with technology, then this one looks back. We Internet marketers forget about paper mail too often. This will remind you how powerful it is.


6. Dan Pink: The puzzle of motivation

Want people to sign up for your email list? Want them to open, read and click on your emails? Want them to order? Dan Pink is the clever fellow who wrote To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, and Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. In this talk, he reveals “There’s a mismatch between what science knows and what business does” and shows us how to fix it with intrinsic motivation.

Pam Neely
Pam Neely
Pam Neely has been marketing online for 15 years. She's a serial entrepreneur and an avid email and content marketing enthusiast with a background in publishing and journalism, including a New York Press Award. Her book "50 Ways to Build Your Email Marketing List" is available on Pam holds a Master's Degree in Direct and Interactive Marketing from New York University. Follow her on Twitter @pamellaneely.