I’m a huge fan of thought-provoking speeches and presentations. If I can walk away from it with a new perspective on a subject I wouldn’t have thought about before, I consider that time well spent. Two of the most popular platforms for this type of content are Big Think and TED.

What makes these two different? Quite a lot, actually.

TED, which started out as a one-off conference, is now a large organization with several branches holding talks and conferences attended by some of the biggest thought leaders in the world. The speakers at TED are in one way or another involved in projects that change the way the world thinks about a particular situation. The majority of TED’s speakers base their talks around a particular project they’ve been working on for some time.

Big Think is a site dedicated to sharing thoughts and interviews with a number of experts in a wide range of fields. A single expert can weigh in on a host of topics within their domain. Videos circulating around the Web from Big Think tend to be short and limited to a specific question. The types of questions answered by personalities through Big Think are the same ones the speakers are frequently asked while working within their fields.

TED is a Conference

People are invited to speak at TED in order to share their projects with the world. Some of these talks focus on charitable causes, such as Bill Gates’ numerous talks concerning climate, energy, and immunizations. He released mosquitoes on an audience to bring home the importance of vaccinations in developing countries.

You wouldn’t see Bill Gates release mosquitoes on Big Think, though he might offer his opinion on vaccines, toilets, or the future of technology.

One of my favorite TED talks was from David Blaine. He described, in great detail, how the events leading up to his 17-minute world record came about. He led the audience through the story of his previous accomplishments and a step-by-step account of his record breaking appearance on Oprah.

This is the heart of what TED is about. It’s a conference that brings to light projects that have in some way impacted the world. Some speakers return to TED to give talks about several different topics, but each talk is generally focused on a single project.

Big Think Conducts Interviews

If you could interview Neil deGrasse Tyson about his favorite scientist, what would he say? His answer was given during a series of videos as part of Big Think. Asking experts about their opinion or answer to single questions is the heart of what makes Big Think such an important part of the Internet today.

One of my favorite Big Think videos features Ricky Gervais explaining the fundamental principles of comedy. There is no audience for him to play up to, or a slide show to hide behind (not that he would). It is, simply put, a single individual giving their thoughts on a single subject.

The look to Big Think’s videos explains more than anything what sets Big Think apart. The background is a blank white nothing. The camera is perfectly centered on the speaker, and the interviews are focused and specific.

Is One Better Than the Other?

Not at all. TED and Big Think are very different, but the fundamental purpose of the two organizations is to spread ideas and concepts to the world. TED makes a great deal of its money from attendance fees. A ticket to TED will run you about $6,000 in some instances, while Big Think (described as the YouTube for ideas) makes the majority of its revenue from sponsors that wish to have their products or brands associated with the site.

Either way, the two organizations have certainly accomplished quite a lot in terms of inspiring and provoking thought among their audiences.

What do you think? Do you have a favorite TED talk or Big Think idea? Please share it in the comments below.

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