5 TED Talks that Help Public Library Advocates Influence and Inspire

Whether it’s at formal, high-stakes events, at board meetings, or in one-to-one conversation, you’ll have numerous opportunities throughout the year to advocate for your public library.   

But getting others to see our point of view or buy into your vision isn’t always easy. How can you get better at discussing your talking points and influencing others? Here are five TED Talks that will help you deliver an idea with greater impact. 

Focus on One Major Idea 

“Your number one task as a speaker is to transfer into your listeners’ minds an extraordinary gift – a strange and beautiful object that we call an idea.” – Chris Anderson 

Chris Anderson is the curator of TED and has listened to thousands of talks. He argues there is a secret to what makes TED Talks so successful. You must build an idea inside the minds of your audience members – and he offers four guidelines to help. 


Cultivate Your Voice 

“You have an amazing toolbox.  This instrument is incredible,  and yet this is a toolbox that very few people have ever opened.” – Julian Treasure 

Julian Treasure, is a sound expert who has advised businesses on how to design sound in their physical spaces and communication. In his talk, “How to Speak So That People Want to Listen,” he focuses on the human voice and how we can use it to get others to listen.  As he points out, it’s not just what we say but how we say it. 



Listen First to Understand 

“You have to listen to one another.  Stephen Covey said it very beautifully.  He said, ‘Most of us don’t listen with the intent to understand.  We listen with the intent to reply.’” – Celeste Headlee 

If you’re preparing for a conversation with someone who you need to persuade, whose viewpoint you suspect may be diametrically opposed to yours, you may be tempted to ready the rebuttals. But as Celeste Headlee, who has spent decades interviewing others as a radio host, points out, when we aren’t listening to each other, we’re less likely to find compromise. In this talk, she shares 10 ways we can have better conversations.  


Connect to Moral Values 

If you want to persuade someone on some policy,  it’s helpful to connect that policy to their underlying moral values. – Robb Willer 

So many of us are sick of the vehement disagreements over politics and wish we could find more common ground. For public library directors and their staffs, this isn’t simply an academic exercise. To cultivate more support for our libraries, we need to find ways to connect and help others understand.  

Robb Willer is a social psychologist whose research on moral values illuminates the way they can be used to bring people together. The key, he says, is moral reframing, that is, connect your desired outcome to your listener’s underlying moral values. 


Start with Why 

People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.  If you talk about what you believe, you will attract those who believe what you believe.” – Simon Sinek 

In a talk that has been viewed more than 36 million times, Simon Sinek explains how great leaders and organizations inspire others to take action. It all starts with telling others why you do what you do. 



About Tiffany McClary

Tiffany McClary is the Director of Communications, Marketing & Outreach for the New Jersey State Library. She coordinates marketing and public relations initiatives in order to enhance the reputation of the State Library, and promote the value of NJ libraries and the services and programs that they provide to residents.