It's always a good idea to look for new ways of entertaining ourselves during the language learning process. Many of you are business professionals and are watching TED Talks to learn new vocabulary, practice your listening skills, and improve your presentation skills. TED is fantastic resource, however, the structure of the videos are the same-- applause, the speaker tells a joke, we hear a few laughs, something inspirational is said, and then it closes with applause. To make their presentations a little more interesting, many of the speakers click through a slideshow, play music, or demonstrate a prototype or a product. It's a great platform for professionals to speak, listen and get inspired. As language learners though, we need to mix things up to keep ourselves motivated.
Below is a list of eight websites that will help you change up your listening routine. There are many platforms with quality materials, such as videos, audio recordings, interviews, and articles. The audience sizes vary too, which can allow for question-and-answer sessions if the group is small enough. Each platform has their own theme; some are more structured and business oriented, while the others are more creative and demonstrative.
99U is focused on business professionals who approach their work in a creative way. Many of them are scientists, engineers, coaches and artists. Not only do they have recorded presentations, they also have a magazine, and hold an annual conference in New York City.
The Moth has thousands of audio recordings of people sharing real life situations. Their goal is to share the “human experience,” so the speakers share personal stories in natural English, without notes. This may be better for advanced listeners because not all of the storytellers are refined speakers, meaning that the way they pronounce their words isn't in standard business English. It's a great resource if you want to hear the language spoken by regular people.
Big Think's goal is to inspire and educate it's viewers in a short span of time. Most of their videos are 10 minutes or less. They use professionals who are well-known within their industries to help their audience understand a concept, or to help them expand their minds beyond what they already know.
PechaKucha may be the most unique of all the websites. Like the others, it has thousands of videos, but each video is only 400 seconds long, less than 7 minutes. You will not see the speaker; you will not see diagrams, charts, or statistics, but you will see 20 images that relate to the topic. This is really good for who want to listen to a great speaker, remember what he or she said, and have something to look at without distracting movements by the speakers. Each image is shown for exactly 20 seconds and automatically changes to the next one. This is meant to help the listener understand exactly what the speaker is saying, and to keep the speaker from talking too much.
CreativeMornings has inspirational, monthly lectures that are free for the public to attend. The speakers are business professionals, artists, designers, photographers, among others. Most videos are about 30 minutes long. Just like TED Talks, there are many topics that are discussed. One thing you is that the subtitles are not always accurate, so this will challenge your listening skills. Don’t worry, it’s a good thing!
The DO Lectures' presentations are designed to help their audience members reach their potential. They are not a conference, but they have a gathering of 100 attendees and 20 speakers. They describe it as a "pause button in a busy life." They are interested in what it means to be human, so many of the presentations are of personal accounts, personal stories about their successes and failures in business and in regular life.
Talks at Google has a hodgepodge of speeches and and lectures. There are hundreds of videos to sift through, so you are certain to find something interesting to watch, but be mindful of the time. Most of the videos are about an hour or longer!
HubSpot is a team of marketing advisors. They have 3-minute videos on Youtube that can help you with your marketing strategies. They also have 45-minute lectures that showcase leaders in many different industries demonstrating new marketing techniques and tactics.
I want to end this blog with a with a funny video I found. Pat Kelly, author of This Is That: Travel Guide to Canada, recreates what a standard presentation looks like. In his ironic demonstration, he claims to be a "thought leader" and discusses how to provoke a standing ovation from a crowd by saying nothing of importance. You can check out the video here.
There is absolutely no doubt that TED Talks are a fantastic resource. They are recommended to language learners and innovative thinkers every day. Still, it's nice to have an alternative like the ones listed above. Each of them have a different approach to a standard presentation and they target a slightly different audience, allowing you to mix things up and take charge of your language learning process!
How did you feel when you gave your first speech?