Having used so many TED clips on The Interpreter, I feel obliged to offer some criticism of this conference series:
What began as something spontaneous and unique has today become a parody of itself. What was exceptional and emergent in the realm of ideas has been bottled, packaged, and sold back to us over and over again. The whole TED vibe has come to resemble a sales pitch.
There are some wonderful observations in the piece about the preferred TED presentation style (think Steve Jobs) so do read the whole thing.
What's always struck me about TED is the effort put into staging. Long ago, major sporting clubs realised that, because there was so much money to be made in televising sport, they needed stadiums that were in fact giant TV studios. The TV audience was bigger and worth more than those in the venue, so actual spectators became, in part, props to make the TV experience richer.
TED, I suspect, applied a similar idea to the conference. In most TED venues, the stage on which the speakers perform (its hard to resist that verb in relation to TED talks) looks more like a TV set than a lecture hall. The videos are also very well produced, with lots of quirky PowerPoint and a big role for the audience, who you hear in the background and see in cutaways. It's all designed to enrich the viewing experience, and it has made TED into an online video sensation.