The Maestro of the Conference World Shares How He Does It

Richard Saul Wurman
Richard Saul Wurman weighs in on what makes a creative gathering. (Photo by Melissa Mahoney)

The best gatherings start with nothing, Richard Saul Wurman, the founder of TED and maestro of the conference world, told me during a recent interview. I reached out to him for a story I was writing for Prevue about culture and creativity. Why not go the master, I thought to myself?

“If we delight in our ignorance, use it as an inspiration to learn instead of an embarrassment to conceal, there would be no information anxiety,” he says.

Once you admit that you don’t know, you can focus on uncovering the table of contents that acts as a road map to understanding, he explains. The acronym he uses is LATCH. “The ways of organizing information are finite,” he says. “It can only be organized by location, alphabet, time, category, and hierarchy.” These modes are also the framework a successful convention should have, he adds.

He is the man who single handily revolutionized the conference industry by creating a convergence of technology, entertainment, and design – TED ­– now revered the world over.

“TED was Christmas morning for the mind,” he matter-of-factly states. “It started us on the path of having conversation with understanding.”

His most recent project is Understanding Understanding, a beautiful tome that he refers to as the book version of TED.

His passion, making information understandable, is the basis of any successful conference. But how do you do that? “Begin by going to a terrifying place. A place of nothing. Wipe the slate clean of anything you know,” he explains.

The best gatherings have this as the kindling and are then fueled by ferocious curiosity, he adds. Remember to find the quest in question and to inform when releasing information, says Wurman.

For insight into how Wurman orchestrates successful gatherings, go to the Creativity—The Key to Success story in the Sept/Oct issue of Prevue.

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