A thirst for knowledge inspired this one-of-a-kind annual event. It’s the story of TED Conferences – ideas worth spreading.
Richard Saul Wurman was an architect, graphic designer and a deep thinker. But Wurman didn’t stick to what he knew. It was the things he didn’t know that fascinated him most.
He particularly loved to listen to people who worked in Technology, Entertainment, and Design. It was this observation, and his endless curiosity, that drove him to create a conference centered around these disciplines.
He called it the TED Conference — short for Technology, Entertainment, and Design.
He invited the most interesting people he could think of and had them present 18-minute talks.
“When I first did TED, I looked around at all the conferences and realized that I could subtract things from them,” Wurman recalls. “…[W]th TED I took away the long lectern speeches, the long introductions, the panels, the men in suits.”
The result was all information and very little pretense. The first conference, held in 1884, included speakers like Steve Jobs and Jazz pianist Herbie Hancock. The event was fascinating. But it lost money, and it was years before Wurman would return to the idea.
But in the early 1990’s, he did return. And this time, it was a success. The TED conference became an annual event. Invitation-only attendees pay big bucks to go to these conferences (up to a $6,000 annual membership fee).
TED speakers range from entertainers and academics to philanthropists and philosophers. Some of them you’ve never heard of. Some of them–like film director J.J. Abrams and theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking–you probably have. But everyone has something to say, and the lecture series has become something of a rite of passage for many intellectuals.
After overseeing 18 TED conferences, Wurman decided it was time to move on. He left the organization in 2002. Under their new leadership, TED began experimenting with offering some of the talks for free online. Word of mouth made the talks go viral. So they ran with it. They began filming all the TED Talks and posting the best ones online, for free. They’ve gotten more than a billion video views so far!
Richard Saul Wurman exemplifies a Why Didn’t I Think of That? Axiom: Pursue Your Passion.
TED Talks: the world’s greatest creative thinkers spreading their ideas to the masses. Now Why Didn’t I Think of That?
Playlist: The 20 Most-Watched TED Talks