TEDxKL – Daniel Cerventus

In Curating, Marketing by Mark Sylvester

The Hack: Figure out your key presenters and build your event around them


Daniel Cerventus is a long time TEDx organizer and the founding curator of TEDxKL. Daniel is also the TEDx ambassador for SouthEast Asia. He started in 2009 with 50 people and has produced events every year. He’s a bundle of energy and has a long-term vision for TEDx in the region.

As an Ambassador, he’s part of a much larger team of organizers that help each other be successful and share best practices. He says one of the keys to success is how well you build partnerships outside your community – these relationships help you as you assist others with their events.

When he visited TEDxTaipai, run by Jason Hsu, he was inspired and came back to Kuala Lumpur knowing that they had to up their game. Since then his inspiration has come from India, Tokyo, Singapore and early conversations with Lara Stein, the original head of TEDx.

We knew we had to up our game.” After seeing TEDxTaipaiDaniel Cerventus, Founding curator, TEDxKL

The Lightning Round

  • Tell us a bit about your background and your TEDx origin story.

    Daniel started in 2009 when TEDx was just getting going. In fact, they were event number 36. He met with Dave from TEDxSingapore, another early adopter and decided to produce a local event.His core team is 50 people and the day-of-team swells to 150. They regular fill the largest arenas in Kuala Lumpur and are always on the hunt for venues that can hold the growing audiences. Their last event was 4,600 people.To keep a sense of intimacy, they produce workshops and smaller discussions that engage and involve the community. They have an interesting concept that includes providing exhibition space for past presenters, so the audience can check in on the progress that’s been made. Love this idea.

  • How many TEDx events have you worked with or produced?

    “I’ve lost count.” Daniel is very involved in the TEDx community and has traveled the world meeting other organizers and helping the organization grow. His primary focus is on TEDxKL and TEDxKLYouth

  • What makes your TEDx unique?

    He says that it’s focusing on the ideas and people of the Malaysian culture. He sees his TEDx as a discovery platform and a showcase for ideas. They always bring in a local performance troupe including a fantastic hand-percussion orchestra to last year’s show.

  • What’s your Superpower?

    Curating and Marketing. TED is relatively unknown in the region and telling the story has been a big part of their success. Each year they grow 50%. Last year’s audience topped out at 4,700 attendees.

  • What was the biggest surprise while working on your event?

    How important his background in Debate and Theater would be in his role as organizer. He also found that acting exercises for his speakers work better than he thought.

  • Every event has its challenges, what was the biggest dragon you had to overcome?

    Working with the youth teams. The team has limited life-experience and changes each year. It becomes hard to pass institutional knowledge from team to team. Also, understanding how scale affects everything. Mark’s note: Yes, especially at 2x growth year over year. Much like a startup that’s exploding. Pay attention organizers.

  • What’s one piece of advice you have for veteran organizers? For first-timers?

    Understand exactly what you want to do. For veterans, continue to be more original in your thinking. And for everyone: understand your finances and cash flow.

  • Looking forward to your next event, what excites you the most?

    This year is the 60th year of independence for Malaysia, even though the country is 500 years old. They’re going to celebrate this in a myriad of ways. He thinks that focusing on the past 60 years and breaking down the history into decades will provide inspiration to the event.

  • What’s a TEDx event that you’d like to attend?

    TEDxScottBase in Antarctica (He said this without skipping a beat, he wants to go, badly.)

  • The show is called Hacking the Red Circle, so what's your best hack?

    Figuring out your key presenters, then building your event around them – from marketing to your day of schedule.

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