Genevieve PM Roy
C2-Mtl: A Business Conference somewhere between Genius and Insanity!
From May 27th to the 29th, Montreal hosted C2-MTL for its third year at l’Arsenal, right in the heart of one of Montreal’s fastest growing commercial and residential districts; Griffintown.
From May 27th to the 29th, Montreal hosted C2-MTL at l’Arsenal, right in the heart of one of Montreal’s fastest growing commercial and residential districts; Griffintown.
Now in its third year, C2-Mtl has gained worldwide recognition as being a top tier international business conference on commerce and creativity (www.c2mtl.com). Curated by design, communications and advertizing agency SID LEE and supported by Founding Partner Cirque du Soleil, Content Partner Fast Company magazine, and Leadership Partner Microsoft, this annual gathering helps to build connecting bridges between the 4000 + participants over three activity and workshop filled days.
C2-Mtl curates international key speakers that epitomize what’s relevant in the current creative and commercial sphere, as well as share their professional industry advice and life experience to an audience of 1200 attendees with the help of large scale multimedia presentations. Before each speech bloc, charming host Justin Kingsley, would encourage audience members to participate in various collective experiences such as kissing each other on the cheek “Montreal style” and throwing thousands of lighted balls at each other for a long exposure photo. These activities were designed to unite all present and offer a taste of general Montreal culture.
This year's impressive line up included Nobel Peace Prize Laureate & Chairman Prof. Muhammad Yunus, Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, TV Host George Stroumboulopoulos, filmmaker Xavier Dolan, economist Noreena Hertz, LCD Sound system founder James Murphy, entrepreneurs and community leaders Zita Cobb of Fogo Island, Tony Hsieh of Zappos.com and closing speaker director and adventurer, James Cameron.
Some of the speech highlights include:
- Nobel Peace Prize Laureate & Chairman, Yunus Center, Prof. Muhammad Yunus’ Statement: “Social business is a cause-driven business". In other words, he advocates changing the mindsets of people to encourage reinvestment, rather than just offering charity. Companies should encourage youth and women to be entrepreneurs and break the cycle of poverty and generate profit that benefits everyone involved.
- Shorefast Foundation President Zita Cobb of Fogo Island shared her personal family and life story and passed the message that you have to live your life and dreams vicariously, stand for what you believe in and find value and reinvest in your community. The stunning slideshow of the Fogo Island Artist’s Studios captivated the audience.
- British composer and producer Philip Sheppard demonstrated how music transcends our daily lives. His loop rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah on his cello brought forth thunderous applause!
- International Business and Brand Innovator Cindy Gallop delivered an inspiring and somewhat borderline racy speech encouraging both men and women to feel empowered in their daily sexual lives. Her website Make Love not Porn celebrates "realistic sexiness!” for all!
- The closing talk with visionary filmmaker and adventurer James Cameron, saw the director answering audience questions and speaking enthusiastically of his past cinematographic successes such as crowd favorite Titanic as well as his new collaboration with Cirque du Soleil on an all new live show based on the film director’s revolutionary movie Avatar!
Leaning away from the more traditional business conference models, C2-Mtl offers a fully immersive experience by encouraging participants to collectively find creative answers to existing and emerging commercial questions with various activities and workshops that integrates more right-brain thinking into overall business strategy.
One of the activities I found absolutely amazing was the DIY Lab “innovation zone” (picture above) where an interactive experiment was conducted to see if a somewhat limited sensory environment could trigger a shift in conceptual thinking. Conference attendees (all hierarchies and dress styles confounded), were invited to sit blindfolded inside a sauna size pit filled with small plastic balls and find innovative answers to one of the seven questions prepared by keynote speakers. My group had to answer Simon Berry, (Co-founder and CEO of ColaLife)’s question. “How might we ensure that individuals keep the organization's mission at the forefront of their minds?”
The experience was an eye opener for me in that I found it easier to focus 100% on the message of the other speakers without visual distractions while also sharing my own opinions with ease without being judged on body language or eye contact.
This year C2-Mtl incorporated multiple innovation zones throughout the multi-building Arsenal complex to complement the speakers’ presentations on the main Microsoft Forum stage. Along with the DIY Lab, other innovation zones inside the Hangar included the Solutions Lab, Prototype Lab and Knowledge Market where attendees could help each other brainstorm and co-create new ideas collectively.
New Ideas and conferences aside, my colleague and associate writer Monica Wong, was impressed with the various art, food and fashion installments around the main Hangar organized by MASSIVart that included a central bar service, a spacious streaming lounge equipped with plasma televisions live-broadcasting the speeches ( as well as the Montreal Canadian vs. Boston hockey match!), a retail area featuring local Quebecois fashions and products, an interactive games corner with Oculus Rift goggles offering a virtual reality experience, geometrical ping pong, a life-size Lite Brite wall, a hand connecting snap photo booth as well as numerous street photography art.
The outdoor Plaza Solotech area boasted a lovely view of the Lachine Canal and included brand sponsored booths for individual companies such as Fast Company magazine, Sid Lee and Bell. The central communal seating area was the ideal place for networking around a drink, or to savor a delicious grilled meal from the Garage: a rustic space decorated with vintage televisions and which offered intermittent live music, less formal talks and short pitch sessions.
To complement three days of conferences and workshops, the fun continued late into the evening with various artistic and musical presentations by some of the biggest names from Montreal's legendary arts scene including Cirque du Soleil’s opening act Creative Spark, the Montreal International Jazz Festival, Mutek & Elektra at the MAC and it’s a New World by Cirque Éloize.
C2-Mtl's closing party, Illuminations, was a night of jubilant celebration with LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy turning up the heat in the house with his exclusive C2-Mtl DJ set that was followed by hometown turntable heroes DJ Shaydakiss and DJ A-Rock. The closing party was open to the general public much to the delight of several young party goers!
We personally found the conference to be a wonderful opportunity for all entrepreneurs and aspiring young minds to network, interact, listen and learn from some of the best leaders in the field. With attractive one day, student and pre - sale packages on offer, this annual gathering has quickly becomeThe Must Attend event for some of the best innovative and influential minds stemming from a broad spectrum of industries and countries. The conference left brains buzzing with big ideas on the many ways imagination can transform business and society.
For those seeking to attend next year's edition. C2Mtl has proudly announced that headliner Kevin Spacey and featured speaker Chelsea Clinton will be present as key-note speakers in 2015. Don't forget to put May 26-28, 2015 in your calendars!
For those wishing to participate overseas: Madrid, Spain – will see the first international version of C2MTL: C2EU in what the conference's organizers are calling a "global ecosystem of creativity and innovation" on five continents.
For more information please consult: http://www.c2mtl.com
* Special thanks to Monica Wong for collaborating on this article and providing valuable notes on conferences and various workshops.