C2 Montréal 2018: An event unlike any other
by Jamie O’Meara
The Harvard Business Review called it “a conference unlike any other,” The Economist says it’s “challenging conventions,” and BizBash named it the Best Conference of 2017. What’s sure is that the C2 Montréal business conference is not your father’s business conference: PowerPoint is replaced by 360° multimedia projections; hotel conference rooms by a vibrant indoor/outdoor innovation village; and standard-issue boxed lunches by world class chefs. And that’s just scratching the surface.
Where commerce and creativity meet
The seventh edition of C2 Montréal takes place over three days, May 23-25, at the expansive Arsenal contemporary art space in Montréal’s historic Griffintown neighbourhood. Founded by creative agency Sid Lee and Cirque du Soleil, each year C2 – the two Cs represent the intersection of commerce and creativity – convenes 6,500-plus business leaders, entrepreneurs, creatives and professionals from more than 60 countries representing over 20 industries. Over the course of three days, attendees will participate in a range of custom collaborative sessions, unique brainstorming experiences and personalized networking opportunities against a backdrop of renowned, field-leading speakers (past speakers have included Sir Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, James Cameron, Steve Wozniak and Martha Stewart).
The goal: collisions and collaborations
C2 is, above all, a collaborative event designed to unlock creativity in order to help attendees better adapt to disruption and change in their industries, address any social and/or business challenges they may face, and connect with others they may not normally have the opportunity to cross paths with. Which is in keeping with C2’s theme this year, “Transformative Collisions,” and how these collisions between different people and industries have the potential to break down barriers between sectors and disciplines.
Over 100 field-leading speakers, experts and interviewers will share their insights and experience in talks and panels, part of an expanded lineup this year. These talks and panels take place in C2’s two conference venues: the one-of-a-kind 360 Big Top – an actual circus big top, albeit a state-of-the-art one that functions as an immersive, multimedia performance platform that is reimagined for each speaker and panel – and the more intimate Cabaret. Speakers that have been announced so far this year include hip-hop star and now cannabis industry entrepreneur Snoop Dogg (in the company of his long-time manager and business partner Ted Chung), BlackRock marketing heavyweight Frank Cooper III, legendary oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, Mozilla’s online misinformation fighter Katharina Borchert, ground-breaking Aussie architect Nik Karalis, famed photographer Jimmy Nelson, Nielsen Chief Neuroscientist Dr. Carl Marci and sustainable capitalism expert Freya Williams among many, many more. Find the list of speakers here.
Hands-on collaborative sessions
Learning by doing is central to the C2 experience, and hands-on collaborative sessions, designed to provide opportunities to network with fellow attendees while putting ideas and creativity into play, are a hallmark of C2. These sessions include masterclasses (interactive experiences hosted by experts that dive more deeply into “big ideas,” and which for the first time will be hosted in the 360 Big Top) and workshops (prototyping sessions for gaining actionable knowledge). New this year are “Conversation Markets,” which will see teams working together in order to tackle a burning business question.
Unique brainstorming opportunities
Each year, C2 devises a new set of challenging and playful experiential sessions called labs. Always one of the highlights of the event, these atypical learning experiences take place in unique, custom-made environments and are designed to take people out of their usual frame of reference, get creatively “unstuck” and discover new ways of approaching things. Past labs have seen participants working in teams trying to find solutions to questions while swimming in a ball pool, navigating through dense fog, trying to find their way out of an escape room or while hanging suspended high in the air. (The 2018 labs are not yet announced.)
The C2 village
Described as a “playground for the imagination,” each year C2 reinvents the sprawling, lively indoor and outdoor site – the C2 village – where the event takes place. The aforementioned Arsenal art space and surrounding parkland (located right beside Montréal’s picturesque Lachine Canal) is designed to entertain and spark conversation. Performers wander throughout the site, which features a media lounge, a radio “Aquarium,” art installations, a “Braindating Lounge,” musical performances and more inside Arsenal. Outside, there is a large floating terrace with bars, boat rides, more music and performances and, among other things, the opportunity to sample Montréal’s gastronomic culture courtesy of world-renowned chefs and the city’s famous food trucks. And the final night plays host to the closing “Illumination Night” celebration, which sees the interior of Arsenal transformed into a massive dance party.
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