11 Ways C2 Montreal is Unlike any B2B Conference You’ve Ever Attended

Last week, I attended C2—the Commerce and Creativity Conference—in Montreal, Canada with my Opus colleagues, David Lemke and Jason Curtis. It had Snoop Dog (talking about the legalization of cannabis) as the big draw, but that’s not why I wanted to go. I was primarily interested in seeing a new event experience, and evaluating how that might be applied to the B2B events we work on, which are largely tech company user conferences. Luckily for me, there was no shortage of ideas to draw on.

Here are 11 ways C2 Montreal felt unique and elevated the experience:

1.  Personal event concierges.

Within days of registering for C2, I received a call from a charming woman identifying herself as Marianne, my “personal C2 concierge”—a role designed to help me get the most out of my C2 experience. She offered advice and recommendations on everything from what sessions to consider to what restaurants to try and sights to see while in Montreal. I have never been to an event that offered such high-touch service, and it struck me as such a positive way to start and forge a relationship with someone. If I were to emulate this approach, I would extend the outreach to post-event activities as well (something I have yet to see happen with C2). For example, if Marianne (a person I have forged a relationship with) asked me what I liked/didn’t like about the event, I would surely tell her, and that input is so incredibly valuable to an event organizer.

2.  Kickass environmental design.

C2 is an absolute feast for the eyes. There were cafes on rotating platforms. Attention-grabbing art installations (including a rather clever but somewhat horrifying chicken in a chicken suit at the onsite clothing boutique). There was the 2018 version of the phone booth that looked a bit like a space capsule (because, hey, who doesn’t need to take a conference call while at a conference?). And there was a big glass cube—dubbed The Aquarium—that hosted engaging interviews with people who are literally changing the world through AI, biotechnology and other exciting advancements. From the moment you walk in the door, everything is presented with just a little bit of spectacle, and that energy is electric.

3. Non-traditional, fluid agenda.

C2 is one place where it’s actually encouraged to have your own agenda. Instead of following a rigid formula of “keynote/breakouts/party” (rinse and repeat), C2 lets you build each day of your schedule by selecting from a combination of content formats, types and topics. Think of it as “event Legos” that allow you to build the experience you want. Attendees can select from workshops, labs, collaborative discussions, arts and celebrations, activities and coaching, and conference talks (these are typically the “headliner” speakers). Apart from the headliners, each of these sessions repeat multiple times, making it easy for attendees to build a schedule that suits their unique needs. Early birds can start the day with some group yoga and then go straight into a lab, collaborative session, or whatever. Those who operate better when the sun is fully up in the sky, can start with lunch and then have a full afternoon and evening of sessions. This ultimate flexibility puts the attendee in charge of their experience.

4. Truly interactive experiences.

C2 has nailed the elusive goal of actually delivering an interactive experience. In one session I attended, a group of us took a deep dive into our own minds through self-hypnosis (made possible through “mind-reading” headphones), followed by a rather interesting group discussion about how Facebook is experimenting with tailoring your social feed based on your subconscious thoughts. In other sessions, attendees baked and marketed a “guilt-free” cookie, discussed hot topics such as the future of reporting (with “fake news” being a blazing hot topic) in the “Conversation Market” and learned how birdwatching can provide insights into the way we live and work. There was even interactivity in the large sessions (with over 1,000 people), including one with Phillippe Meunier, Chief Creative Officer at Sid Lee, where each of us wrote words on a balloon and then swapped with other attendees to progressively write one massive poem. Oh, and Phillippe’s mid-session costume changes were entertaining, to say the least.

5.  Networking that actually works.

I asked everyone I spoke to what their favorite part of C2 was, and without fail, the answer was Braindating. And to be honest, seeing e180’s Braindate technology in action was one of the key reasons I wanted to attend C2. It didn’t disappoint! Braindating removes the weird dynamic of trying to network within a sea of people you don’t know by creating a sort of “Match.com” for attendees.

You start by creating a brief online profile of your interests, then you can either create a Braindate topic (e.g., Let’s discuss whether or not VR makes for a great event experience) or review topics that other attendees have posted to determine who you’d like to meet. The software makes it relatively easy to find and book a mutual time in your schedule to meet, and e180 offered a dedicated lounge area for Braindates. I talked to a publisher who hosted 11 Braindates in which attendees pitched their book ideas to her. She was incredibly happy to walk away with at least two exciting book prospects. The ability to connect with other attendees that have similar interests is a great way to expand your knowledge and your network.