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.
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.
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.
6. Klik smart badge.
It’s nice when we “click” with someone we’ve just met, but it can sometimes be awkward to keep the conversation going. No one really carries business cards these days, and who has time to write down their info for someone when at a busy conference? With Klik you simply place your badges next to each other, click them, and like magic, you’ve shared your information with each other.
7. On-demand food with a variety of options.
C2 eschews the typical white-clothed tables in dimly lit ballrooms offering marginal buffet food for a more festival-like experience, featuring an array of food trucks and vendors in a sunny outdoor setting on the central plaza. Attendees had a choice of food from around the world, including pizza, poke, salads, tacos, everything duck—even dining on surf and turf along the riverfront. And while there were some grumbles about having to pay for the food a la cart, everyone seemed quite happy with the food selections and quality, and more so, the ability to eat whenever it suited them. Free sparkling or still spring water on demand was convenient for attendees and good for the environment. Feeling a little low energy? Just stop by one of the Nespresso stands to grab a complimentary caffeinated drink of your choice. And on the last day, there was free-flowing champagne and cheese-pop nibbles to keep the fun going until Snoop took over with some celebrity DJ action later in the night.
8. Ultra-targeted, invite-only workshops.
In addition to the great content offered by C2, many of their partners offered curated workshops that were targeted to specific attendee profiles. For example, I was invited to attend the private “Experience Transcended: Navigating the AR Landscape” workshop with Facebook. Yes, part of the session was dedicated to Facebook talking about their AR capabilities, but because it was relevant to me, it didn’t feel like a sales pitch. It felt more like a peek into the near future, giving me new food for thought in how I can incorporate AR into future events. This ultra-targeted approach ensured that I found the time worthwhile and relevant, and that is something all event marketers should be doing (but it means you really need to understand your audiences).
9. Build your own swag.
10. A container village.
Building on the unique environment of C2, clusters of containers were terraced to create a sort of mesa village of gathering spots. These containers offered a range of food choices as well as hospitality suites for strategic partners.
11. Mind-blowing content that truly makes you smarter.
If you want to know what will be happening in the world of commerce and creativity in the next 3 years, then C2 is the place to be. Brainiac, Skyler Tibbets, showed how MIT Labs 4D printed a self-assembling shoe, and worked with Airbus to develop aircraft parts that would morph and change to control the temperature based on the environment. What? 4D printing? “So, what does one get with the extra D?” you might ask. Well, 4D printing is essentially the creation of dynamic 3D printed materials that can autonomously change shape when exposed to elements such as water, movement or a change in temperature.
I also learned from behaviorist, Dan Ariely, that behavior change is not what you think it is. For example, why do we all brush our teeth? It’s not because we’re worried about cavities, it’s because the toothpaste industry has convinced us that to be socially acceptable we must have minty-fresh breath. We care more about banning morning breath than avoiding time in the dreaded dentist chair. Go figure.