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C2 It That You Actually Learn Something Useful in MTL

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I know I’m a bit weird, but I love going to industry conferences. Not because I get a day or two out of the office and the chance to travel; my office is virtual anyway because I’m on the road traveling 100% of the time, so there’s no added perk there.

I love conferences because (nerd alert!) I love being in a learning environment. It’s surprising I wasn’t a “lifer” university student, because I actually adored going to classes, debating with my peers and feeling my brain expand with new facts and perspectives. Conferences are the closest thing to university in our professional lives. And we’re not graded on anything, so it’s a win-win.

But then comes the conference burn-out. I arrive on day one, bright-eyed and bushy nerd-tailed, ready to soak up the knowledge. But the presentations run over and become rushed. The attendees sit and listen passively, while the speakers use a roster of tired buzzwords that mean nothing. We tweet the gems of insight that pass through our ears, in part to remember them, in part to prove we’re there and listening. People trade business cards, but not enlightenment. And the most engaging part of the conference becomes the candy bar sponsored by Google and collecting free sponsor schwag (my second favorite part of any conference).

We’re all business people, aren’t we? Why are we so afraid to join arms and face the tough questions that actually plague our industry in a collaborative way, while we have the benefit of being gathered together in the same massive space? Advertising, especially, is not a perfect business. Most of us hate it at times, even when we passionately love it. It has flaws, errors, misgivings and shortcomings that are rarely addressed head-on and when they are, the change is slow to come.

Ironic, isn’t it? We are some of the most creative minds in the world and we make our livings changing and challenging brand conventions for clients, and yet we live with the status quo ourselves. Why aren’t we using our creative minds to solve these business problems?

Enter the tree-shaking, status quo-challenging folks at C2-MTL, curated by SID LEE, stage left. The usual and expected isn’t going to fly in May 2012 when the inaugural annual global C2-MTL Commerce + Creativity conference kicks off.

C2-MTL aims to break the mold and use innovative technologies to get attendees interacting in a productive way. During the three-day gathering, C2-MTL promises that no two workshops will be the same, as all explore the relationship between commerce and creativity and its potential to redefine business. Finding creative answers to commercial questions is the name of the game.

When taking a look at this conference, begin with the set up – what they are calling “The Village.” At the center of The Village is the New City Gas complex, an industrial heritage building that was built in the nineteenth century, which will be transformed into a hub of creativity. It will have networking plazas, brainstorming zones, collective worktables, intimate conversation rooms and exclusive content lounges. And the attendees of C2-MTL will be among the first to step foot inside The Village.

An environment designed for collaboration sets the stage, but what will light the fire? How about a killer lineup of speakers from all facets of creative industries? SID LEE is known for blending disciplines – from architecture to design to engineering – to create exquisitely unique results. The C2-MTL conference will follow suit. Featured speakers include co-founder and Principal Architect of MVRDV Winy Maas, Fast Company’s Editor Robert Safian, the Chief Creative Officer of Google Creative Lab Robert Wong, former CEO of Walt Disney Group Michael Eisner, storyteller and businessman Francis Ford Coppola, Editor-in-Chief of AOL Huffington Post Media Group Arianna Huffington, the Chief Creative Officer of Dreamwork Bill Damaschke, Contributing Editor of Wired Magazine Jonah Lehrer, CCO Dreamworks and the President and CEO of Cirque de Soleil Daniel Lamarre.

Lamarre’s team, headquartered out of Montreal, will also breathe new life into conference presentation, as Cirque de Soleil is C2-MTL’s Creative Partner. What exactly that means is yet to be revealed (yes, only ticket holders will behold the revelation), but having just seen my first ever Cirque de Soleil show, I’m imagining projections onto pools of water filled with contortionists and speaker’s bullet points dangling from acrobats hanging from the ceiling by one finger and a sheet. Those of you attending next month will have to let me know (via Tweet, of course) what “Creative Partner” means when we’re talking about Cirque de Soleil.

The overarching themes of the conference are Generate, Activate and Innovate. Every single topic of presentation is a challenge, looking to the future and asking what are we doing, what are we going to be doing, how are we going to be doing it and most importantly, why? How refreshing from a typical line-up of “tell me what you did and how I can mimic your efforts for success in my own work, thanks.”

When conference speakers strategically include the Editor of Fast Company, it is no surprise – but of great interest – that the publication has chosen Montreal, rather than New York, to announce and celebrate its 100 Most Creative People in Business of 2012. Some of the recipients will even be in attendance. When past recipients include Jay-Z, Tina Fey, Oprah Winfrey and Facebook’s Chris Cox, we can only imagine who will grace the 2012 roster and join this esteemed crew. We can only imagine, or, of course, we could attend and see.

IBM will also be revealing results of its 2012 CEO Study at C2-MTL. Results will be revealed the same day in Tokyo, London and New York, but Montreal is the first place where IBM will be discussing the results. C2-MTL’s Caroline Lavergne explains on the event blog,

C2-MTL’s love story with IBM started a while ago. IBM’s 2010 CEO Study, Capitalising on Complexity, was a cornerstone of C2-MTL’s founding philosophy: 1500 CEOs from 60 countries and 33 industries declared not only that they feel ill-equipped in dealing with a constantly changing and evermore complex business landscape, but that the crucial factor of future success is creativity. Not rigor, management discipline, integrity or even vision. Creativity. The 72-page document is actually required reading for all new C2-MTL recruits.

Will C2-MTL succeed? Will this conference truly be different than the rest, and get its attendees talking, collaborating, brainstorming and making actual strides to move the needle forward on using creativity to innovate commercially? I don’t know. But if C2-MTL’s plans are not a recipe to achieve that objective, I don’t know what is. And if I wasn’t going to be halfway around the world at Portfolio Night 10 in China, I would definitely be in attendance in Montreal to find out.

Please let me know how it goes.

brianna C2 It That You Actually Learn Something Useful in MTL
Brianna Graves
Operations Manager, Writer


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