Game changers and industry shakers: Lessons from C2 MTL

Part networking event, part celebration of creative innovation, part circus: C2 Montreal is the conference that’s hard to label.

Last week, I, along with some of my Montreal colleagues, attended this three-day event. Drawing thousands of people from business, creative arts and technology from across North America, C2 (the two Cs stand for Commerce + Creativity) is part of a new breed of business conferences. Not satisfied to merely educate or round up a room full of vendors, C2 challenged people to break out of their comfort zones in hands-on workshops, labs and creative events.

People climbed walls. There was a giant ball pit. There were robots drawing portraits. There was even an indoor snow machine. Outside, people sat on Muskoka chairs connecting over gourmet food truck fare. A post-it wall invited people to create art one piece at a time. There were cooking workshops with award-winning international chefs. Keynote speakers included David Suzuki, Martha Stewart and P.K. Subban. Old telephones hung from ceilings; keynote speeches were preceded by laser light shows; jungle plants grew indoors. It was pure sensory overload everywhere you looked.

C2

Now, you may be asking, what does any of that have to do with digital marketing? It’s a fair question. C2, now in its fifth year, has been criticized for being little more than an expensive playground for hipsters. And I’ll freely admit that some of what was on offer was a bit of a stretch. Creative? Absolutely. Commercial? Erm, maybe.

But that’s precisely the point. No matter what we do, many of us get caught up in the endless trap of routine. Emails, spreadsheets, reports, deadlines, get it done, get it done, get it done. We’re so busy chopping trees that we lose sight of the forest.

Game changers happen every day. Smart companies devote time to the bigger picture, to keeping their finger on the pulse, to imagining “what if? Because if they don’t, then they risk being blindsided. Game changers might not always survive, but neither do the markets they disrupt. From AirBNB to Uber to Netflix, the new is shaking up the tried and true, and the rate of change is only going to get quicker. The overall message? Evolve or die.

There were panel discussions on the future of traditional media led by representatives of companies that are breaking that mould, including Vox.com and Montreal-founded Vice Media. There were workshops on collaborative storytelling, industry disruption, environmental design. There were talks by game-changers such as Cirque du Soleil, Google and Etsy. The future of our planet was addressed in workshops on environmentalism, sustainability and green design. Representatives of IBM, MIT and Oxford University took on the meaty questions of ethics in the era of artificial intelligence, robotics and the Internet of Things.

C2

And so, we broke out of our boxes for a few days and thought about the future in a real way. Connections were made. Relationships and friendships were born. As we navigated through the (literal) indoor trees, hopefully we all ended up a little more able to be inspired about the shape of the forest in the future.

C2

 

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