C2 Montréal 2018 turns convention on its head

Jamie O'Meara

There is no such thing as “business as usual” at C2 Montréal, the business conference that doesn’t even like being called a business conference. Say sayonara to mind-numbing PowerPoint presentations, stuffy conference rooms and lunches that taste like the cardboard boxes they’re in. Instead, each year C2 turns conference conventions on their head at an event that – with its inspiring speakers, rainbow of performers, immersive art installations, playful brainstorming experiences, custom-designed site and world-class cuisine – brings all of Montréal’s creativity to bear.

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What, exactly, is this C2 you speak of?

C2 Montréal goes down May 23-25, and will again take over the enormous Arsenal contemporary art space in Montréal’s southwest Griffintown neighbourhood. This seventh edition of C2 will gather together 6,500-plus movers and shakers – business leaders, entrepreneurs, creatives and professionals from more than 60 countries representing over 20 industries – under one figurative umbrella (and a literal big top… more about that shortly). Over the course of three days, attendees will participate in challenging and fun collaborative sessions, unique brainstorming experiences and more networking opportunities than you can shake a business card at. And, of course, it all revolves around a stacked roster of inspiring speakers, which in the past has included folks like Francis Ford Coppola, Georges St. Pierre, Martha Stewart, Sir Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, Steve Wozniak and Alec Baldwin.

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A wide array of (mostly human) speakers

C2 is one of the few places you’ll find, as is the case this year, neuroscientists, architects and marketing moguls sharing the stage with oceanographers, tech designers and photographers. And an internationally renowned rap artist. And a talking robot. Indeed, over 100 speakers, experts and interviewers will be appearing as part of an expanded lineup this year. This includes hip-hop superstar and high-rolling cannabis industry entrepreneur Snoop Dogg, BlackRock marketing heavyweight Frank Cooper III, legendary oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle, ground-breaking Aussie architect Nik Karalis, robot humanizer Christine Sunu, famed photographer Jimmy Nelson, Nielsen Chief Neuroscientist Dr. Carl Marci and much-talked-about, world famous AI android, Sophia. You can check out the full list (so far) of speakers here.

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Stretch your creative muscles

C2 – which stands for commerce and creativity – is, above all, a collaborative event designed to help people tap into their own creativity in order to better face challenges in their professions and fields. It’s also a great way to meet peeps one might never have the opportunity to bump into otherwise, and that’s where C2’s many hands-on collaborative sessions come in. These sessions include masterclasses (interactive experiences hosted by experts) and workshops (prototyping sessions designed to turn ideas into action) and, new this year, Conversation Markets, which will see teams working together trying to find answers to challenging questions.

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It's raining brains!

One of the highlights of C2 every year are the signature brainstorming sessions called labs. Playful and experiential, labs take place in unique, custom-made environments designed to get people out of their comfort zones and looking at things differently. Past labs have found participants swimming in a ball pool, wandering around in the dark, climbing a VR mountain, baking a colossal cake, navigating through dense fog and hanging suspended high in the air. (The 2018 labs haven’t been announced yet, but word on the street is they are some next-level cool.)

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A site for sore eyes

All of the above merits a location to match: each year Arsenal (located right beside the picturesque Lachine Canal) is transformed into the vibrant C2 village. A veritable playground for the imagination, the lively and expansive indoor and outdoor site is a feast for the senses. Inside is where you can find the labs, a radio-station “Aquarium,” interactive art installations, funky networking lounges, musical acts and other performances. The outdoor portion of the village is dominated by C2’s main conference venue, 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. The surrounding, bustling village features a large floating terrace with bars and 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 on the final night of C2, Arsenal morphs into a massive dance party for the closing “Illumination Night” celebration featuring internationally renowned music artists.

Jamie O’Meara

Jamie O’Meara, blogger

Jamie O’Meara is a writer for The Montreal Gazette, C2 Montréal, Moment Factory and more. He also manages the PR Team at the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival and is the former Editor-in-Chief of alt-weekly newspaper HOUR Magazine.