From May 21st to May 23rd 2013, creativity is everyone’s business

Last May, Montreal turned into an international hub for creativity when 1250 people and 45 speakers from around the world came together for C2-MTL, a brand new breed of business conference that’s was like nothing ever experienced in the past.

The results were impressive: 187 million dollars of contracts and agreements were signed or negotiated following the first edition of C2-MTL. And we’re only counting the numbers that were reported following a poll so we can only imagine that the real figures are even higher.

After last year’s edition, organizers and founders proved it was possible to mobilize the business world around an immersive, participatory, collaborative and creative event, reinventing the whole concept of the traditional conference set-up.


Source: C2-MTL’s Facebook Page

The early days of an idea that would become an annual event

A few years ago, Jean-François Bouchard (president of Sid Lee) and Guy Laliberté met with a wide range of entrepreneurs from different backgrounds to brainstorm ideas for a business conference in Montreal focused on creativity. They choose the Spas Scandinaves to host the event. Benoît Berthiaume – the man behind the concept and president of the spas – was not only flattered the prestigious crew chose his establishment for this creative summit, but also intrigued. After all, he was a businessman who attended lots of conferences around the world and felt inspired by the idea.

The brainstorming session came and went. Everyone returned back to where they came from. Time moved on.

After launching four spas across Canada, Benoît was enjoying some down time. Anticipating two or three years of relative calm in a normally loaded schedule, he was looking for a new project to develop and he found it when Jean-François Bouchard presented the business plan they worked on after their brainstorming session at the spa. “If you’re looking for something to do, we could use a hand on this one.” To the surprise of no one who knew him, Benoît became the new president of C2-MTL a few months later.

It’s an understatement to say Benoît had a lot on his plate. He had to build a team, study the business conference market worldwide, pinpoint exactly what Montreal could offer and develop a trademark out of it, and spend every waking moment looking for the perfect business partners to steer the ship safely into the harbour.  The collaboration between Cirque du Soleil, Sid Lee and Fast Company certainly made it a lot easier to connect with some of the leading names in business. Heavy hitters from different businesses were eager to add their name to the impressive list of speakers. Tickets were selling fast. C2-MTL’s first edition was held at New City Gas – a venue that was entirely redesigned to immerse attendees in a world of endless creative possibilities. Participants had everything they needed to jump into this event and emerge three days later, transformed by the experience.

Robert Wong-Chief Creative Office, Google Creative Lab

C2-MTL 2012. Robert Wong, Chief Creative Director, Google Creative Lab.
Source : C2-MTL’s Facebook Page

The great forces behind C2-MTL

The event sounded extremely promising, but we can’t forget the amount of work needed to raise the bar to the level we all thought it was going to be. For that to happen, Benoît focused on the key attributes that give Montreal its particular flavour: hospitality, kindness, showmanship and natural talents.

 A human touch from Quebec

For the president, Quebec has an incredible strength: Quebecers. “We must not change who we are. That’s what makes us different and unique. We have to be ourselves. Entrepreneurs that come here can see the difference. We are a young society, we know hospitality, and we like to do everything our own way. We can’t lose that.” The concierges extraordinaires was one of the many ways this sense of hospitality is close to the organizers’ hearts. All participants are paired with a volunteer concierge extraordinaire who would take care of them for the entire duration of the conference. In essence, it was someone to network with, talk to, have fun with, and share all the creative thoughts that were bubbling to the surface. In hindsight, the concierge extraordinaire did a remarkable job of creating a fraternity between participants and speakers in an atmosphere in which all ideas were fearlessly shared.

The best part? Participants were able to meet and talk with the speakers during the conference since they were all invited to the same networking activities and workshops. Name one other business conference where you get face time with some of the world’s most influential people?

A sense of showmanship

We all know what to expect in terms of creative experiences when Sid Lee and Cirque du Soleil come together. Which is why Benoît was such a natural fit.  “The environment is a high-level priority for me. You can see the effects your surroundings have on the creative process during a brainstorm session. You don’t get your ideas during business hours. Most of the time, something will spark when you’re doing something else, when you change your environment. It was really important for me to set-up an environment in which all the paradigms would fall off. I wanted a place where we could yank the participants out of their comfort zone. We wanted ideas to travel effortlessly.” Seeing the incredible spas the man has created, it’s clear he has a talent for making the most of an environment. And the fact they all came to his spa to brainstorm the original concept is kind of closing the loop.


C2MTL édition 2013

Source: C2-MTL’s Facebook Page 

In 2013, creativity is everyone’s business

No need for a crystal ball: everyone predicted the event would return after the tremendous success of 2012 edition. A brand new year means a brand new theme, speakers to line-up, a venue to design for the event. This year, the event will take place at l’Arsenal, although Benoît Berthiaume is not expecting to change the headquarters annually. Conferences, networking, exhibits, Bootcamp, and parties are on the menu for the sequel.  Participants will have access to conferences from exceptional business speakers including Philippe Starck (architect and designer), Sir Richard Branson (Founder of Virgin Group), John Mackey (Co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods), Arkadi Kuhlmann (Founding CEO Direct), Blake Mycoskie (Founder and CEO of TOMS) and Tom Gentile (President and CEO, GE Healthcare Systems)… the line-up is second to none compared to other international conferences.

You can find everything you need to know about the 2013 edition of C2-MTL on their website

You can also follow C2-MTL on Twitter (@C2MTL) or like their Facebook Page

Leave a Comment