C2MTL: A business conference, only different
If you haven’t heard of C2MTL, it’s a 3-day creativity and commerce conference – thus C2, and for non-Montrealers, MTL = Montreal. The event mainly comprises of talks/panels with big name speakers, workshops, networking and festivities.
When I first heard about the event, I only wanted to go to see Sir Richard Branson talk, because this would be a unique opportunity to see one of the most iconic entrepreneurs in the world. It was later that I realized there is much more to this event. It is my initial intention and what I’ve seen more, that I will share in this post.
First day, after I got to know the venue, I watched the talk by Blake Mycoskie, Founder of TOMS Shoes. Shoes that all my friend except I owned a pair of. I learned the great story behind those pieces of art (TOMS Shoes), and how they got the inspiration from Argentina and mainly, how they implemented ‘giving’ in their business. Mycoskie explained how his business took off, and after donating one pair for one pair purchased, he got inspired more by the social side of the business. So, he sold his business to focus on shoe-giving, and pursued his idea as a social business. He stressed how important it is to implement ‘giving’ in anything you do. It was a great talk.
After that, I met my ‘Concierge Extraordinaire’. Those are people who are there to help you throughout the event. I also got to meet new people there.
For the rest of the day, there were great speakers such as Tom Gentile (President and CEO, GE Healthcare Systems), Chris Bangle (one of the most influential designers of 21st century, and former chief designer of BMW), Philippe Starck (famous French designer and architect). I also met Tom Gentile personally in his workshop.
Evening festivities were not as fun as planned because of the unexpected rain, but Montreal Jazz Festival team did a great job in entertaining the crowd even in the tent. They played gypsyish music and we couldn’t resist but dance! And oh, I cannot forget the roasted marshmallows!
I woke up around 10.30 so I missed the morning festivities(!) as usual. I started my day off at C2MTL by attending the storytelling workshop given by Steve Brown of Intel. Even though I joined the workshop late, it was a great experience on reflecting how to tell great stories which is really important in business in general.
For the most of the day, I didn’t really listen to speakers, I mostly networked or attended workshops although there were some influential people speaking like Diane von Furstenberg (Founder and Chairman, DVF).
This night by far was the best. We first got ourselves tipsy at SAQ’s Wine Tasting Workshop; you could tell everyone was there to drink more than to taste! Even though not planned, this workshop I went with my friends got us into the mood! C2MTL team rented L’Auberge Saint-Gabriel, which is a huge bar near Old Port. After having dinner with friends, we went to this place and we were welcomed by smokes in a dungeon! It wasn’t scary, but it was such a unique atmosphere that you would easily feel drunk without drinking. After going through the dungeon and taking bunch of narrow stairs, we were welcomed in an amazing modern bar. This was a place to chill. They had a terrace outside, it was very crowded but I asked myself, “I see a lot of young people here, why did they prefer a bar setting instead of a club?” My question was answered when one of the staff pointed me to downstairs, which was beginning of another dungeon-like hallway. After passing the hallway, we were welcomed by very energetic people in venue designed like a small club! Indeed, it was obvious that they thought of everyone and they catered to every age group.
My last day at C2MTL started with networking meetings. Once again I met great people.
It was great to watch President of Just For Laughs, Andy Nulman’s talk with his unorthodox style.
For the most of the day I networked until the big time came: Sir Richard Branson’s talk! I got into the conference room and impatiently waited for the iconic entrepreneur. First, they introduced the winners of the bootcamp that ran throughout the event. The theme of the bootcamp was “War on Drugs” and all the winners had tons of great ideas filled with humor to finish the “war on drugs”.
After they announced the winners for the bootcamp, Sir Richard Branson was on stage, and I realized something. Oh my god, he was nervous! He overused the word ‘you know’ in the beginning but got better after a while. I found it interesting that this guy lived every possible adventure and experience out there but was still nervous to talk at a business conference. Not just that he is the founder of the famous Virgin Group and owns islands but also that he actually toured the world in a balloon, fell in the middle of the ocean and waited to be rescued for hours. A friend of mine then warned me that this is why they usually don’t involve him in monologues, because he is more of a dialogue guy. A good question from someone in the crowd was, “What is the next industry you would want to enter?”, and Sir Richard replied, “Energy, definitely. It will be big, and the energy industry is crying for intelligent entrepreneurs now.”
Last night of the event was gorgeous with it’s light shows and live music although I cannot say I admired the latter much. I have to admit though, light shows were a feast for the eyes.
Networking Throughout the Event
They had this software called E-180. It’s a Montreal-based company and C2MTL hired them to specialize their software for this event. So you could log into this website and you could check your schedule for the day, take a look at the workshops, and most importantly browse attendees and arrange meetings with them. So, you would enter ‘your requests’ (things that you would like to learn from an attendee) and ‘your offers’ (things that you would like to share with an attendee), and everyone would see those. If anyone finds you interesting, they can offer to meetup or if you are interested in meeting anyone, you can offer to meetup. During the event, there were 3 different business meeting points, and you could meet that person in one of those assigned by this software.
I found this software really smart in the sense that by asking for your requests and offers, it enforces you to have an agenda so that when you are networking, you are not fooling around. The only problem was not many people were being on time at their meeting point, there was no way to enforce that. I believe that was because the conference talks were usually over time, and it took people some time to get out of the conference room as well.
I won’t give names but I met some amazing people from Google, Ubisoft, SAP, Square, Merchlar and lots of great entrepreneurs thanks to this software.
Overall, C2MTL was a great experience. I would love to attend the next edition next year if I am in town.