This blog post was submitted by Linda Mouhamou, BCom student.

Leave everything you know about conferences at the door, including a dress code, because when it comes to C2 Montreal’s international conference you can certainly expect them to defy the conventional. Imagined by the Sid Lee creative agency and founding Partner Cirque du Soleil, C2 brings a sensational avant-garde approach connecting intellect with immersive experiences through the dynamic interaction of commerce and creativity. 

From May 26 to 28, I was able to represent the Telfer School of Management as one of 100 student delegates from across Canada at this prestigious event. My stimulating experience commenced as I was greeted by a large artistic display of hanging doors that guided me into the contemporary “Innovation Village”, a completely transformed industrial warehouse. C2 exclusively created a mesmerizing venue to ooh and ahh the crowd of ambitious visitors. There were clothing boutiques, exhibits fusing art and technology, activities, scrumptious and artsy food displays, creative seating arrangements, and of course, the always impressive C2 Labs. The labs were out-of-the-box workshops that used virtual reality, a gigantic nest, a fog-filled igloo, and chairs suspended over an 5 meter high net. But it didn’t end there. Making my way outdoors, the circus-like decorum, complete with a Ferris wheel and ship container booths for VIP sponsors instantly made you feel like a big kid. This made it the perfect location for the evening social networking, performances, and the massive final celebration.

All the activities, including over 37 keynote speakers and 30 workshops, were devised around this year’s central theme: choices. Each day conversations took place around food, health, and energy by examining how innovation, social entrepreneurship, investment and technology are shaping our future as a society. The key takeaway of the conference seemed to be the importance of instrumenting projects by building eclectic teams, from strategists to musicians, creatively driving change.

On day one, it quickly became evident that despite setting the bar very high, this year’s C2 had missed the mark in terms of instilling inspiration and delivering valuable content. Nevertheless, being surrounded by 5,000 executive attendees representing 42 countries was enough to give me an adrenaline rush. I wanted to meet everyone! Thus, the biggest lesson that I learned was how rewarding it can be to adapt and turn unfavorable situations into even bigger opportunities. ‘What matters’ to me, as the new Telfer brand goes, is personal development and expanding my network. So, I quickly turned my disappointment around in time for day two by re-strategizing and re-focusing my energy on drawing inspiration and content from dating – ‘brain-dating’ that is. ‘Brain-dating’, the buzzword of the conference, is like your typical online matchmaking tool designed to connect people together to share their life experiences, with one key difference: it’s done platonically.

Now, I should note that I was attending this conference alone, an intimidating feat even for an outgoing person. But it presented a clear benefit: I would be pushed to approach more people, and I could do so at my preferred pace. First, I did my homework. I spent hours every day searching through the participant profile database to find my ideal matches, get to know more about them, discover where sponsors were located, and which attendees were attending what workshops. The next step was reaching out to people I wished to meet. I either requested a ‘brain-date’ on the C2 portal, via social media or I simply approached the keynote speakers at the end of their presentations. Finally, it was time to have fun networking! I had the chance to ‘brain-date’ the CMO of Deloitte Canada in the VIP container, the President of Sid Lee Toronto, the Innovation Leader at PwC, and the Senior Insight/Strategy/Innovation Director at Marriot International.

Although I had the privilege of meeting with these high profiled individuals, I made a point to value each attendee, from students to strategists, equally. Everyone has something to offer, be it as a new friend, business contact, or an opportunity to be exposed to that person’s network. Leaving my resume at home gave me the power to expose my vulnerabilities while paradoxically demonstrating my know-how to these truly fascinating human beings. This resulted in genuine open-minded conversations about career and life paths, and facilitated the exchange of ideas, insight and knowledge.

Post-conference, I find myself with potential business partners for my consulting work, mentors, “ins” in my job pursuit, more ‘brain-dates’ and opportunities waiting to happen. I entered C2 Montreal expecting to have my mind blown with its grandiose approach, but at the end of the day, it was the conversations I shared through networking that evoked the powerful effect. This conference proved to be exceptionally invaluable for ‘what matters to me’. I can’t wait to return next year as a volunteer!

See my C2MTL pictures

N.B. Presale tickets are on sale for 50% until September 30, 2015. Next year, Martha Stewart and Dr. David Suzuki have already been confirmed as keynotes.