Jeff Pulver’s international event franchise exploring the “State of Now” landed in Montreal this week. More than two-dozen speakers gave 15-minute presentations over the course of the day-long 140 Conference Montreal.

Attendees ranged from full-time bloggers to seasoned marketers, to artists and like all 140 conferences, the focus was on social media and its many applications.

IAB Director of Industry Initiatives Susan Borst.

Montreal isn’t one of the great startup cities of the world. Chances are when you think tech hub you think of the Bay Area, New York or Tokyo. But with its French-English culture, the cosmopolitan city gave this particular event a unique flavour as the bilinguals in attendance used the #140 hashtag to translate presentations, in real time.

Meanwhile. the conference’s mobile app was created by Jezam Interactive, a Montreal-based startup, while local speakers Stéphanie Baron, Thoma Daneau and Mitch Joel (among others) provided regionally relevant content.

The event’s local and low-key vibe came as a breath of fresh air. It gave everyone room to breathe. Room to be sincere and openly curious.

Just check the tweets:







Mitch Joel, a local marketing guru with an international reputation, kicked off the event with a rousing plea for what he called “brand utility.”

The key, explained Joel, is to find the happy medium between outright ad and helpful content (he used Charmin’s Sit or Squat mobile app as an example of the latter).

Stan Phelps, author of What’s Your Purple Goldfish, emphasized a similar point, offering examples of how social media can benefit both the loyal and the curious, turning them into what Deborah Weinstein, co-founder and president of PR agency Strategic Objectives, described as “brand adorers.”

In a similar vein, life coach and systems analyst Dr. Quentin Newhouse Jr. used the term “social credence” to describe how we use technology to benefit ourselves and each other in very practical ways. Newhouse offered the TaxiFinder app as an example, which protects against scams by generating fare estimates. It also features a “taxi bulletin board” where users can review their rides and fares for the benefit of future passengers.

140 Conference Montreal highlight: A marriage proposal.

As brand strategist Ted Curtin said during his talk, we all know that “a vibrant and interactive community drives the message far deeper.” But it’s up to brands to foster those communities by being willing to adapt to new technologies themselves.

Take news anchor Katie Couric, for example. She wasn’t at 140conf Montreal, but  IAB’s Susan Borst was, and Borst began her presentation with a video from 1994 featuring Couric and her colleagues bumbling the question, “Just what is the internet, anyway?”

Back in 1994 Couric didn’t know what an “@” sign was. Neither did her audience. 18 years later, she’s launched her own web series that Borst said will encourage millions of people to engage online. Couric is “the personification of internet growth,” according to Borst.

That’s what conferences like this are doing all over the world. They’re providing a space for early adopters to show everyone else how it’s done.