C2-MTL 2013 took place in an old shipyard built in 1846 at the foot of Montreal’s Lachine Canal. Photo by Kristina Velan.

C2-MTL is a hard event to write about. As we explained last year, the event strives to “reinvent the business conference” by emphasizing interaction as much as information, experience as much as education and aesthetics as much as content.

Between formal sessions with big-name speakers such as Virgin Group chairman Richard Branson, makeup mogul Bobbi Brown and Whole Foods founder John Mackey, C2’s well-heeled attendees – tickets cost upwards of $3,600 – could take in a show by Cirque du Soleil (a major sponsor), participate in a hands-on workshop, or even do a little yoga.

Cirque du Soleil’s opening performance. Photo by Kristina Velan.

A Big Data workshop at C2-MTL. Photo by Kristina Velan.

Why not a yoga class between sessions? Photo by Kristina Velan.

As with any eclectic event, every attendee’s experience of C2-MTL was different. Still, we noticed some recurring themes and ideas emerging from the stream of tweets, Instagram photos and other C2-related social media activity.

Empowering women

At the first C2-MTL conference last year, Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington was the only female speaker of note. This year, creative and successful women including Bobbi Brown, Diane von Furstenberg and MIT media lab director Neri Oxman drew some of the largest crowds and the role of women in business, design and culture was celebrated throughout the three-day event.

"As a young girl, I didn't know what I wanted to do, but I knew who I wanted to be. An independent woman"- diane von furstenberg #c2mtl #fashion #women #stylechat
“As a young girl, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew who I wanted to be. An independent woman”- diane von furstenberg #c2mtl #fashion #women #stylechat

Data versus intuition

Big Data was a major buzzword at C2-MTL 2013, with Intel’s Steve Brown and Bitly’s Hilary Mason both building their talks around the subject.

But it seems the Big Data backlash has begun as several speakers, including Branson and veteran Hollywood producer Barry Diller (also von Furstenberg’s husband), emphasized that  experience, intuition and gut instinct can’t be overestimated when it comes to making business decisions.

Rebels with a cause

C2-MTL bills itself as “a business conference, only different” and that spirit of disruption and rebellion permeated the event.

Just for Laughs founder Andy Nulman brashly delivered an “improvised dissertation on creativity,” using slides he’d never seen before, after having criticized last year’s C2 speakers for being too conventional. Legendary industrial designer Philippe Starck, controversial former BMW designer Chris Bangle and, of course, Branson also brandished their roguish credentials.

Standing on the shoulders of giants

Another recurring theme at C2-MTL was the notion that creativity doesn’t occur in a vacuum. This means keeping your eyes open and engaging with the world around you or, as Nulman put it, getting “off the floor and out the door.” In his talk, Ideo’s Fred Dust assured the crowd that they shouldn’t hesitate to steal ideas – so long as they made them better.

Spinning ice cream wheel kiosk with mini cones at @c2mtl right now.
Spinning ice cream wheel kiosk with mini cones at @c2mtl right now.

Bobbi Brown, fondatrice et directrice de création / founder and creative director, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics. "The foundation of success". @justbobbibrown @bobbibrowncosmetics #c2mtl #montreal #inspiration © C2-MTL by @emanuelcohen

Image by c2mtl via Instagram

Bobbi Brown, fondatrice et directrice de création / founder and creative director, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics. “The foundation of success”. @justbobbibrown @bobbibrowncosmetics #c2mtl #montreal #inspiration © C2-MTL by @emanuelcohen

Defining creativity

C2-MTL is all about the intersection of commerce and creativity and so the question of what creativity means – particularly in a business context – came up a lot. Even “data is a creativity industry,” Bitly chief scientist Hilary Mason proclaimed.

Embracing the arts

Just as C2-MTL celebrated the role of creativity in business, it welcomed the art world into the conversation with opera and dance performances, a fashion show, an evolving photography exhibit (featuring C2 attendees as subjects) and even a live house band jamming between speakers.

At times the performances inadvertently served to underscore the difference between the attendees and the artists by framing creativity as “entertainment” rather than something intrinsic to the business world (the inclusion of artist-entrepreneurs like Starck and von Furstenberg was much more effective in bridging commerce and creativity), but they certainly kept C2-MTL from feeling like any other business conference.

@halfwaymoon #c2mtl #montreal #montrealmoments #closing #party

Image by sanzservin via Instagram.

@halfwaymoon #c2mtl #montreal #montrealmoments #closing #party

#twelveid #dresstokill #magazine #fashion #show #catwalk #haute #couture #c2mtl #models #montreal #montrealmoments

Image by sanzservin via Instagram.

#twelveid #dresstokill #magazine #fashion #show #catwalk #haute #couture #c2mtl #models #montreal #montrealmoments
 
Mur 2 / Wall 2. L'Éloi & Neil Mota, Photobooth, C2-MTL Hangar. @leloi @neilmota #c2mtl #montreal #inspiration © C2-MTL by @emanuelcohen

Image by c2mtl via Instagram.

Mur 2 / Wall 2. L’Éloi & Neil Mota, Photobooth, C2-MTL Hangar. @leloi @neilmota #c2mtl #montreal #inspiration © C2-MTL by @emanuelcohen
C2-opera

Opera de Montreal’s opening performance. Photo by Kristina Velan.

C2-tunnel

The walkway to C2-MTL’s outdoor plaza was made out of a shipping container. Photo by Kristina Velan.

Check out our C2-MTL gallery on Facebook for more photos of the event. You can see our complete C2-MTL notebook on Spundge, the content curation tool we used to create this story.