Disruption Builds Toward Experiential Transformation at C2

Disruption Builds Toward Experiential Transformation at C2

July 2nd, 2019 0 Comments

By Nicole O’Leary, VP Creative The Expo Group

The word disruption is everywhere today. Shows and events are undergoing significant changes to keep up with higher audience expectations and the influx of technology.

I have those same expectations, I personally needed to disrupt my work life with a new experience. I was looking for a place to recharge creatively, a place to learn new things and engage with something different. My recent trip to C2 in Montreal felt nothing short of amazing.

C2 is where Commerce and Creativity come together – an experience that has those magical ingredients forward-thinking event and trade show professionals are talking about. It is a beautiful combination of laughter, connections and crave … to the level of people standing dozens deep in line hoping someone walks out of a session so they can take the seat.

So what are C2’s magic ingredients? Are we really talking about transformation, moving beyond incremental changes? Or are these ingredients you could apply to your show or event?

1. Creative Leadership

I was standing in line at the Cabana – an outdoor village filled with food trucks, Aperol spirits and, yes, even $395 bottles of champagne. I was with someone with whom I connected in the Klik registration app and after some small talk I couldn’t help but say “I am so blown away – how do they pull this all together?” He laughed and said “I imagine C2 is like designing an event with no operations people.”

Artists, Cirque Du Soleil and the most creative experiential minds from around the world come together to architect this experience. Then and only then do they lean on the operations team to execute, to build out that experience. Removing operational execution from planning allows the free thinking, brainstorming atmosphere needed to make room for “different.”

2. The Business Model  

I couldn’t help but put on my business hat and think – how did they do it? How did C2 create a budget and partnerships to fund this amazing experience? I then learned 80% of C2 is funded by the government of Canada.  C2 Montréal injects $151 million into Québec’s GDP meaning every $1 invested in C2 Montréal returns $8.68 to the community This leads me to question how all events could rethink and reposition themselves as economic generators. 

3. Partnership not Sponsorship

Securing sponsorship and measuring ROI seems to be the struggle I hear the most from our clients and prospects. A large reason I attended C2 was to learn how they integrated sponsors and their content. First, C2 treats sponsors as true partners – integrating them into the experience.

BMW was the one that stood out for me, from the VIP treatment for every guest with private car shuttle in a beautiful new BMW to a fully immersive executive private 1:1 coach in a BMW car placed in the middle of the event as a meeting space. I had the pleasure of this experience, and it was incredible. Having sponsor spaces away from traditional booths in “box suites” surrounding the content presentations just as you would see in a sports stadium was also a nice way for attendees to visit on their own terms.

4. Connection with Technology

Most people would say I am very outgoing, but even I was a bit nervous attending solo. Klik’s app of engagement and registration was so critical to making my first experience successful.  Prior to attending, I was able to message about 10 people who I identified as key connections and was pleasantly surprised at the positive responses. It was a great way to meet new people and start important relationships. Throughout the four days, I was living on the Klik message board. This type of technology is key to helping even the most extroverted connect with others onsite.

5. Content is King

The Designer in me is surprised my 5th and most important point – the king takeaway from C2 isn’t the actual environmental design of the event but rather the content. Two weeks out I started planning sessions to attend, however, C2 opens up reservations for individual sessions and experiences only a week out. I actually marked my calendar for 12 Noon on reservations day and by 12:07 several sessions and experiences were already fully booked. I couldn’t believe it.

Onsite, I watched backup lines form outside many of the sessions and extend far out into the crowd. Standout content including sessions from a mix of the world’s creative pioneers from large advertising agencies, to food and music innovators. Will.i.am — a technology and music leader — filled the entire space one evening with his take on Artificial Intelligence being accessible to the world was inspiring to hear.


When it was time to leave the place where I literally “camped out” from 7:30am to 6:30pm every day I couldn’t believe it. Connecting with other creative leaders and people who think differently certainly recharged me as a creative and a leader. I was so full of stories I put my husband to sleep talking on the couch about everything I had experienced. My enthusiasm and inspiration was oozing out.

Hopefully you will catch some of this enthusiasm. C2 shows how people can be transformed with disruption, and now it’s up to us to continue to make change at events and shows.

General, Industry Related