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Cirque du Soleil, Francis Ford Coppola help put creativity in conference

Like the world of business, the world of conferences has seen some major changes over the last five to 10 years.

"Unconferences," with low entry fees and user-guided content, and TED conferences, encouraging innovative and engaging presentations, have rapidly gained popularity at the expense of the larger, more corporate, traditional conference model.

Now C2-MTL is taking a stab at changing the landscape once again. It's not "reinventing the wheel," according to its marketing collateral, "just the world of business conferences."

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The first time this conference is being held, it's brought in some industry-leading creative partners to help: advertising agency Sid Lee is curating; Cirque du Soleil is a creative partner; Fast Company is the content partner; and specialist HSM Global is handling the conference.

Running from May 22 to May 25 in Montreal, C2-MTL is designed to be an immersive experience. Set in a distinctive innovation village designed specifically for the conference – including cafés, interactive installations and special presentations from Cirque du Soleil – C2-MTL aims to bring together business and creative thought leaders from around the world "to find creative answers to commercial questions."

"The vision is to create the playground and let others work with us to build an incredible event," said Nadia Lakhardi, C2-MTL's content director. "Our goal is to inspire an open exchange of ideas to help our attendees leverage innovation and creativity in their business."

The impressive speaker lineup includes Francis Ford Coppola, Arianna Huffington and Michael Eisner, as well as senior leaders from Google, Cirque du Soleil and leading technology publications.

While most conferences have all of the speakers and subjects lined up months in advance – which can lead to recycled presentations and less timely topics – C2-MTL is attempting to innovate by bringing social media into the fold.

"We believe the industry changes too fast," Ms. Lakhardi said. "The conversation morphs in too many ways to limit it to something static."

To resolve this, the conference has created "burning question panels" comprised of top thought leaders to talk about what's happening as the conference goes on. They will monitor social media conversations from around the world and chatter within the conference to determine the timeliest topics, and let the panel members know what they're talking about just hours before the sessions begin.

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To help visualize the social media buzz around the conference and turn it into something tangible, C2-MTL has created what it's calling "Knitterstream." It is a robotic knitting machine that pulls in tweets with the #c2mtl hashtag, converts the tweets into works of art, and knits them into what could become the longest scarf ever created.

The target audience is C-level executives, and the $3,000 tickets available to Canadians have already sold out. But that doesn't mean people won't be able to follow along.

Expect to find content on the main website and Facebook. They have also set up a LinkedIn group for attendees to get the conversation started in advance and have more than 1,200 followers on Twitter where they are sharing news about the conference, its partners and contributors.

And it looks like there will be lots of news. Ms. Huffington recently announced she will be using the conference for the world premiere launch of her GPS for the Soul mobile app, IBM will announce the findings of its 2012 global CEO study, and Fast Company will celebrate its 100 most creative people in business while there.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic . She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.

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About the Author
Social and Earned Media Columnist

A combination of entrepreneurial spirit and timing led Mia Pearson to co-found North Strategic, a communications agency built on the belief that social needs to be integrated into everything you do. A serial entrepreneur, Ms. More

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