Don’t come to watch. Come to play.

A light-hearted critique of one of Montreal’s largest creative events.

By now, most Montrealers have heard of C2MTL. Launched in 2012 by Sid Lee, the colossal 3-day event brands itself as a collective meeting space for commerce and creativity aimed at inspiring and
sparking new ideas. It attracts world-class speakers and pretty much everyone in town- at least those who work in the city’s 100+ agencies- wants to score a ticket.


C2MTL is not a spectator event- it’s a creative game and it’s not for everyone. It’s an expensive one to play and there’s plenty to gripe about with the cost of entry- which doesn’t include the cost of plentiful booze and on-trend food once you’re inside.

How to play the C2MTL game

While C2MTL might offer famous names and tantalizing presentations, the true value of your ticket is found through your participation- the value is in the players, not the game.

What this event gives you is an opportunity to contribute something significant to the combined value of the event- your vision, your experience, and your insight. What you are allowed or not allowed is not predefined- take advantage of this. And if you
are not comfortable participating, I highly suggest you avoid the event.

Some basic instructions for first-time players:

  • Don’t be shy. It’s an almost-level playing field for networking. Talk with people you might not normally cross paths with.
  • Explore the entire space. It’s an environment with a 100+ types of meeting places.
  • Schedule “brain dates”.
  • Join the social conversation.
  • Meet up with people you already know.

Now, these all work fairly well, but…

The goal of the game is to make the absolute most of your time in the space by connecting with the people around you.

You aren’t forced into a track or shuffled off into tiered networking opportunities. You are mostly completely free to play the game as you wish.

Ways C2MTL could improve participation

Since so much of the value is in the attendees, this year I really took note of the ways C2 could help us better participate in this massive creative game. What was missing? What were some other areas in which players could connect?

  • Evolve the Brain Dates into mini workshops, small talks (30 second pitches), or short TED style talks.
  • Allow people to participate virtually.
  • Make better use of the numerous C2 staff. Use them as more than wayfinders and make them “participation coaches”.
  • Create a better location-aware app to help make connections.
  • Encode your profile, interests, and participation into your badge. And let other participants see this info- everyone wants to know more about each other.
  • More maker-style events that roam throughout the space. Bring the participation to the participants.
  • Revise or expand the schedule. Start earlier and allow for expansion. Numerous participation activities started later in the day or were tightly scheduled and required a reservation.
  • Keep score of your level of participation. Have the staff seek out those with a low score and help them find the value in the event.

Last but not least, celebrate the attendees, not just the big names who’ve been paid to speak- they are the true value of this experience.

When you walk through the tunnel at the entrance, your quarter is shoved into the C2MTL creative machine. You paid to play. If it’s a show you want, go and see a show. At C2MTL, you are the show.