How a Creative City Can Fuel Your Conference

Vibrant urban areas can inspire innovation and increase productivity.

There’s a reason some of the best ideas emerge from cities. Bustling urban areas offer vast educational, social, and entertainment opportunities that inspire innovation. For these reasons and more, creative epicenters are becoming popular among event planners looking to deliver unforgettable culture that drives new ideas.

According to researchers at MIT, cities are great reservoirs of creativity that can also increase productivity—any planner’s dream. It’s a phenomenon that’s related to population. The Atlantic’s CityLab summed up a 2013 MIT study on the subject: “The underlying force that drives superlinear productivity in cities is the density with which we’re able to form social ties.”

We make people understand that connecting needs to be done on a human level nowadays.

Martin Enault would agree with that assessment. The chief operating officer and producer of Montréal’s innovative C2 business conference, which was founded in 2012 in a partnership of creative firm Sid Lee and Cirque du Soleil, said, “We make people understand that connecting needs to be done on a human level nowadays.”

Experimental attractions such as blindfolded meet-and-greets in plastic ball pits and major speakers such as Academy Award-winning director James Cameron weren’t the only draws for the immersive, three-day conference. The city’s cultural attractions and artistic community played a role in fostering the spirit of the conference.

“In Montréal, we have a pool of highly talented, creative people, many of which are very successful in the event industry. So we can tap into our network to produce a successful convention without having to fly people in,” said Enault. That network also included exclusive performances by local circus troupe-turned-international sensation Cirque du Soleil, a founding partner of C2.

Cities often have the cultural support and infrastructure to host unique insider experiences for attendees that stretch beyond convention walls. C2, for instance, chose to host its event at Arsenal, a contemporary art gallery housed in a former shipbuilding facility in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Griffintown, an area that otherwise might elude the casual tourist. Organizers scheduled morning bike tours and offered free electric vehicles to shuttle guests to local attractions and partnering restaurants.

Often hubs for emerging technology, creative cities can also be prime spots for test-driving experimental software and gadgets. C2 took advantage of Montréal’s burgeoning startup community for its programming, including gaming studio Ubisoft, audiovisual technology company Solotech, and E-180’s Braindater mobile app, which matched conference attendees for shared-learning experiences.

Along with intrinsic cultural and educational value, events in creative cities can entice more visitors. High attendance rates can create extra revenue, opening the door for additional networking opportunities and programming that enhance the overall conference experience.

(Agnieszka S.)