This event just oozes creativity. It starts with the location — a former industrial corner of downtown called Griffintown, which is in the midst of revitalization. The conference is housed in a “village” of several distinct spaces. You enter through a large, sophisticated tent with piped-in fragrances and mood lighting, innovative lounges, cafeteria-style rooms, and an art installation of construction-cone walls (inside the center [peephole] of each cone is an image of innovative urban design). Once you exit the tent, you’re in an urban outdoor space with a bar, music stage, and conversation pods with oversized Adirondack chairs. The sessions themselves are held in the 1850s New City Gas building, a beautiful, stone building that was restored and outfitted specifically for the conference.
The conference’s creative partner is Cirque du Soleil; content partners include Fast Company, IBM, and pwC, and its presenters include Laurentian Bank, Tourisme Montreal, and HSN. The line-up of speakers is equally impressive — especially considering that this is an inaugural event. Today, Arianna Huffington made use of her stage time to give us a sneak peek at her new “GPS for the Soul” app, and Ian Schrager gave us a glimpse into the creative genius behind each of his hotel designs. One nugget in particular settled in my brain: When asked how he plans the design for each of his hotels, Schrager said: “It’s like a journey, not a plan.”( I think I will use that line the next time someone asks me why we don’t know what our cover story will be four months from now.)
If I put on my meeting-planner hat, I am sure I could find some flaws in this event’s execution (the foie-gras-stuffed-flower appetizers yesterday evening, for one). But wow. There is so much to be mined from this event’s format and environment — a creative act that reflects and supports the content.