This spring was a busy conference season for Dynamo. Montrealers are always eager to embrace the first signs of life peeking out from melted snowbanks, and this year our yearning for sunnier days was driven by more than the desire to stow away our Sorels and break out the prosecco for wine o’clock on the terrace, we also had plenty of networking and learning to do.
We kicked off the season with CultureFest, the first event in the province of Quebec to be fully dedicated to improving workplace culture, flew to New Orleans for America’s fastest growing tech conference, Collision, and arrived back just in time to catch C2 Montréal’s internationally renowned creative business gathering.
Read on for a quick recap of the events, and stay tuned for a follow up post where we share our advice for conference going and hosting, based on our key takeaways from this season.
On April 12th, over 500 professionals were united by their enthusiasm for improving workplace design, function, and increasing a sense of community at their respective companies.
One clear idea that was constantly reiterated is that company culture is an ever-changing thing. There is no “set it and forget it” strategy to fostering a positive workplace culture, and we need to remind ourselves that as our teams evolve, we need to allow the culture and workplace to evolve and grow as well. Konval Matin, the Director of Culture and Talent Development at Shopify, stood out as a pioneer in this industry. Throughout her talk, Matin summarized a key point on the minds of many conference attendees: when thinking about culture, companies must be thoughtful and intentional with perks and resources. It is vital that employees see value in what is being offered to them, so it’s essential to ask what they want instead of making assumptions on their behalf.
Next up was our biggest event of the season, Collision, with a reported total of over 20,000 attendees. We listened to over 35 speakers, on topics ranging from marketing to design, coding to robotics, SaaS to big data to AI and Sustainability. The event was conveniently timed to coincide with Jazz Fest in New Orleans, so there were no shortage of sights to see and sounds to hear. We attended 7 associated networking events, bowled a combined score of 154 between two people (hint, that’s nothing to brag about), ate a few dozen crawfish, 1 gumbo, and 9 beignets.
One of our favourite speakers from Collision included Kathryn Minshew of The Muse, a website with relevant resources to help 50 million people navigate their careers, specifically targeting millennials. One of our key takeaways from this talk was Kathryn’s advice to “position a career like you advertise a product”. Employers will continue to face the ongoing challenge of attracting and retaining top talent in the information age, and it’s essential to have a strategy to invest in promoting your company to employees. She added that you need to be representing yourself in a genuine and accurate way, because you can guarantee that millennials will check your references instead of taking you at your word when you say that your company is a great place to work.
We were also highly entertained by Chris Sacca’s talk. The “Billionaire Venture Cowboy” was refreshingly candid in his tell-all interview one week after announcing that he was retiring from the VC world to invest his time, money, and expertise in worthy charities and political activism projects. If you haven’t read his retirement blog post yet, we highly recommend it. We especially appreciate that his highest priority at the moment is to ensure that his kids don’t grow up to be entitled.
Approximately 6,000 business and creative-minded professionals flocked to a whimsical adult playground set up in the canalside Griffintown neighbourhood for the 6th edition of C2 Montréal. Our very own Alex Nemeroff interviewed keynote speakers on site in C2’s live broadcast space, dubbed “The Aquarium”, and moderated a VR panel with Félix Lajeunesse & Paul Raphaël — Co-Founders and Creative Directors of Félix & Paul Studios. We also published a series of Workmode podcasts in partnership with Accelerate/MTL (C2’s startup offshoot event) in the days leading up to the conference.
Whether it’s your first time, or your sixth time participating in this one of a kind event, the feeling you’ll inevitably get when you first walk into the venue is of sensory overload. Having taken part in Beckii Adel’s pilot mindfulness program just the night before, I was acutely aware of the mindfulness minefield I was being presented with; dazzling lights, acrobats, electric boat rides, chocolate dipped everything, and speakers in a circus-style big top tent constantly competing for a sliver of your attention. This is the kind of event that you can only dive into head first, there’s no testing the water with your toes.
Just like in previous years, one of the most rewarding aspects of my C2 experience was exchanging with dozens of strangers in the e-180 brain dating lounge. The system makes it very simple to connect with other conference participants who can relate to specific topics of shared interest.
Some of our favourite speakers at C2 included; Dror Benshetrit, who helped Tumi increase sales by 60% by drastically reducing their product line and simplifying the visual categorization of products in their showroom (more proof of the Paradox of Choice); Karim Rashid, an Industrial Designer who advocates for fully embracing the immaterial age and maximize the world’s energy being spent on digital production; Michelle Thaller, Deputy Director for Science Communication at NASA; and Meredith Haberfield, the founder of ThinkHuman, who ran an organizational culture workshop. In Meredith’s workshop, we learned that companies have spent four billion dollars on “employee engagement” over the past five years, but have not seen engagement numbers rise, and we brainstormed practical solutions to the problem.
All in all, we absorbed as much creativity and inspiration as we could handle, and kicked off the summer with a fresh start. Did you attend any of these spring conferences, or are there any others that you’d recommend?
Thanks to Sam Colby for her contribution to this post. Check out our newest Workmode podcast episodes here, and stay tuned for our follow up post on how to host a world class conference and how to make the most out of your time as a participant.