In previous years, the spotlight of the event always shone on the Tier 1 speakers the event attracted and in kind attracted people to the event. The line-ups included everything from celebrity CEOs, celebrity environmentalists, to actual Hollywood celebrities.  Attendees often were privy to listening to speeches that have been presented at Ted Talk, delivered by the thought leaders in their respective fields.

This year, however, C2MTL has taken a different direction, a different approach to the event. One would immediately notice that missing are the A-list intellectual celebrities. So what would be the cause of the loss of the core element of C2? Was this due to budget cuts? Is C2 losing its edge? Did the recent purchase of Sid Lee shift focus away from the event? Are these the last days of the event?

The answer is the event is alive and well. They have simply shifted their focus on what it means to attend C2MTL. Their new approach; engagement. C2MTL 2017 is offering attendees a unique opportunity; get engaged with the concepts being discussed.

Rather than sit passively in the audience and absorbed information from a speaker, C2 has created an equal number of workshops as it offers speeches. Workshops groups of 6-12 people are given a topic of major social importance and asked to brainstorm on means of finding solutions. Day 1 was heavily focused on artificial intelligence, AI,  and the ways it is changing and shaping the world around us.

The topic of AI was introduced by the co-founders one of Montreal’s fastest growing tech companies, Element AI. Jean-Francois Gagne and Prof. Yoshua Bengio regaled the audience with how AI has moved out of the realm of science fiction and into our everyday life. Even the imagery projected on the main hall’s ceiling was created by an AI software algorithm based on an artist’s previous work.

The question becomes where do we go from here and how do we use it?

Enter the workshops. Rather than simply be told the answer, you now have the opportunity to work on the solution. A deeply meaningful healthcare workshop was led by Dr. Jonathan Kanevsky, Head of Clinical Innovation at Imagia, a company focused on using AI to better detect early stage cancers. 65 people from a varied cross section of society gathered around tables to brainstorm on how best to apply AI in the diagnoses of diseases.

While it will take some time to determine what the direct results of crowdsourced brainstorming on a such a complex subject will produce, the effect on the participants is immediate. The people who participated left with a much deeper understanding of the importance of the work people like Dr. Kanevsky are doing for the world. The ripple effects of such a profound impact are difficult to measure but will eventually benefit all of society as they take what they learned into their own circles of influence.

A hands-on experienced impact is why C2MTL is such a unique business event that keeps growing each year. It is not only alive and kicking, it is growing in importance.