December 18, 2020

2020: A year of reinvention and resilience

The pandemic forced our business transformation into overdrive. Here’s what we learned.

Despite all that 2020 sent our way, C2 International is proud to still be standing alongside business leaders like you. Across industries, we have had to rise to the occasion, stay healthy and pivot under incredible circumstances. But through it all, we can safely say that creativity, connection and convening communities remain a cornerstone of survival.

Here are some key learnings that defined, delighted and inspired us:


1. The big pivot

You may have heard that events got cancelled in 2020. Two months out from our annual flagship creative business conference C2 Montréal, the coronavirus stopped real-world, physical convening in its tracks. Like most brands, we had to make heartbreaking HR decisions and dramatically rethink our business model.

But moving past the initial blow, we took decisive action and regrouped online. Turning our office into a broadcast studio, leaning into collaborative digital experiences and networking with participants and speakers, we delivered our first-ever virtual event: C2 Online — Montréal 2020, October 19-30. (You can read some of the highlights here.)

Proving that our expertise as conveners in the physical space could transfer to digital, we welcomed thousands of highly enthusiastic participants from 45 countries, dozens of partners behind our vision, and delivered inspiring, topical content.


2. Strength in partners

We are grateful for the amazing (online) experiences had this year, as it underscored the priceless value and benefit of having solid partners and business relationships. With IBM, we helped drive interest to their Think Digital 2020 conference and the campaign was recognized with an award for innovative marketing in Canada. Ritika Gunnar, VP Data and AI Expert Services and Learning, also kicked off a new C2 Conversations series in May, rolling with the punches for a stellar solo talk. And IBM Fellow John Cohn wowed us at C2 Online with 16-year-old blockchain developer Eesha Ulhaq, teaching us how to tap into our inner inventor. Lightspeed CEO Dax Dasilva was first to experiment with a new social storytelling format — the C2 Takeover — followed by Rio Tinto, Facebook and others. And our loyal partner RBC supported us in presenting marquee speakers like Jane Fonda, Malcolm Gladwell and the Sunset Session with Random Recipe.

Truly, the future’s still bright if we face it together.


3. Supporting science and society

We were also pleased to work with new partners in 2020. For the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) — Montreal Summit 2020, we convened an international, multi-stakeholder initiative committed to the responsible development and application of machine learning, including keynotes from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Président Emmanuel Macron.

“One of the most remarkable aspects [was] bringing together the combined expertise of so many people towards the same mission,” said Centre d’expertise international de Montréal pour l’avancement de l’IA Interim Executive Director Jacques Rajotte. “Top minds from around the world gathered in a one-of-a-kind setting because they truly believe in what they’re doing.”

With The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital) and the Gairdner Foundation, we collaborated on a two-day virtual symposium that brought together world leaders in open science.


4. Feeling the love

But we couldn’t have done any of it without the loyalty of our C2 community. To those who do business with us, follow us online (we reached 100,000 followers this year), show up to our events, like, comment, engage and spread the C2 gospel of creatively moving business and society forward: thank you. The reason we exist is to inspire and delight you, bring people together across industries to learn, experience and advance, while taking your organization to another level.


5. Keeping an open mind

There are too many “ah-ha” moments, amazing speakers and thought leadership to reference in this retrospective and, undoubtedly, more insights to come as the lessons of 2020 continue to wash over us. But the pandemic experience was humbling and we understand that pivoting, reinventing and transforming what we do is iterative.

With each experience, we will continue to create meaningful connections for organizations and communities of all kinds. As we shelter in place and practice physical distancing, the power of C2 to bring people together is key to supporting business and helping us all adapt.


Wishing you health, success and happiness in 2021 from all of us at C2 International.