Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

May 09 2016

Circus Tents And Curiosity: Rethinking Adult Education At C2

David McMillin


Later this month, I will travel to Montréal to experience the business conference that doesn’t feel like a business conference: C2. From brainstorming in nets that hang 18 feet above the ground to networking in a mysterious cloud of fog, the annual event has achieved legendary status for innovation in the face-to-face landscape. As I prepare for my first-ever C2 experience, I caught up with one of the conference’s curators, Estelle Metayer, to hear how this year’s program will cement its reputation as a hub of fresh thinking. A former consultant at McKinsey & Company, an adjunct professor at McGill University and founder of Competia, Metayer will help the names on the C2 program step outside the lines of traditional speaking engagements.

“Our speakers must bring something experimental to the table,” Metayer says. “We want them to be willing to explore what might feel uncomfortable and immerse themselves in unusual environments and approaches to learning. So, our speakers might be talking about a familiar subject, but they will be discussing it much differently.”

For example, Metayer highlights Sandy Speicher from global design firm IDEO, who will address one of the key themes at this year’s conference: the future of learning. Speicher will share her success stories on building a scalable, affordable school model in Peru and improving schools for the poor in India, but the format will feel nothing like a typical conference classroom. Speicher’s discussion will take place in a circus tent. “As soon as you walk in, your mindset will feel different,” Metayer says. “It’s a way to help attendees feel more receptive to new ways of thinking.”

SEE ALSO: Montréal, Reimagined

E-Learning Lessons Vs. Face-To-Face Experiences


The circus tent is just one example of how Metayer and all the members of the C2 team are tackling a big question facing every organization: will face-to-face learning disappear as the popularity of digital education soars? Metayer believes the answer is a resounding no. “The myth that attendees will shift to e-learning is damaging education,” Metayer says. “Adults want to learn from their peers, and they want to do it together in the same room.”


However, it’s not just about bringing people together; Metayer highlights the importance of helping attendees identify a destination. “Conference organizers need to create structured learning paths,” Metayer says.

SEE ALSO: The C2 Experience

Continuing Education Vs. Career Advisor

For associations, Metayer says those learning paths should do much more than make pitstops at continuing education opportunities. “When a professional joins an association, she should articulate her goals for the career path ahead,” Metayer says. “Then, the association should be able to define what will be necessary for the journey to become more of a trusted advisor along the way.”

For example, Metayer mentions a doctor in the early stages of a career. While traditional training courses are essential, there are many additional lessons a doctor will need to be successful. “How much do you know about accounting?” Metayer asks. “How well do you perform under stress? Have you learned to be empathetic with patients?”

Across a wide range of professions, Metayer says there is a demand for education outside the core subject. When I’m in Montréal in two weeks, it’s clear that I’ll find plenty of lessons that will apply to my bigger picture, too. “At C2, we want to help people learn how to be curious,” Metayer says. “The learning landscape is shifting. Personal and professional growth is no longer   tied to degrees and certification programs. It’s about the experiences you gather and how those experiences shape your view of the world.”


Stay tuned to pcma.org to find out how the C2 experience impacts my perspective. For now, check out “It’s The End Of Networking As You Know It” for a glimpse of how the conference is fueling more powerful connections.

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