Unleashing the Power of Creativity at Live Events

Convening Leaders 2022 participants learned from the creative genius of Cirque du Soleil’s executive vice chair, Daniel Lamarre.

Author: Michelle Russell       

Daniel Lamarre

“Your challenge every day is to surprise people [by coming up] with new ideas,” said Daniel Lamarre, the former CEO and now executive vice chair of the board at Cirque du Soleil, during a Convening Leaders 2022 session. (Jacob Slaton Photography)

During the Convening Leaders 2022 session “Driving Innovation With Purpose: How to Make an Impact Through Creative Leadership,” Chantal Sturk-Nadeau, executive director, business events, Destination Canada, shared the stage at Las Vegas’ Caesars Forum with Daniel Lamarre. Lamarre is the former CEO and now executive vice chair of the board at Cirque du Soleil, the 38-year-old Montreal, Canada–based entertainment company that has reinvented the circus model.

After Lamarre spoke about the nature of creativity, Sturk-Nadeau sat down with him to have a conversation about the history of the innovative live event company and its philosophy, teasing out some lessons for the audience of business events professionals. He spoke about the value of trying out new things and the importance of failure, citing Cirque du Soleil’s attempt, after reinventing the circus art, to put its spin on vaudeville. It was a failure, he said. “We learned so much from that failure, he said. “We learned about our brand limitation. If we would have done a vaudeville show without the brand of Cirque du Soleil, maybe it would have worked. Who knows? But your brand is not elastic — that you can do anything under your umbrella. You have to understand what people think of your brand, and more importantly, what people are expecting from your brand.” The lesson, he said, which cost the company millions of dollars, was not to become too complacent and think they could be successful at everything.

Watch the Session

Convening Leaders 2022 attendees, don’t miss your chance to peek behind-the-scenes in our MashUp Studios, or re-watch the Main Stage and other sessions in JUNO’s CL22 Library. On-demand access to CL22 content is available through March 12, 2022.

During his presentation, Lamarre said his understanding of creativity meshed with the definition offered by Richard Gill and Pablo Spiller in the California Management Review: “The ability to make or otherwise bring into existence something new, whether a new solution to a problem, a new method or device or a new artistic object or forum.”

Lamarre underscored that the need for creativity in live events has never been greater as we recover from shutdowns forced by the pandemic.

The baristas at Destination Canada’s activation on the Promenade got creative with their latte art during Convening Leaders.

“In 48 hours, Cirque du Soliel moved from $1 billion in revenues to zero revenue,” Lamarre told the audience. “From 44 shows to no show. The reason we have been able to survive is because of the strength of the brand. But that brand has been built by creativity, by innovation. But it’s not unique to Cirque du Soliel, because that is what you do, too. Your challenge every day is to surprise people [by coming up] with new ideas.”

He encouraged the audience to find the people who will bring their brand to the next level — who will help them reinvent their business going forward.

It would seem that Convening Leaders was the first stop for Lamarre in a year in which he hopes to speak to many audiences about tapping into their creativity. In a recent Forbes article, Lamarre said that he aims to become “an evangelist for creativity. Now, I want to travel the world and challenge people to be more creative.” Lamarre’s new book, Balancing Acts: Unleashing the Power of Creativity in Your Life and Work, was released this month.

Summing up their conversation, Sturk-Nadeau said that he “spoke of the power of thinking creatively and challenging the status quo. As we work together, we all need to adopt this mindset of dreaming bigger — because we know that what we do today will have an enormous impact in the years to come. The past year has taught us that we can’t predict what lies ahead. But we do know that, by working together to tell powerful stories of our diverse destinations and championing the value of face-to-face meetings and events, we can fuel the success of business events.”

Daniel Lamarre Chantal Sturk-Nadeau

Chantal Sturk-Nadeau and Daniel Lamarre talk about the history of the innovative live event company Cirque du Soleil and some of the lessons he has learned.

Thinking Like an Athlete

After returning from Convening Leaders, Sturk-Nadeau shared the following takeaways from the event with her team at Destination Canada, using a sports framework:

Have a game plan— but always be ready to pivot. Athletes know that unexpected moves can force them to shift their strategies at a moment’s notice. Our industry is no different. We’ve experienced plenty of curveballs over the last two years, with each one highlighting the importance of being agile.

Play to your unique strengths. Every athlete has a strength — and diversified skillsets is what makes a team shine. There’s no such thing as a team filled only with homerun hitters or spikers; complementary skills are key. In the business events world, it’s never been more important to surround ourselves with experts who have unique perspectives, skills, and backgrounds. Embracing a mentality that views our diversity as a strength will be paramount for the future of business events.

It takes a team to win. Success in sports hinges on teamwork, and the same is true for our industry. A strong recovery relies on every single one of us coming together to create a better future.

Michelle Russell is editor in chief at Convene.

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