Hacking a conference starts with small steps : Add a little Bling to your badges

by Pierre

C2-MTL is an annual global conference exploring the many links between commerce and creativity. During three days, from may 20th to May 23rd, people from diverse professional horizons gather to discuss how to better integrate creativity in their business process.

In 2011, we worked extensively with the core team at C2-MTL to create the core experience of an event designed to redefine the structure of a business conference. We came up with an overarching strategy that included 3 main components: the MAIN would include all of the official events etc. The OFF was comprised of smaller events and happenings organised by affiliates and collaborators. It was designed to encourage organic expansions of the event outside the official limits. The HACK would be a series of open ended interventions, giving the participants the tools to create the conference they wanted.

So, in the spirit of the HACK, we created, for the 2013 edition of C2-MTL, a little bit of bling for everyone’s badges.

Imagined by Daily Tous les jours, Badge Bling is a collection of sixty-ish stickers allowing the participants to playfully define themselves beyond their name and title. By “bling-ing” their badges, participants could tell the world they were “harry potter intolerant”or that “happiness is a brain surgeon” or that they“survived their exit strategy”, and so on.

The Badge Blings were designed as communication tools to enhance the participant’s capacities to network. The stories created by the compositions the participants could make on their badges acted as icebreakers and triggers to enable conversations.

The project presented some challenges: how to interest people when they are overwhelmed by the number of activities available to them? How to make them comfortable with their own own creativity? What was a lot of fun for some participants took others out of their comfort zones.

And on top of it, how to make sure a small “hacking” activity becomes viral in a crowd of 3,500 people? To solve those challenges and guarantee the success of the intervention, our team experimented with a few different approaches.

Our initial plan was to leave the sticker pads to the support team (Concierges) in charge of the participants’ experience so they could explain the activity to them. Unfortunately, we quickly came to realize that so much information was given to the participants upon their arrival, that almost nobody seemed to acknowledge this activity.

Our second try was to leave the sticker pads in the open area with an instruction sheet attached to them, so people could participate at their leisure. Without any form of animation, though, the pads remained unnoticed, and many participant still weren’t using the stickers.

Finally, we decided to take the bull by the horns. The two members of Daily tous les jours in the conference hall began circulating among the conference participants, engaging them and showing them how to bling their badge. By being only two, we created a rarity, and by engaging directly, we started conversations and, in a sense, a series of short collaborations. Suddenly, conference attendees were taking the time to participate and they actually enjoyed it. People were attracted to these unique, short, creative collaborations.

Despite the difficulties we had to overcome, this first iteration of the project showed us the potential of an activity like this. Our hack helped to create contact between conference participants, and served as the starter for some interesting conversations between people from different backgrounds.

Finally, in reflecting on ways to improve this project, build on this year’s success and scale this activity for a larger level of participation in the next iteration, We would like to see the stickers presented in a more eye-catching fashion, in an installation that is central and inviting, in order to attract more initial participants. Also, the stickers should be more visible on the badge: (bigger, flashy bright neon colours, neater and more visible font).

So, excited for next year? We know we are !

Thanks to Nadia Lakhdari and Antoine Roy-Larouche
Concept and ideation: Nicolas Fonseca & Pierre Thirion
Graphic design: PKD
Project coordination: Justine G. Chapleau
Writers: English: Andrew Morgan & Français: Nico Fonseca

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