Montreal’s Worldly Charm Prove Ideal for International Events

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Montreal’s Worldly Charm Prove Ideal for International Events

By Wendy Helfenbaum | Nov 26, 2018

From its thriving cultural scene with 100-plus world-class festivals to its gastronomic delights and legendary nightlife, Montreal is an easy sell. An international hub with easy access to 130 destinations also made it the right choice for the 2018 International Association of Business Communicators’ (IABC) World Conference.

Held June 3-6 at the Palais des congrès de Montréal convention center, located in the heart of downtown near the north end of Old Montreal, the event welcomed 1,300 attendees and exhibitors from 36 countries, an increase of 30 percent over the previous year, says Natasha Nicholson, IABC’s San Francisco-based content director.


“We attribute that increase to the location, the great content, an excellent slate of speakers and the excitement created by the local IABC chapter,” she says. “We wanted to try something different, and Montreal is a fabulous, cosmopolitan city; it was a huge draw for us.”

Beginning with a “French Connection” cocktail hour at the recently opened Hotel Monville followed by a lavish welcome reception at the Montreal Science Centre celebrating local food and gorgeous views of the St. Lawrence River, delegates literally got a taste of the city, Nicholson says.

Related Article: Montreal Offers Event Planners Renovated Venues

“Our attendees also enjoyed Dine-Around, a long-time IABC tradition where we explore the host city through a wide array of cuisines with their fellow communicators,” she says.

“The convention team was extremely helpful and Tourisme Montréal was an extraordinary support,” says Nicholson, noting that IABC delegates took over three conference hotels: Hyatt Regency Montreal, Le Westin Montreal and InterContinental Montreal.

With its theme “The Communication Crossroads,” the event explored the power of communication where business, culture, functions and audiences meet.

“As a key offering of the conference, the breakout sessions had an especially high overall rating and came up as the top reason for attending the conference,” says Nicholson of the five topic tracks: marketing and branding, reputation, leadership and strategy, employee engagement and communication skills.

The conference also held certification exams for IABC members training as Communication Management Professionals or Strategic Communication Management Professionals.

“We were fortunate to have exceptional keynote speakers who delivered great ideas and innovative thinking,” says Nicholson of the line-up, which included author and entrepreneur Seth Godin discussing communication in the age of distraction, filmmaker and futurist Anab Jain and author Ryan McCarty, co-founder of Culture of Good.

To stay fresh, the conference introduces new elements every year.

“We reimagined our exhibit hall space to make it more dynamic and fun, with games and prizes including registration for next year’s conference, books, discounts to IABC Academy courses, GoPros and tablets,” says Nicholson, noting that an ice cream networking break was appreciated by attendees craving some afternoon sugar.

The 2018 program debuted several inventive offerings, including an “Unconference” on day three where delegates could choose from four options.

Game Changer sessions featured non-communications topics from thought leaders in related disciplines, and Open Space sessions were intended to snap communication pros out of their comfort zones in order to help them navigate the constant changes in their industry, using a participative format that was more “talk with” than “talk at.”

Offsite experiences in support of the IABC Foundation offered A/Maze, an escape room team-building activity; a visit to Ubisoft Montreal, one of the world’s largest game development studios; and the chance to meet peers at Public Relations Without Borders, a national nonprofit that uses volunteer communication professionals to help populations facing development challenges.

A State-of-the-art Venue in a World-class Metropolis


Montreal is a hotbed of knowledge and innovation, making it an ideal choice for large groups in many industry sectors, says Luc Charbonneau, director of business development and strategic alliances for Palais des congrès de Montréal.

“With 11 higher learning institutions, including four major universities, 200-plus research centers and more than 1,500 institutions active in R&D, the city is the research capital of Canada,” he says.

Visitors routinely gawk at the Palais’ bold, multi-colored façade, while green-minded planners appreciate the BOMA BEST Level 3-certified facility with its 551,520 square feet of modern event space. The venue’s rooftop terrace—with its show-stopping views of the city—offers an additional 20,000 square feet for receptions.

The Palais is also within walking distance to 15,000 hotel rooms—a quarter of which are in adjacent properties.

Named Best High-Tech Venue at the PCMA Best in Show, the Palais can connect up to 20,000 devices to its network to optimize the performance of any event it hosts, adds Charbonneau.

“Montreal’s great strength stems from the synergy between the different players in its tourism industry, including the Hotel Association of Greater Montréal and Tourisme Montréal,” he says.

Montreal has been running out of space in its trophy case. Voted top host city in the Americas by the Union of International Associations and by the International Congress and Convention Association, you can certainly call Montreal a gracious host. The city boasts the most international conferences in North America and attracted some major conventions in 2018, including the American Society of Plant Biologists’ Annual Meeting, the International Biotechnology Symposium and Exhibition and the Association for Computing Machinery Conference.

Charbonneau says 2019 is shaping up to be yet another ultra-busy year for Montreal and the Palais des congrès.

“The national and international conventions booked to date for 2019 will enable us to welcome nearly 91,000 delegates and will generate almost $180 million in tourism revenue for Montreal and Quebec,” he says. “Montreal is an international hub of ideas and intelligence, connecting the brightest minds in the world, and the Palais is proud to be at the heart of the action.”



Hotel News

  • The first Marriott AC opened in February, steps from Palais des Congrès.

  • Hotel Monville, near the Quartier des Spectacles, opened in March.

  • Hotel Birks, a 120-room, luxury boutique property above the iconic Birks jewelry store on Sainte-Catherine Street, opened May.

  • Four Seasons Montreal, featuring 163 guest rooms and 18 residences, opens in the city’s Golden Square Mile in early 2019.

  • Humaniti Montreal, a 193-room boutique hotel, is slated to open in spring 2020.



Wendy Helfenbaum
Wendy Helfenbaum

Wendy Helfenbaum is a Montreal-based writer and TV producer whose destination spotlights, profiles and trend pieces have appeared in Collaborate, Ignite, Corporate Meetings & Events, Trade Show News Network and Costco Connection.