Confab Intensive: great learning opportunity
Last week I was at Confab Intensive in Denver, Colorado, and it was awesome.
I am only just recovering now, to be honest :)
Confab Intensive is a three day, six workshop, content strategy extravaganza. For many of us, it's a once a year catch up, so add plenty of dinners, lunches and drinkies into the mix and you have one epic 'almost' week.
A big thanks to Karen Bywater, my great friend and content strategist extraordinaire for convincing me to go. Sally Bagshaw introduced me to the Confab scene back in 2014 but I would not have gone to Intensive this year without the encouragement of Karen.
Five Australians braved the 15+ hour flight to get to Denver, from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. It was so lovely to spend time with them. Sad that we we have to travel to the other side of the world to do it though :)
Content strategy is one of those lonely professions where we so often work alone - unless you are working at a Facebook, Instagram or equivalent. And to be honest, those guys don't really do the kind of content strategy that I do. I focus on strategy, IA, content modelling, resourcing, research and governance. So no 'wording' for me, either in-product or editorially.
I am pretty much always the sole content strategist on a project. This is why coming together with my peers is so incredibly important.
Was it worth it?
Flights and transport about $1800
Accommodation about about 850
Food etc $500
So that is a lot of money!
Compare that to value
Six workshops with world standard content strategists
Content strategy recharge - talking about cs with some of the best in the world
New ideas and practises
Confidence boost when you realise - of yeah - I know this stuff.
Workshop facilitation examples and ideas.
My answer is hella yeah! But I totally understand that cost is prohibitive for some/ most. So have a think about your professional development for the next twelve months. What do you want to get better at? Find ways to generate ideas and conversation that does not cost a bomb. Read books and go to your local meetup. You don't have to fly halfway around the world to hear from amazing content strategist :) For example, Brisbane based content strategist Sally Bagshaw will present at our next Sydney Content Strategy meetup about voice and tone. I can't wait.
When you are working independently, professional development can easily slip off the radar, which makes meetups like Confab all the more important. I came away from the conference feeling inspired in many ways - with the idea of formalising even more professional development front of mind.
As you can imagine, six workshops in three days is a pretty intense experience and I learnt a LOT. Rather than trying to summarise each of the above sessions I would love to share my three big most significant learnings.
In Andy and Michael's voice and tone workshop, we were asked to complete an exercise to user test the efficacy of voice and tone in a chatbot. What a fab challenge. My teammate Sarah and I came to a system of testing that I really liked. Instead of asking the user their opinion, a strategy I have huge philosophical problems with, we devised a test that would ask them to show where they thought the copy sat on a scale of polite to familiar and whether they thought that was appropriate or not in the given context. This is definitely something I want to experiment with more, especially as AI and chatbot content gets more commonplace.
In Mike's measurement workshop my mind was pretty much blown with a raft of fabulous tools to evaluate and measure digital content. But what I really appreciated from this session was the absolute conviction that we need to be testing content more thoroughly and systemically and also reporting better on that measurement. I have also been trying out some of the strategies and tools in the week I have been back - a sure sign of good value.
From Sara's coaching workshop I deeply appreciated the five approaches she recommended for gaining content strategy traction. I estimate 50 per cent of what I do is practice and the other 50 per cent is the sell. It was so awesome to hear that sentiment shared by so many others. My fave slide of the whole conference came from Sara too when she asked to shift our thinking and outputs from articulating issues to creating solutions. No more reports with the title " Your content sucks" :)
So what conference / meetup / event are you going to attend in the next 12 months? What book are you going to read or what events are you going to organise and present at?