Why You Should Go to Confab

Welcome to Confab: the content strategy conference. Photo © Sean Tubridy/Brain Traffic

Welcome to Confab Central: the content strategy conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. © Sean Tubridy/Brain Traffic (used with permission)

This post is nearly two years too late.

I should have written it back in 2013 after I attended Confab Central in Minneapolis for the first time. The conference had already been around for a few years and I thought that I was late to the game. I was worried that I’d come across like a real n00b, out of my league and behind in the conversation.

But it wasn’t like that at all. There were so many smart people there, good people, the kind of people where the conversation just keeps on flowing on its own. I learned so much, hugged so many folks, laughed so hard I spilled my coffee (again, my apologies to the Hyatt Regency). They were so open, so welcoming—it almost felt like coming home.

But now it’s 2015. I’ll be giving the opening keynote at Confab Central this year. So this post is late—I should have written it back in 2013 because now you won’t believe me when I tell you about Confab. You’ll say I’m biased.

So let me be clear about this: when it comes to Confab, I am biased. Extremely biased. Biased like your Aunt Suzy.

But I’m not biased because they’re paying me—I can’t accept any payment for speaking, so instead we’re making a donation to Girls Who Code, a great nonprofit with a mission I believe in.

Rather, I’m biased because the experience of attending Confab is just so amazing. And I want to share that bias with you openly, in plain sight, so that you can experience the same things I have.

Here’s why you should join me at Confab Central this year.

You’ll Find Your People

Members of the Facebook Content Strategy team at Confab Central 2014. Photo © Sean Tubridy/Brain Traffic

Members of the Facebook Content Strategy team at Confab Central 2014 (Photobombs courtesy of Sara Wachter-Boettcher and Rachel Lovinger). © Sean Tubridy/Brain Traffic (used with permission)

As I’ve said before, I’m an introvert. So these big events with people and presentations and happy hours and feelings and networking—OH, THE NETWORKING—can be a little draining for me.

But not Confab. It’s like hanging out with your family. Not your real family, of course, where you’re forced to sit next to Aunt Suzy and eat all of your brussels sprouts EVERY SINGLE ONE YOUNG MAN I MEAN IT.

No, it’s more like hanging out with your chosen family—the family members you’d select for yourself.

When I attended Confab back in 2013, I met content strategists from all around the world. They came from businesses, agencies, non-profits, education, and government, along with independent practitioners of every stripe. The event drew so many people from so many backgrounds that it was easy to meet folks who were excited about the same things I was.

So no matter what you’re into—editorial, standards, workflows, IA and metadata, UX and design, marketing, content management, brand strategy, copywriting, and more—you’ll find your people at Confab.

I know that I sure did. After speaking with several people on Facebook’s content strategy team at Confab, I decided to join them. Connections like these can happen when we feel safe and open, inspired and ambitious.

Confab shows you that you’re not alone—you have a community that wants you to grow and succeed.

All Content Strategy, All the Time

Digging deep into content modeling during a full-day Confab workshop. Photo © Sean Tubridy/Brain Traffic

Digging deep into content modeling during a full-day Confab workshop. © Sean Tubridy/Brain Traffic (used with permission)

There aren’t many content strategy events out there—and few are big enough to focus on every part of the industry. Many UX and design conferences only give content strategy a token nod. So it’s challenging to find events that recognize that words are part of our interfaces, that language makes up the infrastructure of our systems, that meaning is important to the people who use the things we build.

Not at Confab—nobody puts Baby in a corner here.

You’ll find sessions devoted to every aspect of your work, from planning to creation to design to systems to storytelling to promotion to measurement and beyond. Any content strategist who attends will have something to learn from the expert speakers, who include many new voices like Deborah Carver, Anne Casson, Corey Chimko, Ben Fider, Jeff Greer, Anne Haines, Ravi Jain, Kim Marques, Michael Metts, Aaron Parkening, Katie Pennell, Sam Schnepf, and Ronell Smith.

That’s one of the things I love about Confab—it’s never stale. You’ll always see something new. And you’ll have plenty of strategies and tactics to try out once you’re back at work.

It’s like the State of the Union of Content. But with less senators and more cake.

Depth of Knowledge

The audience at Confab. Photo © Sean Tubridy/Brain Traffic

The audience at Confab. © Sean Tubridy/Brain Traffic (used with permission)

The sessions at Confab aren’t those flash-in-the-pan, jam-packed, 15-minute panels of five speakers each where everyone covers their top seventeen favorite tools in three minutes or less—all sizzle, no substance.

Just look at the program. Go on, look at it. I’ll wait.

Back? Great! Did you notice that each session is almost an hour long?

That gives the speakers time to dig deep on each topic, each lesson learned, each case study, and all of the data supporting their ideas. So you won’t see speakers talking about things they don’t know, tools they haven’t tried, and successes that they can’t back up with details and facts.

Instead, you’ll hear stories. That’s right, I said it: stories—the kind with a beginning, middle, and end. You’ll hear critical thinking and thoughtfulness. You’ll hear from people who are brave enough to talk about the things that failed as well as the ones that succeeded. And the speakers will have prepared for their talks, not thrown them together the night before.

This means that speaking at Confab isn’t for everyone. Because it’s hard. Because it takes work. Because it requires empathy and practice and revision and awareness.

Just like content strategy.

What I’m looking forward to at Confab Central 2015

The people behind the show: Team Confab. Photo © Sean Tubridy/Brain Traffic

The people behind the show: Team Confab. © Sean Tubridy/Brain Traffic (used with permission)

Here are some of the things that I’m really excited about at Confab this year:

But what I’m even more excited about than going to Confab is coming back from Confab. Coming back to work and applying all of the great things I’ve learned. Coming back with renewed energy and focus. Coming back and still feeling connected to 650 people from all over the world who are trying to solve the same problems as me.

Coming back to content strategy. And loving it even more.

See you in Minneapolis!

About Jonathon Colman

Jonathon Colman is a UX content strategist at Facebook, keynote speaker, and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter @jcolman. Feel free to contact him directly.
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7 Responses to Why You Should Go to Confab

  1. Melanie says:

    Yep, it’s like a big ol’ group therapy session for content strategists! (In a good way.)

    I look forward to seeing you there.

  2. Jonathon, I smiled all the way through this write-up. For starters, I feel like I’m late to this party—this year will be my first Confab. I feel less like a n00b now that you’ve told us that only two short years ago you felt the same way. Also, sometimes I get conference fatigue and wonder if I’m really up for another one. Oh yeah. I’m up for this. You’ve reminded me why. Can’t wait to see old friends and make new ones.

  3. Odile Sullivan-Tarazi says:

    I’m waiting for Confab San Francisco. Or Confab San Jose. The three-day workshop version in Portland also looks tempting.

  4. Andy Welfle says:

    I’m so excited to go this year! It’s been on my radar for a couple years now, and I’m so excited that it worked out this time.

    Also, there aren’t going to be any OBAMA IS A SECRET MUSLIM BECAUSE HE BANNED CHRISTMAS AT THE WHITE HOUSE panels, are there? Because that’s the kind of biased my Aunt Suzy is. 😛

  5. Pingback: Back to Basics: Notes on content strategy, reference librarianship, and my Confab talk | Anne Haines

  6. Mike says:

    It seems that there is a nice group of dedicated people there.
    These are pictures from the 2014 meeting?
    I want to be part of this conferrence this year, but I don’t know where or when is held.

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