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
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
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 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
Here are some of the things that I’m really excited about at Confab this year:
- Rachel Lovinger giving the talk I’ve always wanted her to give
- Anne Lamott talking about overcoming impostor syndrome (squeee!)
- Facebook announcing our newest Content Strategy fellows
- Michael Metts talking about earning trust during transactions
- Margot Stern talking about writing killer product content
- Sally Bagshaw talking about customer service content strategy
- Tracy Playle talking about how to use humor to engage people
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.