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Published on November 4th, 2012 | by Rahel Bailie

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Two weeks, four events, eight observations: insights from the conference circuit

Over the course of the last few years, “conference season” in the communication field has expanded from a spring frenzy of events to a fall season, as well. October seems to have been a particularly intense month, finding me attending four events within two weeks.

Even the most seasoned veterans attend not just to present, but to learn. New developments bring new insights; new acquaintances bring new perspectives; old friends bring the comfort of the familiar.

Here are my insights from the whirlwind of activity that was two weeks in October.

Lavacon

Presented: Making ePublications Relevant

Insights from Lavacon

To an industry outside, the program at Lavacon might have seemed a bit puzzling because of the range of topics. But as an industry professional, I could see the theme quite clearly, which Jack Molisani, the conference organizer, stated on the home page of the conference site: [Attracting and engaging the next generation of tech-savvy consumers]…takes an effective content strategy – and really, really smart use of available resources.

Combine that statement with my oft-repeated statement n that content is a business asset, and you see theme of how to use the content you’ve got to do a lot. That means making sure you have quality ingredients (and that’s through metrics) and optimizing their potential (through content management) to create many products (multichannel publishing) for publication in ways that people want to consume them (new media, mobile devices, ebooks). And how better to do that than a mix of theory and case studies? So my foremost insight is that the industry is maturing to a point where the issues related to content strategy and digital media are starting to be considered in an integrated way; my second insight is that it’s finally the right time for an event to create a forum where an integrated strategy is a marketable message.

Content Strategy Workshops

Presented: Content Typing and Modeling

Insights from Content Strategy Workshops

When I approached Scott Abel about starting an event series that wasn’t a conference but actual training workshops, he was already on that page. So putting together our inaugural event was quite exciting for us. We had a few goals in mind:

  • Provide workshops where attendees could take work back to their workplaces
  • Give attendees exposure to tools and techniques they may not have used before
  • Expose marketing-side and technical-side professionals to each other, to appreciate and learn from one another

The response was overwhelming positive. Those who attended appreciated the relative intimacy of the event, the chance to interact with others and build community, and learn from each others’ disciplines.

This is one event when I wished I’d been able to attend more of the sessions, but as an event organizer, ended up missing most of them.  Spontaneous hallway comments such as “Now I understand why the developers at work are always annoyed with me – I’ve been doing it all wrong! Your workshop has just given me the tools to fix that.” were in great evidence throughout the two days, and made it  So my first insight is that our instincts were right: this type of event fills a professional development gap for content strategy professionals. My second insight was that there will always be writing professionals out there who are finding it hard to make the leap to an integrated content strategy. It may be uncharitable, but my perception is that the person whose response to a complex topic is “there’s a typo on line 5″ is probably not the type of person who would benefit from a content strategy workshop event.

Localization World

Presented:  What is Content Strategy?

Insights from Localization World

This wasn’t my first time at Localization World, so I wasn’t unfamiliar with the conference. This is the first time, however, that I saw content strategy as an explicit theme at the conference. Localization World is professional development for translators, and being there feels a bit like entering a parallel universe. Many of the topics sound familiar, but they’re presented from a different perspective.  It’s like that game where you add “in bed” after you read out the fortune from a fortune cookie, but “from a translation perspective” instead.So ” International Strategies in the Gaming Industr”y becomes “International Strategies in the Gaming Industry from a Translation Perspective.”

My first insight was that when I introduced the basic concepts of content strategy, I became very aware of my audience’s perspective and recognized that the message needed to be adapted for a profession that traditionally gets involved too far down the publishing line. Talking about content strategy from an editorial or technical viewpoint will fall flat unless the message is adjusted to put localization closer to the centre of the picture.

The other  insight for me there was that this is an audience that hasn’t been included in the content strategy discussion until now, and we really should be engaging with them, as the sheer volume of content for global audiences dwarfs what we produce in our source language(s). And that act of engagement will be a game-changer for content strategy, too.

tekom/tcworld

Presented: Connecting the Dots between Business, Brand, and Benefits

Delivered: Conducting a Productive Content Requirements Workshop

Insights from tekom/tcworld

The tekom/tcworld conference in Wiesbaden is the largest technical communication conference in the world, with thousands of attendees. Worth noting is how content creation, content management, and translation comes together under a single roof at this conference, acknowledging aspects of the entire content lifecycle. It’s a natural, then, to introduce the concept of content strategy as the umbrella concept for all the stages and processes.

My insight from the Content Strategy day was that there is definitely an appetite for understanding content in a larger framework. The day was well-attended, and participants seemed engaged. Moving content strategy into the international arena – not just the same message to English-speaking audience in another country – was a good lesson in bringing a presentation that accounts for profound cultural differences.

My second insight was from the technical communicators who took my workshop. They were, for the most part, creating technical documentation and producing PDF outputs. However, they were there because they wanted to step up their game and produce more relevant content, delivered in more relevant ways. The workshop was a little like throwing them into the deep end of the pool, but they seemed to be keen to learn how.

Up next

Conference season is just about over – the last event of the season is a presentation at the Gilbane conference in the form of a three-act play, along with Jeff Cram and Seth Gottlieb – and next year will start a new round of events, and a new set of insights.


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About the Author

Rahel Anne Bailie is a synthesizer of content strategy, requirements analysis, information architecture, and content management to increase the ROI of content. She has consulted for clients in a range of industries, and on several continents, whose aim is to better leverage their content as business assets. Founder of Intentional Design, she is now the Chief Knowledge Officer of London-based Scroll. She is a Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication, she has worked in the content business for over two decades. She is co-author of Content Strategy: Connecting the dots between business, brand, and benefits, and co-editor of The Language of Content Strategy, and is working on her third content strategy book,



One Response to Two weeks, four events, eight observations: insights from the conference circuit

  1. Pingback: Tekom / tcworld 2012 wrap-up in links | Firehead

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