Last week, I spent three days in Seattle cramming my brain with deep-dive content strategy goodness at Confab Intensive.
If you work with content, you’re probably already familiar with Confab, the brainchild of content strategists’ patron saint, Kristina Halvorson, author of Content Strategy for the Web and CEO of Brain Traffic. Unlike the main conference, the Intensive event is, well, more intensive, where attendees attend two three-hour workshops each day.
It was brain-meltingly awesome. And, as with any Confab, the cake was delicious.
My head is still spinning from everything I learned and how to implement things into our content approach at OMA. I’m sure I’ll have more to share at some point once I’ve tried out a few things. In the meantime, I wanted to share some random nuggets and a-ha moments that stuck with me.
It doesn’t get much better than kicking off Day 1 with Margot Bloomstein, author of Content Strategy at Work. I could go on about how awesome her session was, but I’ll be forever grateful to Margot for introducing me to the term seagulling—when someone new steps in late to a project and “swoops and poops” all over what’s been done thus far.
2. Words have meaning(s)
One more from Margot. When using a card sorting exercise or other methods for getting the client to describe themselves, make sure you help unpack the meaning of a word.
I noticed this while my group was going through a card sort as part of the workshop—people had different ideas on how to categorize a word based on their own interpretation of what it meant. Words often have shades of meaning. Before moving forward, make sure everyone in the group understands and agrees upon a meaning so there’s no confusion later when content is being written.
3. Make sure the inside is as good as the outside
If I asked you to name the most important page on a website, you’ll probably say the home page. We spend a lot of time thinking, planning, strategizing and testing home pages, and for good reason. But UX designer Ida Aalen reminded me about something very important during her session on setting priorities—more and more people are encountering a website by coming in through an interior page, rather than the home page.
It makes sense when you think about it. If you Google something specific, chances are the results will bring up the page that matches your search, not just the website. So by focusing all your energy on home pages or other “important” pages, you may be missing out on conversion points in other places along the user journey by spending less thought and effort on interior pages.
4. Success depends on an honest answer
While that’s a direct quote from Kevin Hoffman‘s session on creating better meetings, some variation of this theme cropped up a few times in different sessions. Essentially, when leading workshops with clients, we have to be careful not to guide or lead clients’ answers, responses or interpretation. Their honest answer is more important than your instinct to demonstrate knowledge or help them arrive at a particular answer.
My nugget about word definitions from number two is a good example of this. If a client asks what you mean by a certain word, redirect it back to them—“What does it mean to you?” It’s important to understand a client’s point of view so you can orient your content strategy approach to align with and speak to their perspective.
5. The power of silence
We’ve all been in discovery sessions where one person seems to dominate the conversation. This often leads to others in the session simply bending to the will of the strongest personality and following their lead in whatever they say, think or do. Obviously, this is counterproductive, but you can’t exactly call them out on it.
And that’s where silence can be golden. If you’re running through card sorting or really any prioritization exercise in which people need to come up with their own thoughts about something or perhaps even rank something, consider running the exercise in silence before asking anyone to share. For example, if you’re using a dot voting method, instead of having each person put dots on their vote, ask them to write down their vote and then add the dots yourself.
By leveling the whole group with silence, you remove the power of the loudest voice and consequently ensure everyone’s voice is heard. However, you may want to note the dynamics of the group, as it will help you navigate tricky waters as your progress through the project.
So, that’s my top five takeaways. If you’re interested in seeing other perspectives and learning more about sessions I couldn’t attend, search #confabINT to follow the conversations that happened during the conference.