Rocket55 rolls into summer by sending one of their own, me to be exact, to Confab 2018 — a content marketing conference featuring speakers, food, and ample networking opportunities. Flocking to Minneapolis from all around the world, content marketers and strategist spent three days listening to the thought leaders who shaped the field of content strategy from its inception as a discipline. I personally met people from Qatar, Canada, the United Kingdom and nearly every nook and cranny of the United States while at Confab.

Not only were the attendees diverse, but the vast amount of industries represented were infinite. Government, higher ed, financial, and big tech (think Google and Facebook, so yeah, BIG tech) were just a few of the industries represented. It was great to see people from so many professional settings together in one place — working through user testing simulations and simply chatting it up like old friends.

One thing that really struck me was the community. Content marketers and strategists deal with a lot of the same successes and pain points no matter where they work and it was great to get us all together in one place.

What Happened at Confab 2018

While Confab is a three-day event, I was only able to participate in two of the days. Day one included a brief breakfast and meet and greet, followed by two workshops. The breakfast was a great way to get everyone settled in comfortable for a day of hands-on practice and problem solving with other content marketers.

After breakfast, we jumped right into the workshops.

Combining User Needs vs Business Needs

The first workshop I attended was titled Combining User Needs vs Business Needs and was led by Sarah Richards, founder of Content Design London. Here, we learned about creating detailed user journeys by calling out specific touch points and emotions users are feeling at each stage. From these touchpoints, you find the point in the journey where you can inject content to meet the users’ needs.

Sarah laid out a refined process on how to build these journeys using post-it notes:

We also created User and Job Stories during this workshop. User stories are useful for capturing what a user wants to do, allowing you to generate content that helps them complete their tasks. Job stories aim to meet this same goal but instead focus on a number of different audiences.

User Stories Template

Job Stories Template

How to Measure Content Effectiveness

The next workshop I attended was How to Measure Content Effectiveness led by Meghan Casey and Bill Siemers. Meghan practically wrote the book on putting content strategy into action, so it made me absolutely giddy getting the chance to watch her in action.

During this workshop, Meghan and Bill walked us through some useful content user testing scenarios. These were a couple of the ones they highlighted:

Cloze Testing

  • What it tests?
    • Ease of comprehension.
  • How it works?
    • Pull meaningful words from a piece of content and ask the user add in the words as best they can.
  • Why run this test?
    • If context is missing around meaningful words in your content, the user will struggle to add in the correct word.
Cloze Testing Example

User Questions Test

  • What it tests?
    • Content relevance.
  • How it works?
    • Tell the user the name of the page they will be reading.
    • Ask them to jot down 3-5 questions they would expect the page content to answer.
    • Have them read the page and then discuss their thoughts on it. Did it answer their questions? Did other questions come up while reading it?
  • Why run this test?
    • This test gives the administrator the opportunity to find out if their content is meeting the expected needs of the user.

After Meghan and Bill walked us through these tasks, we were able to work in small groups to try them on our own. Not only did this help us put these user tests into action, but also allowed us to meet other content marketers and learn more about their unique roles.

Day Two Presentations and Breakout Sessions

Day 2 began with an official kickoff of Confab 2018. Led by Kristina Halvorson, content marketing guru extraordinaire, attendees were introduced to the agenda and overall importance of Confab. Lucky for us, Kristina makes her passion for the discipline infectious, meaning we were all left excited to learn and network after she left the stage.

Keynote Speakers

Next up were presentations from a diverse set of industry leaders. Here are a couple highlights from the keynote presentations:

Combining Expertise to Rebuild Customer Trust — Gerry McGovern

Gerry led attendees through the importance of building trust through content by focusing on collaboration. He admits the difficulties that can arise from collaboration, whether it’s logistics or clashing personalities, but not to let that stop us from ensuring users are presented with the whole story, not just one perspective.

Telling Strategic Stories — Brittney Dunkins

First off, I have to say how amazing Brittney is to listen to. She has unmatched passion, creativity, and public speaking chops — making this a thoroughly enjoyable presentation. The main point of her presentation was simply the fact that we need stories as humans. It helps us connect and understand the humanity behind content. And how do writers best tell stories? We listen, and then we build a plan.

Breakout Sessions

After the keynotes, we broke off into separate groups to attend breakout sessions. These were a great chance to get in front of some talented professionals with unique perspectives.

We all attended three of the breakout sessions, but my editor says I am running out of space in this blog, so I will focus on the one that really resonated with me.

Writing for Buttons (and Everything Else): How UX Teams Can Craft Stronger Copy — Andrew Schmidt

Andrew, like Brittney, is a fantastic public speaker. He breaks down complicated concepts into actionable next-steps while pairing humor with intellect to engage his audiences. It was great.

This presentation was about writing to drive a positive user experience. He talked about the importance of microcopy and the four rules you need to abide by:

  1. Be radically human — sound like you are having a conversation with the user
  2. Look for emotional moments in the user journey and be a part of them
  3. Get fresh eyes on everything you write
  4. Be an expert — yours is the judgment they are following

With his take on microcopy, Andrew also talked about the importance of building relationships with other people you work with. Designers, strategists, writers, etc. all need to be challenging each other AND trusting each other’s instincts in order to be successful.

If I were to rank the presentations and workshops I was a part of at Confab 2018, Andrew would at the top the list.

Bringing it All Back Together

You’ve read what you came here for so I’ll save you the sappiness about the relationships I built and the experiences I had at Confab 2018. But in all seriousness, events like this in the marketing community may seem like a dime a dozen, but Confab is anything but that. The excitement and sense of responsibility to make good content is something you will immediately pick up on if we see you at Confab 2019 — I can’t recommend the experience enough.

So, will we see you there?


About the Author

Dan Onken

VP of Content Strategy

Dan has been with Rocket55 since November of 2016. Before joining the agency, he worked for Western Union on the digital and outbound marketing teams before moving back home to Minneapolis to work as a project manager on the General Mills pricing incentives team. When he isn’t working on content strategy or UX tasks at work, he likes to spend his time cycling, fishing, camping, and watching movies with his girlfriend and pup.