Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend the Confab content strategy conference in Minneapolis. Confab is about the unique convergence of creativity and communication that takes place when writing, presenting, and analyzing content on the web.
From the keynotes to the workshops to the sessions, my three main takeaways from the conference were these: Good content is visual, versatile, and visible.
Good Content is Visual
Both Dan Roam in his opening keynote and Kevin Cheng in his session emphasized the fact that the best communication cannot happen with words alone. Not only can simple diagrams help convey information better than just text, they can also create greater memorability of the key ideas. Beyond the old saying, a picture may not be worth exactly a thousand words, but the combination of pictures and words can help us all be more effective communicators.
Good Content is Versatile
Perhaps the central theme of the conference (if there is such a thing) was the notion of separating content from presentation. Karen McGrane shared the following quote:
"Thinking about where content will “live” on a “web page” is pretty 1999." - Lisa Welchman
What does this mean? It means that content should be written to be "future-proof", portable to a desktop website, a mobile website, an e-book, or whatever the "next big thing" happens to be. Erin Kissane summed up "the new content" with the phrase "packages of ideas", vs. static words locked into a static webpage. Adaptation is difficult, but only the most adaptable content can survive into the post-PC era.
Good Content is Visible
One of the challenges involved with the new "packages of ideas" mantra is that Google is not equipped to handle it yet. Google likes a single blob of text on a single page in a direct one-to-one correlation. So how does a site embracing versatility deal with search engine rankings? Melanie Phung from PBS discussed the interesting challenges of innovating with content while still being SEO-aware. Canonical tags, scalability, and intelligent embedability will all help keep large sites visible to search engines, while remaining versatile in their content.
For me, Confab 2012 was a remarkably informative experience. For more information on the future of content strategy, join the Sioux Falls Content Strategy Club (led by Confab 2012 presenter Corey Vilhauer), or just consult your friendly neighborhood Content Strategist. Or if you're feeling adventurous, plan on joining me next year for Confab 2013.