Confab Central: forward progress

It’s been just over 72 hours since Gerry McGovern wrapped up his keynote at Confab, thus drawing to a close the 2015 edition of the one of the best content strategy conferences of the year. I’ve spent a large part of this long weekend sleeping, because let’s face it: going to sessions all day and stretching your mind into new and productive ways of thinking about your work is tiring, not to mention the fact that I burned through days’ worth of energy sweating through my dress while I waited for my turn at the lightning talks.

Attendees often talk about keeping the glow of a conference alive so as to keep the momentum going at work. That’s true for me as well, but my biggest takeaway from Confab is something a bit more hairy. I found myself drawn to the talks that dealt with being better at advocating for our work and improving our industry. As members of a field, we have definitely moved from simply defining content strategy and toward “defining ourselves,” as Margot Bloomstein put it so eloquently in her talk.

I’m thinking about Laura Creekmore, who told us plainly to get over ourselves as “artists” and learn to quantify the value of our work. Or Ronnell Smith, who bravely described the moments when he was fired for defending precursors of content strategy to the C-suite. Or Anne Lamott (ANNE LAMOTT!), who reminded us why we became writers (and how to get back to it). And the aforementioned Bloomstein, who argued that we improve our industry as a whole if we define our own specialties and boost those of others.

“If you used to write…get back to it!” –Anne Lamott (!) #confabmn #verklempt

A photo posted by @katiekeen on

I think of my own journey in putting together my lightning talk and discovering how much my current role has changed. It made me more than a little nostalgic, because I know that I’m dealing with larger challenges now, and although I’m down for solving them, there is no simple solution.

But then, I think of the great conversations I had at lunch, or at the snack bar, or during a 5:30 a.m. taxi ride to the airport. I think of the strong group of colleagues I have right here in Boston, and the tacos and karaoke we’ll be sharing in the near future. (Not tacos and karaoke together, but—actually, that’s a great idea.) Finally, I think of Jonathon Colman’s opening keynote, reminding us that in the face of wicked ambiguity, “we solve problems together, or not at all.”