Wrapping up a vacation, unwrapping a sense of purpose: Or, my time with CS London

Me, talking too fast.

A couple weeks ago, at the tail end of an 18-day family reunion/beer vacation/work trip across Europe, I joined the London content strategy crowd for an evening of lightning talks covering takeaways from May’s Confab conference and looks forward to September’s CS Forum.

For five (in my case, very rushed) minutes each, eight of us made our way through narrative arcs ranging from data-driven content strategy to corporate communications’ role to translating strategy to tactics to, of course, cake.

But being neither a presenter at Confab nor scheduled to attend CS Forum, I didn’t have a talk to either summarize or preview. What I did have was some whiskey, and the dubious honor of going on first.

A place at the table

Standing in front of 100-odd Brits who had no idea who the hell I was, I decided to tackle something entirely impossible in a five-minute talk: how to earn a place at the table—to move content strategy from something we discuss amongst ourselves to something that’s valued and incorporated amongst those who make decisions.

I chose this because, after my experience at Confab—where I heard countless people commiserating about still being left out until it’s too late—I felt like plenty of content people were still fighting for their place in the process. I also chose it because it’s something I’ve been relatively successful at attaining in my own organization, where I’ve learned a good bit about prying one’s way into the important meetings.

You can watch the video of my talk, as well as that of Cleve Gibbons (whose thoughts on content architecture are still rattling around my head) here. I’d embed it, but I can’t handle how rushed and awkward I sound, so I’m going to go back to pretending it doesn’t exist. Other videos are going up as I write this, so be on the lookout on the CS Forum blog.

A sense of purpose

So what did I take away from the experience? Other than being bummed as hell that I can’t make it to CS Forum, and pleased as hell to have amazing content strategist friends in other lands, I headed back to the states with a strong desire to do something meaningful for the field.

Interest in content, in all its ugly complexity, has exploded. It’s already tough for me to keep up with the smart blogs, books, podcasts, and more happening in and around this discipline. But I don’t just want to keep up; I want to contribute.

So, I’m giving myself a public challenge: Stop worrying about whether you’re experienced or interesting enough, and just do something. Look for more of that here, soon.

And if you’re still reading

You should know that CS Forum is in London this year, at the Mermaid Center where this event was held. The venue is pretty neat, the speaker lineup looks amazing—several of content strategy’s “big names,” plus a good mix of new voices—and the location couldn’t be more fun. You should really go.

The only downside is that I won’t be there. This time.

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