Confab EDU Catch-Up

In my continuing effort to bring this blog up to date, another look into the past …

Confab Higher Ed!

Are you interested in content strategy? (Um, you should be!) Make it a point to attend a Confab conference. You’ll be glad you did.

I had the opportunity to volunteer at Confab Higher Ed, a content strategy conference focusing on (you guessed it) higher education, when it took place in Indianapolis last November. You can find some observations about Confab Higher Ed 2017 from me and others on the IU Libraries DUX department blog but I thought I’d add a few more thoughts that have distilled over time.

As a volunteer, I was partnered with another volunteer and assigned to a particular room for a period of time, where we would distribute and collect evaluations, introduce the speaker and make sure they had what they needed, manage the microphone for Q&A, record attendance numbers, and sometimes help out with other small A/V tasks – or anything else that needed doing. As it turns out, the Confab Events team is shaking things up a bit and streamlining to one Confab event (annually in the spring) so I was especially grateful to have been able to experience the very last Confab Higher Ed.

Sadly for me, I wasn’t assigned to the room where my colleague and friend Anne Haines gave her talk, “Interview Your Stakeholders Like A Librarian” (slides) – but I did get a minute to run over and document it.

Anne Haines at Confab Higher Ed 2017

Anne Haines at the podium about to start her talk at Confab Higher Ed 2017

(Yes, Anne hammed it up by request.)

Because I had a lot of things to focus on during the sessions, I did take some notes, but in some cases it was easier to tweet (hence the embedded tweets below.) The room to which I was assigned for the preconference hosted Mike Powers for the morning session; his workshop was on analytics, measurement, and improving your content. He said a lot of things that really hit home, but one of them spurred me to meme-dom.

Robin Smail, in her talk “The Accessible User Experience,” dropped this truth bomb about accessibility misconceptions.

As a fellow Drupal user, I was super pumped to be volunteering in the room where Kelly Davenport & Jackie Wolf of Michigan Medicine, gave the talk “How Do You Go from Good to Great? A Case Study on Redesigning the University of Michigan Medical School Website,” talking about their migration to Drupal 8 and how they were able to empower their content editors to make the site more useful and flexible. One of the main techniques they employed was to make use of the Drupal Paragraphs module – something I was able to go home and immediately put to use as part of the Drupal 8 migration we were just kicking off at IU Libraries at the time.

Examples of Drupal 'Paragraphs' Types, Kelly Davenport and Jackie Wolf, University of Michigan

At IU Libraries, we worked with our awesome partners at Bluespark who developed an IU-customized Paragraphs module, which we put to great use in the new site to enable us to be both flexible and on-brand. (One early example: Student Jobs page) You can read a little more about this in the Bluespark article.

Finally, the team from Brain Traffic are just such lovely, interesting, smart, hard-working, fun people. From the pre-conference hours at the registration desk and in the workshop rooms throughout the two days of conference following, they were, without fail, kind, helpful, and always ready with an apt witticism – and/or a snack. Volunteering is work – that’s why it helps! – but it was also a really good time. I had an opportunity to observe first-hand their commitment to making the conference experience excellent for every single attendee. It made my service-oriented, user experience, librarian heart glow; and it gave me a lot of ideas about how to manage the details on any conference or event I will plan in the future.

In fact, they are so awesome I finally put on my big-girl pants and submitted a proposal for Confab 2019. If it’s accepted, that will be the literal icing on the cake – cake is a big deal at Confab – but regardless, it feels like an accomplishment.

It’s been an exciting but somewhat turbulent year, and like many others, I’m no stranger to impostor syndrome[1], to wondering whether I have anything worth sharing, to crippling writer’s block. Thinking of the wonderfully supportive Confab team, and of the warm and accepting conference community they’ve created, helped me keep pushing forward. It may only be a proposal, but it also marks the end of a stuck place.

Yay, Confab! 🍰

[1] I’ve read other pieces on impostor syndrome, but I think this article from Time is clear and concise – in other words, not so academic that you’re going to have to go all meta and start feeling impostor syndrome as you struggle to understand an article on impostor syndrome. 😂

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