I’m getting ready to spend three days at the biggest web conference in Europe, LeWeb 2011, to be part of a liveblogging team for Orange.fr. I owe this opportunity to a stroke of good fortune, for which I’m truly grateful. It’s not everyday you get to mingle with the movers and shakers of SoLoMo (that’s social, local and mobile, THE hot topics of the moment), though I think you have to take the word ‘mingle’ with a grain of salt as there will be about 3000 people there.
I came to the web from content. For years, I was a copywriter, writing all sorts of things for print: articles, speeches, brochures, reports – that was my lot. Then, in the late 1990’s, companies decided they needed all this stuff on the web. So I came to the web from the world of content, and I discovered a whole new world.
As a content person, I regularly rail about the lack of consideration ‘web folks’ give to content. It drives me nuts to hear people talk about how they need an app, or a mobile site, or a new game – when they haven’t given a moment’s thought—no, that’s not fair—they haven’t given enough thought to the content they will need to make those sites and applications come alive.
I spent the first week of April in beautiful, sunny Italy attending two conferences: the first, a W3C workshop in Pisa on Content on the Multilingual Web; and the second, Eurocomm, organized in Turin by the Europe and Middle East chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC).
While the two conferences attracted different audiences and addressed different issues, some of the same themes cropped up in several presentations at both.
A fellow content strategist tweeted earlier this month that she’d failed in her resolve to blog once a week. I could only empathize, given how tough I’m finding it to blog just….once a month!
Yet we’re both content strategists who understand the value of content as a critical business asset. We know that in our connected, online world, we are all publishers who need to ship. That’s what we do for a living; that’s what we tell our clients.
So why is it so difficult to blog for ourselves?
Every once in a while, I’m sent to Slideshare (usually via Twitter) to view a new presentation posted by a thought leader on subjects ranging from content strategy to B2B web marketing to social media and metrics. Once I’m there, I generally spend some time viewing other presentations, either on the same topic, or by the same person, or whatever else catches my fancy.
I can go through most of these presentations and get something out of them; after all, in spite of the buzz created by the NYT article on the evils of PowerPoint in the military a few weeks back, PowerPoint remains the lingua franca of the business world, and most of us are pretty conversant.
What’s becoming evident is that many good presenters are taking to heart some of the most oft-given complaints about presentations. They’re removing the relentless lists of bullets; the text-heavy argumentation; the animated build-up slides and spaghetti charts.
These no-no’s have been replaced by presentations full of zippy, bold and funny images and graphics that illustrate a point rather than explicitly make it. When done well, this works wonders, and has a terrific effect on audiences. PowerPoint really does become a tool that supports a speaker, enhances a message, and gets the point across in a truly complementary way.
Trouble is, some of these presentations can fall really short on SlideShare. Ever wade through 20 slides of cool images wondering, what the hell is this person talking about? Or trying to guess: Hmmm…maybe she means ….this?
The first-ever conference fully dedicated to content strategy was held mid-April in Paris. It was a very happy coincidence for me, since I live in Paris and I’m just launching a content strategy consultancy. So I was thrilled to be part of this inaugural event: it felt like we were breaking the champagne bottle on the ship.
Why is content strategy a hot topic right now? One key reason is that our websites have grown considerably over the last decade, and as presenter Jeffrey MacIntyre so aptly put it, there’s been a lot of deferred maintenance (as in, we know we have issues, but we’ll deal with them later). The result is a lot of websites with way too much content, insufficient resources to support it, lack of content governance, lack of strategy for what happens after launch date; in short, a lack of an overall content strategy.