Christina Vasilevski

Toronto Writer/Editor for Content Strategy, Content Design & UX.

3 Lessons From InboundCon 2014

InboundCon - Canada's Premier Inbound Marketing ConferenceA week ago I attended InboundCon 2014, a one-day conference on inbound marketing. It was intense. There were some breaks for networking and meals, but otherwise it was a non-stop stream of information about topics like SEO, PPC advertising, UX design, content marketing, social media, and lead conversion.

I was overloaded by the end. It’s taken me a while to sift through things since then. However, I’ve thought a lot about what I’ve learned. Here are my top 3 lessons from InboundCon 2014:

1. Content may be king, but don’t forget about the rest of the castle

The pithiest quote of the day came from Ira Haberman of Atomic Reach, who said, “If content is king, then audience is queen…and we know who runs the house.”

Given the wide variety of topics under discussion, though, the conversation needs to extend beyond these two concepts. Content is important. Good content is more important. But kings can’t get nearly enough done without a castle full of advisors, courtiers, and scullery maids, not to mention all the tax collectors in the countryside: good content is effective only when there’s proper infrastructure in place to support it.

Whether this infrastructure involves responsive design, A/B testing, or lead conversion tools, it and content are all connected. A/B testing helps determine the best way to present your information, which leads to greater engagement, which leads to more sales, and so on.

2. Sometimes the most useful information is the most concise

I took a lot of notes at InboundCon, but at day-long events like these, attention inevitably starts to flag. There was one session that stuck out to me, though, called “30 Amazing Marketing Tools in 15 Minutes.” It was by the COO of Powered by Search, the organization running the conference.

It promised a lot of useful information with no filler, and it delivered. The fact that the information was given so quickly and precisely, and that it focused on stuff you could use right away made it stand out from all the slides and panels and lingering conversations.

3. No one knows everything, but everyone knows something

The pace of change in the online marketing industry is ridiculously fast — new algorithms, new insights, and new tools always appear. It’s difficult to keep up, but all of the presenters make it their job to do so. However, no two presenters spoke about the same thing, and although their advice was similar in many ways, it’s safe to say that they learned as much from each other as the audience did.

This means that no matter how knowledgeable an expert is, there’s no point at which this knowledge is complete. Expertise is a constant state of progression. Even though I’m the tortoise, I can catch up whenever the hare pauses to take a breath.

And you know what? I find that comforting. I’ve got my running shoes on. I’m confident that with the right amount of focus, I can find my footing in this race — and contribute knowledge of my own when the time comes.

Attending the Editors’ Association of Canada conference in Ottawa

It appears that when I watch a movie three times in the theatre, it causes me to drop off the face of the earth for nearly a month. But don’t worry – I have been productive during my absence.

A week ago I attended the annual conference for the Editors’ Association of Canada. The last time I went was two years ago in 2010, when it was hosted in Montreal. This year, it was in Ottawa.

My reaction to it this year was similar to when I was in Montreal: the conference was exciting and informative, but also overwhelming. There were so many sessions to attend, people to talk to, and things to write down that I’m surprised my hand didn’t cramp up from all the note-taking and live-tweeting I did. These were the sessions I attended this year, in order:

Day 1 – June 2nd, 2012

Adult Literacy: Why it Should Mattter to You (presented by Mary Wiggin)
This seminar focused on what we mean when we talk about literacy, and the challenges that adults with literacy problems face. Much of the advice in the final portion of the seminar about editing text to address literacy problems – using short sentences, removing jargon, using the active voice, and so forth – was already familiar to me. More interesting was the discussion of the various types of literacy that exist, the various definitions of literacy, and the statistics regarding functional literacy in Canada.

Editing eBooks (presented by Greg Ioannou)
This seminar focused on the basics of eBooks – their history, the different types of formats they come in, and so forth – and how a publisher produces an eBook. I hoped it would guide us step-by-step through the process of creating an eBook. Instead, there were some general tips about how to properly format things like punctuation (open em-dashes!) and columns (don’t even try!). This was still useful, but I was really looking forward to a hands-on demonstration.

Creating a Professional Development Revenue Stream (presented by Emily Dockrill Jones)
This seminar attracted a very large audience. However, the title didn’t match up completely with the subject matter. I thought that it would talk about how to build a business through providing professional development services to others. Instead, it focused on how to be a good, engaging presenter when running a PD program. Despite the mismatch between title and content, the information within was useful and applicable to many fields.

Day 2 – June 3rd, 2012

The Great Text-Talk Debate (with Ian Capstick and James Harbeck)
Ian Capstick argued in favour of text-talk, and James Harbeck argued against it. Unsurprisingly, most of the audience took the “anti-text” side at the start of the debate, but Ian’s points were so persuasive that by the end, the room had almost completely flipped its stance on the topic.

What convinced me was Ian’s argument that text-talk is just the latest solution to limitations built into our methods of communication. For example, when printed books were introduced in Europe, the binding technology was so poor that most books had spines so thin that the only way to accommodate the text was to use an extremely small font. This made me think of all the time I spent in WoW raiding Kara with my guild, speed-running noobs through Zul-Farrak, and rezzing priests with my Goblin Jumper Cables.

In other words, I remembered the years I spent playing a game with slang (text-talk) designed to convey a lot of information (communication) quickly (limitation). Ian Capstick won me over because 3.5 years later, I still can’t stop thinking about World of Warcrack.

Technical Writing and Editing for Usability (presented by Kerry Surman)
“Usability” is a topic I’ve researched at my day job. Much of the information in this seminar was already familiar to me, like the importance of using white space, bullet lists, and bolding to make text easy to skim. However, the discussion of how perception affects usability was interesting. Also, this seminar introduced me to the term “Web 3.0” – I remember “Web 2.0” being bandied around a lot a few years ago and thought that the term had become outdated. It’s interesting to know that instead it’s evolved to mean web customization and personalization. A really good example of the applications – and pitfalls – of trying to personalize the Web and commerce can be found here.

How SEO and Editing Can Wreck Each Other (presented by Greg Ioannou)
SEO is something that I’ve been learning about a lot both inside and outside of work. Imagine my chagrin when Greg went into the “do’s” and “don’ts” of editing web copy to improve web traffic, and I found that I had been guilty of committing some SEO sins on this website! Once I returned from the conference I followed his advice and edited my landing pages to reduce the number of times certain keywords were repeated. In the seminar, Greg used humour to great effect in the case studies he showed the audience.

Freelance Editing: The Top 10 Things I Wish I’d Known (presented by Elizabeth D’Anjou)
Elizabeth D’Anjou runs a very popular workshop about “taking the plunge” and becoming a freelance editor. This seminar was on a similar topic. I won’t go into all 10 lessons here, but I did find Number 9 – “A good read is not the same as a good editing project” – surprising. I’ve been trying to reposition my own editing services and work with fiction writers because they’re the kind of writers I find myself coming into contact with the most often; it was weird to see her advice so directly conflict with my own choices.