Why workshops are essential

Conferences are great. Sessions are wonderful. But to make the most of your time at the Content Strategy Forum, you can’t beat attending a workshop. Keri Maijala talks about her experience at the first CSF in Paris, 2010.

It was Paris. It was spring.

I was walking down a French street, hair pulled back in what I imagined to be a very French look, sporting a brand-new sweater and toting the just-released iPad. At that moment, there was no one on the planet who was hotter stuff than I was.

I was on my way to the Content Strategy Forum specifically, to attend a workshop about content analysis given by Rachel Lovinger and Karen McGrane. I absent-mindedly crossed against the light, and a taxi blared its horn at me (in French – it said, “EUNNNNN!”) startling me from my reverie and almost ending my European adventure right there.

I arrived at the venue. Those who had traveled long distances were jet-lagged but full of adrenaline and caffeine; the locals were nonchalantly bright-eyed. Regardless of nationality or miles (kilometers?) traveled, everyone was excited to be there. It was, after all, the debut of the Content Strategy Forum.

We sat at tables, chatting and sipping coffee from small paper cups. Some of us had already met in person, some of us had traded tweets, and some of us were total strangers. The workshop began, Rachel and Karen filling the room with their enthusiasm and personality. Our task was presented to us: reimagine the organisation of a website, specifically, a website featuring tea.

Concentration and tea organisation in Karen McGrane and Rachel Lovinger’s CS Forum 2010 workshop. Photo by Rachel Lovinger.

Tea. We thought a lot about tea. We frowned over our computers (or over our iPads because some of us were bad-ass) and considered the wonder that is tea. How do we organise tea? What are the business goals of tea? How does tea make us feel? We disagreed, compromised, and sketched. We conceptualised, revised, and fine-tuned. The time went quickly, and the previously hushed and sleepy voices became energised and insistent, the melody of converging accents hovering above our heads. There was just so, so much to say about tea, and by gosh, each of us was going to be heard.

I’ve been to many conferences before and after CS Forum 2010, and I love presentations. But there’s something special about getting in a room with other people who share a passion and diving into a problem. It’s an energy that can’t be duplicated by passively watching and absorbing. You have to jump in and wave your arms about, appearances be damned. It requires opposing opinions, different skill sets, and a variety of experiences. And it creates a community around a discipline like nothing else can.

Of course, after the workshop there were sessions to attend, bottles of wine to drink, and volcanos to plan around, but I’ll always remember my walk to the workshop on that amazing spring day, and the anticipation of what lay ahead.

There are people I met in Paris I now count as my friends. Even though we only see each other at conferences, even though we live literally thousands of miles (kilometers?) apart, we now have a shared experience that speaks to our appreciation, dedication, and commitment to our craft.

We would love to welcome you as our friend. iPad not required.