The first lesson: when I signed up last summer for the University of Illinois Web Con 2018, I never imagined that the trip would start with a freakish ice thunderstorm/mini blizzard! But this is what my trip to Champaign looked like:
It was worth the trip, though. I learned a lot and enjoyed meeting some great people who excel at content strategy, social media, and design. Here are some highlights:
Swipe Left! Transform Self-Talk to Banish Your Inner Critic and Do Your Best Work, by Denise Jacobs, Writer and Speaker
Denise gave great perspective on dealing with your inner critic, working past the self-doubt, and getting to work on the things you’re passionate about and actually really good at if you just get out of your own way. I found the most interesting part of her speech was her information about interrupting the negative thought process by working with your hands on creative projects, such as jewelry making, to jumpstart the creative side of your brain you need to access in order to do all the mental/virtual design work! I want to get back into painting and drawing on a regular basis, and now I can use it to inform my design process for my clients!
Creating with Constraints, by Lindsey Gates-Markel, Lead Content Strategist at Pixo
- Design is a process, and designing projects for different users can leave us stumped as to what we’re actually supposed to be producing. It often feels like each project requires us to try to reinvent the wheel. But, when you have a structured framework to ground your design work, you actually free your team to design as creatively as possible.
- On interviewing users: “Getting a single insight, then acting on it, is childish.” -Steve Portigal. Your job when interviewing users and clients is to find out what they really need, not what they THINK they need. The objective of every piece of your content must support your business goals, so keep your users’ larger goals in mind or your site’s goals will be too small.
Facebook Ads vs. Google AdWords, by Holly Rushakoff, Assoc. Director of Marketing, University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine
Holly presented a really interesting case study on the success and results of the social media efforts of the U of I College of Veterinary Medicine. She shared the backend dashboards and stats captured during their efforts to advertise different events, and how effective the campaigns were for each type of event they were creating. Holly made it clear that you can be successful in your social media campaigns, even if your company is still experimenting with what works best for you—and that there isn’t one magic answer that works for every case!
The Social Media Checklist, by Danielle Mitchell owner of Average Black Girl and Maya Harris owner of Classic. City. Chic.
What can I say about this but that these young women are SO knowledgable about social media strategies! They presented tricks, tips, and techniques that they have both employed in their own social media strategies for businesses that they grew with very little startup capital. Everything they’ve done has been turned into a documented process, broken down into manageable steps that they teach other entrepreneurs. AND, they shared checklist downloads and a free online course with us for attending their live workshop. So, triple win!
Instagramming Intentionally, by Caitlin McCoy, Social Media Marketing at University of Illinois
Caitlin shared her strategies, workflow process, and social media philosophies with us, while relating everything to her work with University of Illinois as a specialist in Instagram. She was very knowledgable about visual brand identity, and shared her favorite photography tools for creating authentic yet professional images for your time-sensitive company posts.
Other great things about Illinois Web Con:
Champaign has some great restaurants, like Golden Harbor—an authentic Chinese restaurant. We had dumplings and General Tso’s Chicken, but with a very crisp, light texture without breading and a sauce that was more spicy and vinegary than sweet, which as such a treat. I wanted to come back the next evening!
DeStihl is another cool place in downtown Champaign, and that’s where I was introduced to deep fried bacon. I don’t recommend you try it, simply because it is delicious and no good can come from developing a deep-fried bacon habit!
Also, I got a t-shirt with an octopus on it, and it is totally fabulous!
It was a great week, and I’m so glad that I went!