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November 7, 2016

Viva Las Vegas: LavaCon 2016

Las Vegas has something for everyone. Whether you enjoy seeing shows, playing slot machines, eating delicious meals, or just exploring the many hotels on the strip, there’s no shortage of exciting things to do. The same can be said of LavaCon Las Vegas, which offered all kinds of sessions and activities.

The lights on Fremont Street: daytime anytime!

The lights on Fremont Street: daytime anytime!

Before I attended LavaCon, I had never been to Las Vegas. My first impression? Total sensory overload.

LavaCon was held at the Golden Nugget hotel on Fremont Street. With its lighted ceiling, zip line, and variety of costumed street performers, Fremont Street was an overwhelming but fun experience.

I went to LavaCon as an exhibitor for Scriptorium, along with Bill Swallow, who gave a presentation on The Value Proposition of Translation Strategies. Although I was busy at Scriptorium’s booth for most of the conference, I did attend a couple of sessions:

  • Captain Content: Civil War?: In this presentation, Alan J. Porter broke down content conflicts into two major viewpoints: those who see the benefit of change and those who don’t want it, illustrated with cartoon drawings of original heroes and villains. I found this approach appealing as both a content strategist and a comic book geek.
  • TechComm Throwdown: In keeping with election season, this session pitted industry professionals against each other in short, hilarious debates moderated by Bernard Aschwanden. The speakers defended their positions on whether the customer is always right, the benefits of working remotely, and which is better: big or small business.

The sessions I attended were both entertaining and informative, and so were the conversations I had with attendees and other exhibitors. Here are a few patterns I observed throughout the conference…

Spirit of collaboration

Everything about LavaCon Las Vegas was designed to foster teamwork. On the opening day, attendees tossed colored ping pong balls into the air and picked them up at random. The color they chose represented their “tribe” for the duration of the conference. Each tribe worked together to win prizes for most tweets, most steps taken, and most water consumed. As an exhibitor, I wasn’t part of a tribe, but I still felt the positive impact that these tribes had on LavaCon’s collaborative atmosphere.

Other activities also carried the spirit of collaboration throughout the conference. The group activities in the evenings gave exhibitors and attendees an environment where we could relax and talk to each other more informally. I had a blast singing on karaoke night and watching speakers give “surprise” presentations at the networking dinner sponsored by Adobe.

Attendees could enter a drawing for a cash prize if they talked to all of the exhibitors and got our signatures. Instead of simply stopping by for a signature (and some chocolate!), most attendees who visited Scriptorium’s booth spent time talking with us and asking in-depth questions. This resulted in plenty of interesting discussions about content strategy, including…

Planning for the future

Most companies who contact us have problems with their content development processes. While we had our fair share of content problem discussions at the booth — for example, what to do about content silos, or how to deal with change management — we also saw an uptick in conversations about long-term content strategies.

Several people who visited the booth discussed their future content plans with us. Whether they were researching structured content, anticipating new localization requirements, or looking into scalable solutions, these people were clearly invested in long-term business goals. They didn’t have specific content problems to solve, but were instead looking for ways to prevent those problems from happening.

At some of the conferences and webcasts I’ve attended in the past year, I’ve seen an increased interest in content strategies that encompass more than just tech comm. This focus on company-wide content strategies, plus the new interest I saw in long-term planning, indicates that more people are thinking critically about their content and how it can serve their business goals.

Interest in learning DITA

Around this time last year, Scriptorium had just started introducing, our free resource for learning DITA, at conferences. People were interested in LearningDITA even when it was brand-new, and this year, we saw that interest continue.

Some people who stopped by the booth told us that they were using LearningDITA as a starting point for training their tech comm teams. Others were evaluating whether DITA was a good fit for them, and told us that LearningDITA had been a valuable resource during that process. Overall, people expressed a desire to learn more about DITA, whether or not they had immediate plans to start using it.

It's not LavaCon without lava!

It’s not LavaCon without lava!

I had a great time at LavaCon, not only exploring Las Vegas for the first time, but also having excellent discussions about content strategy with many people. In this case, the “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” rule doesn’t apply—the things we learned and the connections we made will last long after this conference.