In May, at the Write the Docs conference in Portland, I did something I had never done: I led an unconference session. That’s a small, casual, hey-anyone-want-to-talk-about-xyz? session that happens around one of many tables in a big room separate from the official conference talks. No stage. No microphone. No video camera. If you want to do an unconf on Tuesday, you scribble your topic on a sticky note that day, slap your note on the unconference board in an available time slot, jot down your table number, and, when the time comes, see who shows up.
Six people came to my table. The topic: how to put the customer first in your sentences. For 40 minutes, we chatted as I clicked through a few slides that I had put together based on ideas I’d gleaned from some writing style guidelines at work. I shared thoughts, examples, and questions. They shared thoughts, examples, and questions. I learned what they laughed at and what they wanted to explore further.
Afterward, I updated my slides (dropping in my first-ever zombies, for example) and offered to send a PDF to any conference-goer who wanted one. That would be that, I figured. Then, someone who hadn’t attended my session, someone I hadn’t even met during the conference—Marybeth Alexander—saw my offer in the Write the Docs messaging channel and asked if I would shape my topic into a post for her company’s blog.
I said yes.
Today, Marybeth’s company, KnowledgeOwl, which makes knowledge-base software, published How to put the customer first in your sentences. Now you can do a real unconf by reading the blog post from the comfort of home.