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    Schedule & Workshops

14 Speakers, 3 Days, 2 Workshops

Collective is an event unlike any other. It was designed with you, the attendee, in mind to get up close and personal with the brightest minds working at the intersection of Content Strategy, UX, and Product Development. You’ll hear 12 practical talks on subjects from building a content values system, to working with design and development teams to implement your program, and much more.

Four half-day workshops are available from thought leaders who are living and working each day to create top-level programs. You’ll get hands-on experience and advice that you can take right back to your workplace and implement the very next day.

Read on for the full event schedule, or skip to the workshop and keynote descriptions.

June 8 - Workshops

  • 8:30am - 9:00am Registration, Networking, Breakfast

    Check in, get your badge, and find your workshop while you meet fellow attendees.

  • 9:00am - 12:30pm Workshop Group 1

    Choose from either Kathy Wagner & Melissa Breker or Keri Maijala as your morning workshop leaders.

  • 12:30pm - 1:30pm Catered Lunch

    We’ll provide a delicious lunch so that you can network and discuss what you just learned in your morning workshop.

  • 1:30pm - 5:00pm Workshop Group 2

    Choose from Steve Fisher or Kerry-Anne Gillowey as your afternoon workshop leader.

  • 5:30pm - 7:30pm Opening Night Cocktail Party at Tap Gastropub

    Gather with your fellow attendees and speakers for drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and conversation at Tap Gastropub.

June 9 - Day One

  • 8:30am - 9:00am Registration, Networking, Breakfast

    Check in, get your badge, and find your workshop while you meet fellow attendees.

  • 9:00am - 9:20am Opening Remarks & Introduction

    Settle in, calm down from the traffic, and get a feel for what the day holds.

  • 9:20pm - 10:10am Opening Keynote - Ahava Leibtag

    Ahava Leibtag

  • 10:10am - 11:00am Clair Byrd - InVision

    Clair Byrd, Head of Marketing at InVisionApp.

  • 11:00am - 11:30am Break

    Get some coffee and stretch your legs

  • 11:30am - 12:20pm Kerry Crawford - Simple Focus

    Kerry Crawford

  • 12:20pm - 1:10pm Hazel Jennings - Instagram

    Hazel Jennings – Content Strategy at Instagram

  • 1:10-2:20 Lunch

    Lunch in and around the heart of Midtown

  • 2:20pm - 3:10pm Steve Fisher

    Steve Fisher

  • 3:10pm - 4:00pm Colleen Jones

    Colleen Jones – CEO at Content Science

  • 4:00pm - 4:30pm Afternoon Break

    Recharge, check your emails, and get ready for the closing keynote.

  • 4:30pm - 5:10pm Closing Keynote - Kate Kiefer Lee

    Kate Kiefer Lee – Director of Communications at Mailchimp

  • 8:00pm - 11:00pm Collective Conference Party at RiRa Irish Pub

    Join us for drinks, food, and fun at RiRa Irish Pub, just around the corner on Crescent Avenue.

June 10 - Day Two

  • 8:30am - 9:00am Registration, Networking, Breakfast

    Check in, get your badge, and find your workshop while you meet fellow attendees.

  • 9:00am - 9:20am Opening Remarks & Introduction

    Settle in, calm down from the traffic, and get a feel for what the day holds.

  • 9:20pm - 10:10am Opening Keynote - Alaina Wiens

    Alaina Wiens

  • 10:10am - 11:00am Kerry-Anne Gilowey

    Kerry-Anne Gilowey

  • 11:00am - 11:30am Break

    Get some coffee and stretch your legs

  • 11:30pm - 12:20pm Melissa Breker

    Melissa Breker

  • 12:20-1:40 Lunch

    Lunch in and around the heart of Midtown

  • 1:40pm - 2:30pm Keri Maijala

    Keri Maijala

  • 2:30pm - 3:20pm Ron Bronson

    Ron Bronson



Set 1: Morning


Choose one and ONLY one of the below workshops for your morning session. Either Keri Maijala or Melissa Breker & Kathy Wagner. You’ll select your workshops when purchasing your ticket.

Keri Maijala

Workshop Title: Human Content for Complicated Companies: Focusing on What’s Relevant
Abstract: When developing content for a regulated company like financial services, it’s easy to get mired in complex explanations and legal requirements. Don’t forget there’s a human being at the other end trying to make sense of it all! In this workshop, you’ll learn how to guide them through your company’s experience and help them understand how it applies to their own lives by using language that is thoughtful, nuanced, and relatable.

This interactive, hands-on workshop will help you to add focus and humanity to your content by tapping into what’s truly relevant to your customer. You’ll discover tools such as focus stories and narratives, and translate those tools into actual customer-facing content.

Specifically, you’ll learn how to:

  • Develop an emotion-based focus story for your audience
  • Create narratives that bring that story to life
  • Translate your story and narratives into real customer-facing content
  • Extend your findings into research, frameworks, and communicating with other teams

Melissa Breker & Kathy Wagner

Workshop Title: Content Teamwork: Aligning Your People and Process
Abstract: Defining the content strategy is the easy part. But how do you actually make it work? Not just today, but tomorrow, and next year, and the year after that? How can you continually evolve and mature your content practices, create rock-star content teams, and produce better content faster? Sound magical? Nope, it’s just good content governance.

In this workshop, you’ll learn how people and process fit into the larger content governance framework, and how to create strong teams that work together. We’ll look closely at how team structure and skill set affect the quality of content, and practice assigning roles and responsibilities that increase efficiency and staff satisfaction. We’ll also share our collaborative approach to designing effective cross-functional content processes – a fun activity that you can take back to your teams right away.

Take this workshop if you want to learn:

  • How people and process fit within a larger governance framework.
  • How to structure content teams for effectiveness and efficiency.
  • How to choose the right people, and assign the right roles.
  • How to collaboratively design content processes that work across teams.
  • How to get it done: convincing executives and motivating staff.

Set 2: Afternoon


Choose one and ONLY one of the below workshops for your afternoon session. Either Steve Fisher or Kerry-Anne Gillowey. You’ll select your workshops when purchasing your ticket.

Steve Fisher

Workshop Title: Creating Responsive Content Experience
Abstract: The most important thing anyone can do on a web project is find its nucleus. The core, that purpose around which everything orbits. Finding that reveals how all of the content fits together. It offers clarity to the relationships between the project’s content and the project’s vision, and will make your process far more successful.

Finding this core piece will speed up the future design, content and development process. The entire team (vendors, stakeholders, audiences) will walk away with a common understanding and vision. Every time you write or revise, you’ll think about that core piece of content and refocus. The content creation experience becomes what you it was always meant to be: dreamy.

The team also orbits this central content. The process unites far flung members who aren’t sure how they’d work together to make a project successful. When they rally to find this central content, they become bonded by its gravitational pull. It causes that aha moment—the moment people understand how the project will succeed. It isn’t just finding the core that is the big win—it finding it together

In this workshop, you will learn:

  • How to establish a framework to guide your team towards a successful content and design system.
  • Creating, sketching out, and documenting responsive content models through a process of prioritization.
  • Exercises that allow teams to move through conflict and bond in the process.

Who should attend this session?

  • Content strategists
  • Designers, General UXers
  • Team managers
  • Entire in-house or agency teams

Kerry-Anne Gilowey

Workshop Title: From Analysis to Synthesis: Tools and Techniques for Discovery Work
Abstract: When you begin work on a new project, there are so many unknowns, so many moving parts to get your head around, so many questions you haven’t even thought to ask yet, that it can be hard to know where to start.

In this workshop we’ll explore a range of discovery techniques, from stakeholder and user interviews, to discovery workshops, content analysis, and more. We’ll also look at what comes after you’ve made reams of rough notes, and just before you create deliverables: the part where you start to recognise patterns, clarify ambiguities, and put the pieces together.

This workshop will give you:

  • A toolbox full of discovery techniques and tips, useful for all kinds of content strategy activities.
  • Clarity about which tools to use when and for what purpose, and a basic discovery process that you can use as a starting point when planning out a new project or initiative, or writing a proposal for a new client.
  • An opportunity to try your hand at several of these techniques. Often the feeling that we haven’t done this before and we’re making it up as we go along is the thing that holds us back from doing our best work, so you’ll have a chance to get comfortable with some discovery techniques and gain confidence in your abilities.


View individual speaker pages for more detail or, if you need to know what you’ll learn, read our convince your boss page.

Ahava Leibtag – Aha Media Group

Talk Title: I’m ok, You’re ok: Navigating Challenging Content Strategy Conversations
Abstract: It takes a lot of work to say the right thing. Particularly in UX, where we spend so much of our time being critical of design, content, strategy, and products, how do we artfully communicate with our clients to create a feeling of rapport, collaboration, and collegiality?

Join this lively, interactive session to hear real-life examples from a veteran in the field on how to effectively communicate during difficult conversations.

This session will examine how to:

  • Manage challenging conversations around scoping
  • Right a derailed project
  • Create consensus without agreement

Clair Byrd – InVision

Talk Title: Content Core Values and Creating Humanity at Scale
Abstract: What does it mean for a brand to be “human?” As content leaders, our assumptions about what defines corporate “humanity” are colored by our own culture and self-interests. With such a subjective framework, how can we expect writers to create content consistent with our expected model of humanity?

Voice and tone documentation is often equally subjective. Adjectives and style notes mean different things to different people, but consistency is critical to establishing and maintaining your readers’ trust. How do we maintain voice and tone consistency when your creators span across a team of hundreds or thousands, all from different cultures and areas of focus?

Learn how creating working core values for content—not a list of do’s and dont’s—can unify disparate writers and improve your content strategy over time.

This talk will examine:

  • Our assumptions about humanity and brand personhood
  • New ways of encouraging and surfacing active decision-making regarding voice and tone, at scale
  • How to create and instill your own brand-specific content core values at your company

Kerry Crawford – Simple Focus

Talk Title: A Detective, a Rock Star and a Content Strategist Walk into a Bar
Abstract: What do the best detectives, rock stars and content strategists have in common? They know how to observe a situation, ask the right questions and solve problems. In this session, we’ll talk about developing a framework for getting the information you need to do your best work.


Ron Bronson – Nordic Strategy Lab

Talk Title: The ROI of Content Strategy
Abstract: Despite the value of content strategy in everything we do, there still exists a gap across many organizations about its impact on the bottom line. For all of the big brands who value content, there are lots of firms along the highways and byways of the world who still don’t quite understand what the fuss is about. For those practitioners, we need to develop frameworks and results-driven practices that can quantify the value of content for stakeholders across the organization.

Hazel Jennings – Instagram

Talk Title: Postmodern Counterculture Meets Content
Abstract: As user experience designers, we’re redefining how people interact with content. What could a 1960’s counterculture novelist teach us about onboarding new users or making product decisions? Kurt Vonnegut, author of Slaughterhouse Five and over 25 other famous works, was a master of language and storytelling. Vonnegut outlined 8 rules for creative writing––including where to start your story and the job of every sentence. Come see how the rules that Vonnegut used while sitting at a typewriter apply directly to our work as designers, researchers and writers building online experiences.

Through this session, you will find a new way to think about designing products through the lens of an iconic postmodern author; see examples of uncommon ways Instagram has solved UX problems; and learn how the power of storytelling can build a stronger connection between your product and the people who use it.

Colleen Jones – Content Science Group

Talk Title: Thinking Big: Content as Core Business Capacity
Abstract: Business today is digital. Content is core to product experience and often is the product. Content drives marketing, sales, customer service, and support–all extensions of the product experience. Why do we relegate content to discrete small functions? Organizations who thrive in the future will treat content as a core business capacity. This session will explore how forward-thinking organizations are establishing content capacity with content models, content principles, and content intelligence.

Kate Kiefer Lee – Mailchimp

Talk Title: Writing in the Real World
Abstract: Whether or not you identify as a writer, you probably write every day. Most writing goes unnoticed, but emails, proposals, creative briefs, and blog posts are all meaningful forms of written communication. Developing your writing skills can strengthen your relationships, give you clarity when you need it, and transform your work. In this session, we’ll look at big and small ways to improve your writing. We’ll talk about how to get past the fear many of us feel at the beginning of a project by reframing the way you think about writing. You’ll learn how to move in stages through the writing process—even on quick projects and short blurbs. We’ll talk about how to communicate your ideas clearly, kindly, and in your voice. And finally, we’ll throw out the rules you were taught in school and replace them with some practical self-editing tips to make your writing polished and uniquely your own.

Alaina Wiens – Flint, Michigan Chamber of Commerce

Talk Title: Translating Business Strategy to Content Strategy
Abstract: Content strategy is good for business, but it can be challenging to sell the fundamentals of content strategy to leaders and decision-makers in our organizations. It can also be challenging to stay focused on strategy when surrounded by conflicting priorities and demands on web resources. In this session, we’ll discuss the value of your organization’s Strategic Plan in the face of these challenges—examining its application for making your case, guiding content decisions, and evaluating the success of your efforts.

Kerry-Anne Gilowey – August Sun Projects

Talk Title: Talk to the People: Customer Interviews for Content Strategists
Abstract: We can pore over detailed web analytics, review the pretty demographics charts given to us by Marketing, and devise colourful personas to guide our work, but until we’ve actually spoken to our customers – preferably face-to-face – our understanding of their needs remains limited.

It’s not just interaction designers, user experience practitioners and marketers who can benefit from conducting customer interviews. Content strategists and content creators too can gain an enormous amount from asking customers the right questions and knowing how to interpret their answers.

In this session we’ll explore how we can use interviews to get an understanding of the journey that our customers take with us, and how our content can be moulded by their emotional and mental state at each point along the way.

Amongst other things, you will learn:

  • How conducting customer interviews can help you to develop better content
  • How to conduct interviews sensitively but effectively
  • How to analyze and use the information you gather during interviews

Melissa Breker – Content Strategy, Inc.

Talk Title: How to Use Content Mapping to Collaborate with Stakeholders
Abstract: Learn how you can use customer journeys as a way to uncover content requirements for your audience and plan for better content. It’s hard work getting people to change. The challenge is how to convince your team to work with content in a new way. It almost always boils down to the same thing.

It’s this:

Without the right motivation to change, people would rather stick to what they know, even if the status quo is more painful, ineffective, and unsatisfying.

Like all strategic conversations, understanding your current situation and determining the readiness for change in your organization is an important first step in getting things done.

This presentation highlights how to bring teams together around content via customer journeys to bring a shared vision for your content.

Through this approach, you can identify gaps in your current content and highlight opportunities to build a content mix that meets both business and audience goals.

Attend this presentation if you want to learn:

  • How to use audience research to build content requirements
  • Why it’s important to understand your organizations readiness for change
  • How to plan and structure a content mapping session with your stakeholders (as well as explaining the benefits to them)
  • What to do with the results of the session to socialize content strategy

Keri Maijala – Financial Engines

Talk Title: Being Human (Even When it’s Difficult)
Abstract: In order to connect with human beings, our content needs to be empathetic, conversational, and, well, human. But what do you do when you’re mired in heavy things like regulations? When you have a team of lawyers standing by with red pens? When the language you need for your brand is at odds with scary-sounding laws? With planning and partnership, you can create content that stays on-brand and keeps the lawyers on your side. You’ll see how to partner with legal and compliance representatives to work toward a common goal; ways to be creative with language to achieve brand goals while staying compliant; as well as examples of how being human can help regulated content be clear, accessible, and even fun.

Steve Fisher – Republic of Quality

Talk Title: Creating a Content-First Culture
Abstract: Raise your hand if the content of your website isn’t a top priority on meeting agendas or project budgets. We’ve all been there. Our websites are black holes without their content, but often organizations don’t prioritize content strategy in project plans or budgets. Sometimes it is close to the bottom of the list. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Learn how everyone can spark change to help organizational culture become content and design driven. And how to find and focus on what matters.

This workshop will help you understand how to plan for organizational change by working through items like future state maps and guiding principles to impact culture. We’ll discuss key activities that move teams and organizations towards becoming content focused and driven and how to create teams that can continue to advance this cultural change in an organization.

Jonathon Colman – Facebook

Talk Title: Wicked Ambiguity and User Experience
Abstract: How do you solve the world’s hardest problems? And how would you respond if they’re unsolvable? As user experience professionals, we’re focused on people who live and work in the here and now. We dive into research, define the problem, break down silos, and focus on people’s intent to create solutions. But how does our UX work change when a project lasts not for one year, or even 10 years, but for 10,000 years or more? Enter the “Wicked Problem,” or situations with so much ambiguity, complexity, and interdependencies that—by definition—they can’t be solved. Using real-world examples from NASA’s Voyager program, the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository, and other long-term UX efforts, we’ll talk about the challenges of creating solutions for people whom we’ll never know in our lifetimes. The ways we grapple with ambiguity give us a new perspective on our work and on what it means to build experiences that last.

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