I am a word nerd from way back. My mom used to send me to the dictionary or encyclopedia to learn the meaning of words or phrases. I would pull the large books out of our hall closet and get lost in them (at least until my little brother came barreling down the hallway, slamming the closet door into the back of my head, invariably howling at me to get out of his way).
My entire career has been a series of pivots, each one an opportunity to push myself and grow, but my content career happened accidentally. While taking a break from college, I worked as a gate agent for Continental Airlines in Houston, TX. When they needed a subject matter expert for their computer-based training, out of all the employees at IAH, they selected me. And as luck would have it, I had a knack for creating content, and they offered me a job as an Instructional Designer on the spot. The woman who hired me, Billie Smith, was a force to be reckoned with (she even dated legendary crooner Sam Cooke for a time), and she was the best mentor a young woman could ever hope for! Now, I try to pay it forward whenever I can—mentoring others is one of the most satisfying parts of my work.
When you’ve been doing this as long as I have, it’s hard to pinpoint a single person. I’ve been very lucky and traveled through the orbits of some incredibly talented and impressive people, and they’ve all had an impact on me in some ways. But if pressed to select one person, I’d call out Keith Baker, Thought Leadership Lead at Facebook. Keith always starts every interaction optimistically. Constructive feedback is always grounded in a positive foundation. Challenges are presented as opportunities. “Buts” are replaced with “ands” to remove negativity. It’s an incredibly empowering and powerful approach that I’ve wholeheartedly internalized. It hasn’t just made me more successful and effective, it has also enhanced my career and life satisfaction.
That the virtual/digital content medium doesn’t suck. It’s the content delivered on the medium that sucks. We need to start taking ownership of the content we’re publishing and stop blaming the medium. When you work to mitigate the limitations of a medium and lean into its strengths, you can create amazing things. Now that events are forced to be delivered virtually, people need to rethink event content and the overall experience in ways that leverage the value of the medium. Making a 3D version of your booth is exactly the wrong way to shift to virtual. If TV had just been people standing around reading for radio or filming the flipping pages of a book, it would have died too.
Never ever stop (creating, experimenting, being brave, trying new things, thinking positive, improving, being curious)!
Dana Larson is the VP, Experiential Content at Freeman Company, and has been connecting people with content for longer than she cares to admit in print. In that time, she has served as an award-winning copywriter and creative director,a founder and leader of a successful Portland, Oregon-area full-service advertising agency, an architect behind thriving content strategy practices at two leading San Francisco Bay-Area digital firms, and an executive-level event strategist.