Copywriting Conference 2017 – was it any good?

Definitely! That’s the short answer to whether I thought the Copywriting Conference 2017 was worth the time and ticket price.

The rest of this post gives a more comprehensive answer to this question (and all without using the words learnings or takeaways).

So what made this, “…day dedicated to the craft and science of copywriting” quite so good? The combination of:

The speakers

All the keynote speakers were knowledgeable, engaging and entertaining. And, as we all know, when it comes to presentations, it’s rare that you get all 3.

It wasn’t just a bunch of folk reporting on exciting projects they’d worked on with big-name clients. All the talks included lots of practical suggestions that, if you’re willing to invest the time, are simple to do.

Copywriter and consultant Amy Harrison focused on closing the gap between what you say, and what clients think you mean. (She believes that this isn’t a copy problem, it’s a story problem.)

One of the ideas I took from this: you have to communicate the impact of the product or service you’re writing about consistently, because people are looking for transformation.

Content design expert Sarah Richards provided the science. As well as discussing how we really read copy, she shared a handful of ways to help get your clients to come round to your way of thinking (mwahahahaha!).

One of the ideas I took from this: don’t have opinions, because you’ll just end up in an opinion-off. Have data behind you so you can say to your clients, ‘this isn’t coming from me, it’s from the people you want to sell to.’

Copywriter Richard Owsley‘s contribution was as funny and cathartic as it was brief. He ran through some of the infuriating things some clients say, and the responses we’d like to give them.

What I took from this: the struggle is real but, thankfully, I’m not the only one dealing with it.

Nick Parker’s energy and irreverence made me, and the rest of the attendees, laugh out loud. Repeatedly. The copywriter and strategist challenged us to present ourselves more creatively, and give the pencil, typewriter and fountain pen imagery a rest. (He also got us writing on bananas.)

One of the ideas I took from this: don’t talk about words (e.g. your position in The Great Oxford Comma Debate), talk about ideas (like neuroscience, storytelling and stickiness) instead.

The workshops

These were every bit as good as the keynote speakers’ talks.

The main message of copywriter Katherine Wildman’s breakout session was, make time away from your screens and nurture your creativity.

She introduced some handy exercises (involving crayons, mysterious smells and white chocolate mice) for when you’re wedged in a creative rut.

One of the ideas I took from this: I need to read The World Beyond Your Head: How to Flourish in a World of Distraction by Matthew Crawford.

Author, consultant and copywriter Mel Henson gave an overview of the process conversion copywriters follow, and what they have to do to meet the demands of the Optimizing Gods.

One of the ideas I took from this: I need to check out Notable (an app for giving feedback on websites).

The other workshops got glowing reviews too. I was reliably informed that digital marketing speaker and trainer Tim Fidgeon managed to make mobile UX for copywriters, fun.

ProCopywriters committee member, Anna Gunning thought his advice “…will help us connect with target audiences on mobile – and will also help us work more effectively with designers and developers.”

And according to Andy Nattan, a ProCopywriters member, film director Sasha Damjanovski’s intense and no-nonsense guide to delivering an irresistible pitch was, “f*cking great.”

The venue

The Crystal’s in East London and is easy to get to by DLR. True to its name, it’s all glass, metal and angles. It’s clean, modern and there’s loads of natural sunlight.

The staff run a slick operation, so the day was well-organised and ran smoothly.

The food

This was so much better than the usual conference spread of sad-looking sandwiches. And there was lots of it – marinated feta, BLT rolls, falafel, baba ganoush and smoked salmon, cream cheese and dill rolls. A choice of fresh fruit or yoghurt crumble was on offer if you fancied rounding off your meal with something sweet. Yum!

Having time to chat to fellow copywriters

There was a 20-minute break in the morning, an hour for lunch, a 20-minute break in the afternoon and a drinks reception after the event.

So there was plenty of time to meet up with the talented, witty and generous people behind the banter and profile pictures.

The networking didn’t feel tiresome or cringey, and not having to start conversations by defining copywriting was brilliant.

Roll on Copywriting Conference 2018!

I ummed and ahhed about going to Copywriting Conference 2017, but I’m glad I did. It was a thoroughly enjoyable fiesta of good-natured word nerdery, and the best event I’ve been to in ages.

To be honest, I felt like I’d got my money’s worth after the first 2 speakers. I loved getting different perspectives on copywriting.

Everything I listened to, or took part in, was helpful, motivating and gave me new tools and techniques to try.


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