The best of the Chicago Widen Workshop

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Last week we hosted the second ever Widen Workshop, this time in Chicago. Over 30 customers joined us to learn from each other and Widen staff about topics in digital asset management (DAM) like managing metadata, asset analytics, branding your site, and more.

The workshop built on the success of the New York Workshop, adding a customer presentation, securing an amazing venue (thanks, TechNexus!), and sponsoring a Midwest Digital Asset Managers meetup in the evening.

The day started early, with optional office hours for customers to meet with their customer experience manager (CXM) to talk about their Widen Collective site or DAM strategies.

Widen Workshop

The workshop officially kicked off at 10:30 am with a welcome from Widen CEO Matthew Gonnering, who started with a thank you.

“We are grateful that so many customers come to downtown Chicago for the Widen workshop to connect with others and learn from our content experts.” said Gonnering. “We have a strong sense of community and earn the loyalty of our customers by helping their professional development.  We’re honored to have such meaningful relationships.”

The workshops, Gonnering explained, are not a replacement for the annual Widen Summit in Madison, Wisconsin. Their purpose was to create community among local DAM professionals and provide a learning opportunity for people who are not able to travel to the Summit, a three-day conference held each fall.

Following a round of “speed-meeting” where participants introduced themselves and sometimes, their Collective sites, CXM’s Emily Jacoby and Sam Schnepf. They covered common problems like encouraging uploaders to tag metadata, relating assets, enforcing usage restrictions, and managing regional assets.

Following a amazing lunch from Giordano’s, Director of Marketing Jake Athey presented on the “State of Widen.”

Widen Workshop

He highlighted the growing company – Widen is adding staff at an amazing rate and has no plans to stop – in particular, the customer facing teams like CXM’s, support, training, and user experience.

The star of the workshop was Courtney Roe, a Marketing Specialist at Kerry Ingredients. Roe spent over 600 hours optimizing the Kerry Ingredients Widen Collective site, revamping metadata, making the site search-friendly, and engaging users.

The extent of her organization and management skills are best summed up with the timeline she shared:

Widen Workshop

Roe’s presentation, which focused heavily on the importance of metadata and keywords, was followed by a metadata activity lead by Widen training specialist Lexy Spry. She used different types of candy to highlight how to develop a metadata schema that makes sense to the people who will use it.

The day ended with the Midwest Digital Asset Managers meetup, run by Mary Yurkovic (side note – for more info about Yurkovic and her smart content expertise, see her DAM champ interview on

The meetup featured a panel of digital asset managers Jennifer Neer of Polywood, Andy Wang of World Kitchen, and Andrew Jones from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The panel was moderated by Gonnering, who steered the conversation towards the challenges of DAM management, increasing the visibility of DAM within an organization, and user engagement.

Training proved a popular topic.

“There are two primary challenges when it comes to maintaining our site,” explained Wang. The first is clean, quality metadata, which is always dependent on the person who is inputting the data. It’s really important to have a structure in place to help people find the right items. The second challenge is training and education. We do our best to train people on the functionality.”

He joked that his team had great success with Popeyes – using food as a way to attract people to training sessions. “I think having a consistent training schedule and reinforcing it is key. Getting people at multiple sessions helps reinforce the training we do.”

We’ve already got the next workshop planned for November 15 in Los Angeles. Registration just opened, so if you are a customer in the area, sign up now! If you are not a customer and are interested in meeting with the Widen group while we’re in LA, contact us and we will be happy to set something up.

Topics: Events

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