STC Annual Conference Wrap-Up

Compiled By Cindy Pao, Technical Writer; Contributing Authors: Kathy Delisle, Alyssa Fox, Rene Gedaly, Crystal Johnson, Linda King, Paul Mueller, Deborah Silvi

This year’s Technical Communication Summit was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from June 1 through June 4. This article contains some thoughts from STC Houston folks who attended. If you have thoughts or comments, please post a comment!

Thoughts from Linda King

With each STC conference that I attend, I become more engaged in the organization, and I value the experience more. Not only is the conference a very welcome break from my usual routine, but it also recharges my enthusiasm for what we contribute to our businesses and the world community, for what I still can and need to learn, for what I can do to make improvements in my work environment and products, and for what I can share with others to help them grow.

Here are just a few of the valuable things that I take with me from each conference:

• Insights into how the profession is changing and what I need to do to stay marketable
• Great new resources (printed and online) that other conference attendees and presenters have discovered and recommended
• A better understanding of how STC works as an organization and where it is going for the future
• New ideas and practices that we might apply in our STC Houston community to provide greater value for our members
• New or renewed relationships with Society leaders and members of other STC communities
• A feeling of truly being a part of the international organization

For me, there is no substitute for spending days (and hopefully evenings) in the company of seasoned professionals who remain on the cutting edge (to use a REALLY TIRED expression), young technical communicators embarking on their careers in a totally different world from the one I started in, and the movers and shakers of this dynamic international organization.

Thoughts from Rene Gedaly

What did I enjoy most about the Summit? Putting the names with the faces.

Our chapter meetings are fun, and I always learn something new when I go. Maybe this year, I can get to them more often. Those aren’t the names and faces I’m talking about, though. I join STC year after year to remain part of a virtual community, the Consulting and Independent Contracting Special Interest Group. The monthly webinars fit my schedule, and the discussion list brings realtime help. Hired guns are often under the gun. Going to the Summit and finding the faces to put with the names gave me the chance to say thanks, to share war stories over drinks and food and laughs. And at a much more leisurely pace.

Thoughts from Alyssa Fox

Things I liked:

• I loved loved loved the location. The hotel was really nice, as was the convention center, and being right downtown was neat.
• Jared Spool’s session was fantastic. He was funny, relevant, and interesting. I also felt his session’s information could be applied by many different levels of writers, in different industries, and with different tools.
• The sessions inside the exhibit hall were cool. It was neat to be able to see a session on how you can use a particular tool to get your job done. Normally, I’m not big on “sales pitches,” but the fact that they were in the exhibit hall and not disguised as an educational session made me like them more. If you went to the exhibit hall to see it, you knew what to expect and weren’t blindsided by a pitch in what you thought was an educational session.

Thoughts from Crystal Johnson

Leadership was as informative as ever and, as in last year’s conference, it set the tone of the rest of the conference for me. It was also fun to interact with the other members of STC chapter leadership. I learned things such as the importance of the WIFM (what’s in it for me) formula for encouraging more volunteer participation and the general direction that the organization is heading to ensure that the profession stays up with the times. I must say that it’s a very exciting time to be a member! And helping to accept the award for excellent chapter wasn’t bad either.

Of course, the primary reason that I wanted to go this year was to learn whatever I could about content management systems. I need to propose one to my management team today. And boy, did I gain a lot of information about content management systems. That session was well roundedaddressing not only CMS packages but also how to approach your company’s management about getting a CMS package and things to think about when setting one up.

Overall, it was very enjoyable and worthwhile experience.

Thoughts from Paul Mueller

I was in and out of sessions and can say only that there were great networking opportunities and connections. For example, I met Michael Priestly. We talked about the history of DITA and the parts of the IBM research that had been processed and released, which was a big part of the basis for DITA.

The vendors had many presentations that made tool analysis and comparison very easy this year. Attendees had dedicated time to meet with vendorsa great opportunity to establish relationships and partnerships.

I attended some sessions that were very new and appropriate, such as moving from FrameMaker 7.2 (unstructured) to FrameMaker 8 (structured). The presentation walked through all the design and implementation steps in the process. Very powerful and applicable content.

Thoughts from Deborah Silvi and Kathy Delisle

Deborah and Kathy created presentations about two of the sessions they attended. Here are some of their thoughts about the sessions:

• Getting Real-World Feedback on Your Information: IBM wanted to conduct a case study of a new Web application project. In addition to usability data they had already collected, the project group wanted to get customer input, so they set up a Customer Council. Here are some of the results:

• Received a real-world perspective on product use
• Validated lab findings
• Discovered functional defects
• Discovered new requirements for the future
• Developed ongoing relationships with customers

• Augmenting Documentation with User-Generated Content: The group from BMC used the information from this session to envision a possible BMC documentation future where:

• All of their product/solution content is on the Web.
• Their customers provide input into the documentation content.
• They have effective search functionality for content and Web knowledge
• They update their content independently of production/solution releases

Thoughts from Cindy Pao

I didn’t get to Minneapolis last year, so I was excited to see what the revamped conference is like. I think that, on the whole, STC has done a good job. The panel discussion on Sunday night is a nice touch, and having the Governor of Pennsylvania there was exciting!

Aside from the Sunday-night festivities, here are the things I enjoyed the most:

• Honors Banquet: The food was good, I met a couple of people from Houston, and my name was on one of the posters.
• Walking the Wall: The outline of the Body of Knowledge (BOK) was awesome in its scope, and I admire and respect the people who created this first draft. I also accepted the challenge of adding items to the outline; it felt good to contribute to the development of this important tool.
• “Teaching Writing and Team Building Using Tinkertoys” session: Who knew that writing instructions without using pictures could be so hard?
• “Engaging Diverse Audiences Using Screencasts, Wikis, and Blogs” session: I enjoyed hearing about “rock star” programmers and how one company used different delivery techniques for their documentation. I think it’s important to hear about real-world implementations of the Web 2.0 tools and whether they really work for documentation.
• Philly Cheesesteak

I had a great time seeing friends at the conference, and I feel re-energized and excited about my career!

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