Ed Marsh of ContentContent has a new podcast out, and it features me! Who would’ve guessed? Ed and I recorded this on April 11, 2015, and had a great time recording our conversation. We could’ve gone on for hours! (Or at least I could’ve gone on for hours, LOL.)
Check out the podcast, and be sure to check out more of what Ed has on ContentContent. He’s got good stuff there! Enjoy!
Anytime I think of any kind of tech comm analytics, I don’t think of Google Analytics or Web Trends, but my mind races back to the first time I heard Mark Lewis speak and how my mind was blown at the idea that tech writing was measurable in any form. Now, a few years later, I’m looking at this latest module in my online Digital Marketing course at Rutgers about Web Analytics and ROI, as taught by Rob Peterson of the marketing firm, BarnRaisersLLC.
The idea of analytics and ROI (return on investment) sends a shiver down my spine. While I understand the function of analytics and some basics, it makes me think of complicated mathematical formulas, and that in itself makes me anxious. (I was a decent math student in school, but it was not my forté.)
Peterson started his course with a quote that I could swear I’ve heard either Mark Lewis or Joe Gollner repeat (I think it was Joe) by Peter Drucker to frame the objective, in which Drucker said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” So, the first question was, what is “it”? “It” could be almost anything. But Peterson feels that “it” is success–that your success (or lack thereof) is what needs to be measured. He also felt that the verbs “measure” and “manage” were the keys to understanding the material for this module.
Peterson broke down these by 6 steps to demystify web analytics:
Know why your site exists
Identify who you want to attract
Find out how they find your site
Know the action(s) you want them to take
Create an actionable scorecard aka figuring out your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
Listen to your digital ecosystem
You want to do these steps because the buying cycle has changed due to the internet. The buying “funnel” has been replaced by a flatter, more circular course of evaluation and re-evaluation before buying, but there is a subsequent loyalty to a brand after the initial buy that shortens the cycle the second time around.
Petersen then talked about how to make your digital ecosystem thrive, describing it as the intersection of earned (sharing), owned (web properties), and paid (advertising) media. People come before software in analytics, he insisted, stating that there’s a 10/90 rule for analytics, namely 10% of the marketing budget should go towards the analytics software, and 90% towards getting good people to analyze the results. We use measurement to understand our role, which is understanding the customer journey with the goal of optimizing the customer experience and find more customers.
To do this, there are several (he said 12, but I could figure out which were the specific 12) measurements to know.
First, you have to understand how consumers find you. This is primarily done through keywords and links. It was emphasized that page rank (aka “SERP”- Search Engine Rank Page) mattered because the first listed item in the ranking outweighs subsequent 5 ranks combined, usually. The metric that mattered most with paid media? He gave these two equations to show how this worked:
CPC (cost per click) = CTR (Click thru rate–this makes the click relevant)
He noted that a good conversion rate is actually low–2% is considered good!
So, once you’re at the website–now what? To analyze this, you need to look at sessions and users (which were recently renamed by Google, and formerly known as visitors and unique visits, which I understand better). Usually the period of time usually measured is looking at the last 30 days. An important metric in this is looking at the bounce rate, which is a percentage that means the number of people who only viewed one page then left. It’s important because it shows if the site is relevant or not. A good bounce rate depends on your goal or objective. If you wanted people to come to a specific page to sign up for something only on that page, then you achieved your goal, but if not, then you have to figure out why they didn’t stay. Petersen noticed that if you notice that your bounce rate is high for the wrong reasons, it’s not easy to change a bounce rate overnight.
One also has to understand where users people come from and what they do. Traffic resources are organic, direct, or paid searches, but can also be referral and social media sources.
The focus then turns on the key content (aka the webpages) by determining how many take the actions that you want. Conversion, here, is an important metric. There is the macro conversion, which is revenue generating, such as person to person, B2B, B2C, WebEx to WebEx, and the like, versus micro conversion, in which users would subscribe to the blog or a newsletter or participate by making a comment on a blog, and so on. This can also be done through word of mouth, more specifically “likes”, comments, shares, people talking about the site, followers, retweets, reviews and rating, sentiment, text analytics, and email open rate. The conversion rate is determine with this equation:
Conversion rate=(Desired outcomes/total visits) X 100
There are several online tools to help you listen that are generally free tools and work better on bigger sites, but easily available to use, according to Petersen:
Google Trends – This tool uses keywords. It can compare two different topics to see where they’ve been and where they are predicted to go. The example given was the buzz between Justin Bieber and the anticipated Samsung Galaxy 4 among teenagers as potential buyers. Fortunately for Samsung, the Galaxy 4 was trending more than Bieber!
Compete.com – This is a paid tool focused on doing competitive intelligence. It lets you see how you compare to your competitors so you can figure out your strategy.
Alexa.com – This is another tool that looks at the competition, powered by Amazon. It can use to compare your competition by providing ranking and metric information.
Marketing.Grader.com – This is a HubSpot tool that grades your website on several levels from social media marketing, blog posts, SEO, lead generation and mobile. I tried this tool and this blog got an 82/100, mostly because I’m not really trying to generate leads, and the mobile aspect of using WP needs help, so I considered that pretty good. I like this tool because it was really easy to use and understand. At the time of the recording of the lesson, Petersen’s business website had an 81! And I had an 82? Hah! I must be doing something right!
The course continued by using a case study using Google Analytics. The objective of this part of the lesson was to learn what to look for and how to use it. It was pointed out that it only will look up your own company due to admin rights, and to make it work optimally, you need to get specific code and embed it in all of your page (perhaps in the header, for example) so that Google Analytics can track it correctly by the correct administrators.
The main focus in using Google Analytics is looking at the audience figures. Look at the Engagement section to see who is really spending time on your pages. It helps you to understand the bounce rate. Petersen pointed out that on average, 95% of the audience never views more than 5 pages, and 95% don’t spend anymore than 5 minutes on a website. You can also look at location for geographic data, drilling down from national to town level. The section labeled “Mobile” can let you see how the site is being accessed.
This information helps to frame the marketing “funnel” that is often talked about, which is where marketers start with the action of acquisition, narrowing the focus to engagement, which further narrows to conversion. If it circles back to the engagement, this signals that there is loyalty to the brand, and this cycle begins again.
Google Analytics can also identify how your audience finds you, which is mainly through acquisition, behavior, and e-commerce. Behavior metrics can show what pages they are going to. Channels section knows keywords even if analytics don’t tell, as it shows keywords that people are using to access the site. You can find out about keywords from the Site Search section. All this information helps us understand the conversion rate by allowing us to see what’s been bought and look at average order value if you offer goods on your site.
For better information on keywords, Google Webmaster Tools is a better choice. It can tell you if your website is set up correctly so that the webcrawlers can find you, and helps correct errors on your site, providing rich depth of information on keywords.
So, you have all this information–what do you do with it? You do a lot of testing, because it’s an activity and a philosophy in which you build and test and repeat the cycle, using lots of small steps continually. Surveys are one way to do this, as they are essentially a tool that acts as the “voice of the customer”. Surveys use simple questions regularly executed such as, “Why did you come to this website?”, “Did you find what you were looking for?”, “Would you come back?”, and “What would make your next visit better?” There is also what is known as A/B Testing, in which you show two different versions of an ad or webpage to customer groups, and then seeing which people went to the goal page based on the two different models. A third way to find out some of this data directly from customers is looking at reviews, as they help searches and sales for other customers.
This is when the talk steered towards the ROI part of the discussion. Petersen started by letting us know how much a “like” on a site was worth. Research showed that among 150 brands researched, it was worth $71.84. Fans of a brand are 28% more likely than non-fans to continue using the brand, while fans are 41% more likely than non-fans to recommend a fanned product to their friends.
What does it tell us about “Like”-ability? It tells us how we can learn from social media audiences, which can be achieved through Facebook surveys and provides sentiment analysis.
KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)are crucially important as they are the “scorecard” needed to keep a strategy on track. Petersen defined KPIs using a quote by Avinash Khaushik of Google, saying that KPIs are “Measurements that help you understand how you are doing against your objectives.” Petersen also used the quote by Laurence Peter, saying, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else.” This, Petersen decreed, is where you define the “success” using metrics to measure.
There is a difference between KPIs and metrics, namely that a KPI is a metric, but a metric is not a KPI. More specifically, KPIs:
Relate to a business objective
Are chosen by the people accountable
Provide context by being tracked over time
Are based on legitimate data
Are easy to understand
Create meaning that gives control
The role of KPIs, per Petersen, is that “KPIs are an actionable scorecard that keeps your strategy on track. They enable you to manage, control, and achieve desired business results.”
How do you choose the best digital marketing measurements? Start with a KPI scorecard that compares raw numbers against progress against the percentage of change.
# of new customers
22% increase in sales
From there, you create a dashboard for the scorecard that should include both web and offline metrics that looks something like this:
Sales Metric #1
Sales Metric #2
Website Metric #1
Website Metric #2
Social Media Metric #1
Social Media Metric #1
The KPI dashboard shows key areas and results from metrics, and can help you to figure out what the key points are to create a KPI report for management.
During: visitors, segmentation, bounce rate, traffic sources, key pages, conversion rate, average value
After: reviews, surveys, A/B tests, social promotions
Starting from KPIs to deriving ROI is about the “Show me the money!” You need to look at the results from latent effects to direct effects. Direct online effects usually make up 16%, latent online effects makes up 21%, while latent offline effects makes up 63% of the results.
What is ROI (Return on Investment)? The equation given for this was:
(gain from investment-cost of investment)/cost of investment ($)=ROI
ex. ($500,000-$100,000)/$100,000=400% or 4-to-1 ROI
ROI is important because it reflects the idea of good management of money. Examples of gains and investments include:
Gains: sales increase, shorter purchase cycle, more leads, higher close rate, lower internal operating costs
Investments: marketing, advertising, promotion, PR, customer service, staff, overhead, time and energy
Metrics we use to create both annual and lifetime customer value and help us be better marketers include:
Mass Marketing (Mass media, like TV, radio, magazines, newspapers, billboards — create awareness, interest, trial, sales)
Direct marketing (leads, conversions, retention, sales)
Digital marketing (unique visitors, downloads, register, redeem, convert, buy)
What ROI calculation can and can’t do:
Can: identify direct effect, provide relationships between direct and latent effects, give insights how to drive ROI higher, define consumer value
Can’t: define ROI goals and expectations, establish a baseline, identify a timeframe
What’s in store for the future? More data (aka BIG data) is growing exponentially coming in. “Big Data” is large amounts of data from web-browser trails, social network communications, sensor and surveillance data that form unstructured data stored in computer clouds, not servers.
The course was concluded with the statement, “It’s not the data, it’s what you do with it.”
Overall, this module was pretty good. I feel less anxious about web analytics and how to analyze the information provided, and I now have some more robust tools to use as well. The only thing I didn’t like about this module was that while Mr. Petersen was obviously knowledgeable about the topic, the structure of the module wasn’t completely clear. At the top of the course, he said from the beginning that there would be a top 12 things, but they really weren’t defined as “this is #1, this is #2, this is #3,” and so on. While there was a good progression, part of this came off as scattered because I felt like I didn’t understand how he was going from Point A to Point B and why, and no clear outline on how he planned to cover the lesson. Call it the content strategist in me, but that structure was something I just needed. Other than that, it was a module that I definitely needed for a better understanding of the topic, and the information was sound.
The last module is coming up, which looks like it will tie all the previous modules together! Until then…
The second module of my online course in digital marketing is about Search Marketing and how SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) works. The module is taught by Mike Moran, who crams a lot of information in 3-4 hours of video.
My initial reaction is similar to when I heard Mark Lewis talk about using XML and DITA to determine ROI metrics on tech content, namely that I understand it on a broad level, but ouch, it hurts my brain! Mark is awesome*, don’t get me wrong, and what he figured out with his XML analytics is genius to me, but about 95% of it is over my head. That’s how I feel about Mr. Moran’s talk on SEO Marketing. I understand the concepts without any problem, but I supposed that since I have little practical marketing experience, much like my XML/DITA experience (which is even narrower), it’s hard for me to make the full connection to the information without feeling overwhelmed.
I just took my quiz, and got a 70% on it. Ugh. Not good. I can take the quiz over again many times until I get a better score, but that’s not a good starting point.
I think much of it feels overwhelming not only because it’s taken from a marketing perspective which I don’t originally come from, but also because I’m listening to the information, and the content strategist/writer in me is trying to think, “Okay, now with the content I write, it has to be clear and concise, and written in as much plain English as possible, using consistent terminology and word choices to be able to be reused and translated easily, as well as written in a way that can be globally understood in context, AND now I have to start thinking about keywords in relation to organic and paid searches to my website so that I can have as high a ranking in web searches as possible.” (And I’m sure I’m forgetting a few other things, too.)
I think my brain just exploded. Hopefully there’s something left, because it feels like a mess inside my cranium. In the end, what’s happened to the actual content? Is there anything left worth looking at after that? How creative can I be to make ALL of that happen?
To put it in context, I’m trying to think about how to apply this information I’m learning about search towards either this blog or towards websites I’m thinking of building for my potential tech comm consulting business I might start this summer. Part of me wants to give up before I even start! How can I compete when it all boils down to keywords in my content, figuring out differentiators (which I can’t figure out in the first place), and other factors that would help drive my listings towards the top of a search? For example, how do I even start to promote myself as a tech comm consultant? I have to figure out what makes me a great choice. Part of that is on me, because I have to figure out what my strengths are, and I still don’t feel as strong as other technical communicators who have been doing this much longer than me. Sure, I understand content strategy, but I’m no Scott Abel, or Rahel Bailie, or Ann Rockley, or Val Swisher, or Noz Urbina, or Sarah O’Keefe…(and the list goes on and on…) But once I figure that out, what’s the one thing that will help draw me to the top of the list, or at least the first page of a search, other than geography?
(Ow, ow, ow…hurting brain….)
I think I need to review the slides again for this module, and start re-analyzing the terminology and conditions of all the topics. From a high level, I understand this. From a more granular level–not even that far down–I get lost. I’m feeling a bit defeated already. Mr. Moran said at the end of the lecture that a lot of this information is overwhelming, and that we should focus on what we can do rather than what we can’t do, and work on one aspect, and hopefully you can grow as you learn and practice. He even wrote a compelling article that digital marketing is a matter of bravery, not necessarily matter of knowledge. While I take this to heart, and will keep pursuing this, it will be difficult since I have no or little practical application for this right now. Fear is my primary motivator in all of this. I’m not a content marketer…yet. I don’t even know if I’ll be any good at content marketing until I have a chance to actually try. All I know is that this is the direction I have to go to better my chances in finding work. I really need to master this better, because I don’t have practical experience to use.
I didn’t go to business school for a reason–I’m not good at it, or at least I know others who are a lot better at it than I am. If I can survive this digital marketing course, it’ll be a miracle, at this rate. 😦
One more review of module 2, then it’s on to Module 3– social media marketing. Okay, that might not be too bad. After all, I have a little bit of practical experience with that topic from promoting this blog and other stuff I’ve produced on other blogs…**fingers crossed**
* Since I wrote the two articles about Mark Lewis linked above, I did meet him a year ago, and that’s why I know he’s awesome beyond just watching his presentations. 😀
As the year 2014 winds down, many have summarized the past year, as a reflection of all that has transpired. When I started to think about the past year, I wasn’t sure that it was all that great of a year at first, but the more I thought about it, I realized that despite some less than desirable things transpiring towards the end, there were actually a few good things that happened that were worth noting.
1) This was the first year that the number of hits my blog received for the entire year topped over 10,000 hits. It was a goal I had hoped to achieve, and I had to work for it. My stats would falter if I didn’t write an original blog post (like this one), and I think, despite the new achievement, my stats didn’t reflect what I had hoped, but I put that on myself. This was a very busy year, and it was difficult for me to keep up with writing original posts. So despite that, I’m glad that so many people still enjoy the content that I share here, whether it’s original content or shared content. I try my best to share what I find interesting in the hopes that others will find it interesting, too, and perhaps learn from that little piece of information as well.
2) I was able to travel to some new places and do new things. I went to the Intelligent Content Conference in San Jose, CA back in February, and went to the STC Summit in Phoenix in May. Not only did I have an opportunity to enhance my knowledge during these conference through the fantastic learning sessions, I also met a lot of new people. I love that I have some wonderful new professional connections as well as new friends. These conferences also gave me the chance to strengthen professional connections and friendships with technical communicators I met in the year before and the year before that. Becoming more ensconced in the tech comm community has meant a lot to me, and I have appreciated every connection I’ve made or deepened in the last year.
3) My writing opportunities changed. While I was writing mostly for my blog this year, I also wrote for other outlets instead. Some of those opportunities folded or didn’t work out, but other opportunities arose from the ashes, including two top ten articles for Content Rules’ blog, and a new opportunity to write for STC Intercom (which will be seen in the new year). I thank those who helped make those opportunities, and appreciate your faith in my abilities when I’ve sometimes doubted them.
4) I gave more presentations this year. I presented at the STC-PMC Mid-Atlantic Conference, but I also did my first presentation at the STC Summit. I also presented for the first time to a non-tech comm audience at the e-Learning 3.0 Conference at Drexel University this year. In other words, I pushed myself to do more this year and put myself “out there” more, even though I think there are others who have more to contribute than I do.
5) I had an opportunity to stretch myself professionally at work. I became more confident in my abilities to be a project manager and content strategist working on new websites at work with assignments I was given. I learned a new CMS (Adobe CQ) as a skill I’ll be able to carry with me going forward, and I was chosen to help with the most important part of the company’s new external site–the Careers section. I spread my wings so much in my job this year, and gained myself back in the process. My knowledge and full abilities were suppressed for so many years, that having the chance to truly use them and have people find them to be valuable helped me immensely.
6) In a somewhat unrelated topic, while I stretched my mind, I shrunk my body. To date, I’ve lost about 40 pounds this year. For once, I kept to my new year’s resolution, even if didn’t actually start until May or June! Part of my success was due to the tech comm community. Many have supported me or taken this journey with me. I love that the tech comm community’s reach goes beyond tech comm–and with this support, I know I will be able to continue to lose another 40 (or more) pounds into the next year.
I took a quick look at last year’s year in review, and in some respects, this year’s review isn’t that much different in overview. What makes this year different was that many of the events were new experiences, new faces came into my life both online and in-person, new relationships were forged, and old relationships became deeper and stronger. Networking connections have become friendships, both professionally and personally. For a person who lives a highly isolated life as I do, this is so incredibly valuable to me. I’ve always supported social media because it supports connections between people all over the world. Social media keeps me connected to all of you who support me–whether it’s through this blog, or on Facebook or Twitter or Google+ or LinkedIn.
Thank you all for being there for me through the good times and the bad. It’s because of these connections that this upcoming year, which is going to be filled with a lot of changes, that I know I’ll be okay. I have a support system that I didn’t have a few years ago. And hopefully, I’ve been part of others’ support systems as well. I know that several people were kind enough to reach out to me after my last blog post, and I felt humbled. I also reached out to a few people who were happy to offer help when I asked. I know that as I go forward in the next year, the tech comm community is one that I can easily crowdsource for feedback in my steps forward. My experiences this year reinforced this for me more than ever, and it’s not one I take for granted.
I’ll come out and say it–I like going to conferences. It’s a great opportunity to learn new information that can hopefully be applied upon my return from the conference. It’s also fantastic opportunity to meet–and later reunite with–tech comm friends whom you’ve previously met either in person or through social media. In the last few years, I found that going to conferences were a great way to truly immerse yourself in the tech comm culture. I’ve said repeatedly that when I’m with my fellow tech comm people, I feel like I’m with my “clan” because I belong with them much more than other groups I’ve been with.
But lately, I’ve started to feel a bit critical about conferences. I’m sure you are thinking, “Why would you be critical about them if you like them so much?”
First, there’s the cost. I know there’s a cost to doing anything, but geez, if it weren’t for waived fees due to volunteering, speaking, or other related work for a given conference, I wouldn’t have been able to go to many of them! It’s expensive! I know that some companies will pay for those travel, accomodation and conference fees, but mine won’t. I’m a consultant who works for an agency. If I don’t work, I don’t get paid. The company where I consult wouldn’t pay because I’m not an employee. So for the days that I’m at the conference, I lose pay (even though I’m doing professional development for myself that they can’t offer), and I end up spending almost the same amount as I would have earned during that time away–and again, that’s even with the waived fees I’ve mentioned earlier.
Second, there’s time. Conferences are usually just a few days, but when they are all over the country, and very few near me, it’s not only the cost to go somewhere far away, but also the time that’s needed to fly somewhere and back. For me going to the US West coast, that’s about two days right there. I applaud those who are coming from farther distances overseas, who can afford and make it over here, as it’s not only a huge cost, but a huge time commitment as well. Again, being an hourly contractor, I can’t take too much time off, or it affects my income.
Third, perhaps I’ve attended just enough in these years, but it seems like the same stuff is being talked about over and over. Like I said, maybe it just me. I know that sometimes topics need to be repeated because there are always new people who want to learn, and there can be a shift in interests. For me, I tried to delve into almost everything, and where my professional concentrations and interests lie…I’m not finding anything radically new. It’s more about reinforcing ideas I’ve learned before or experienced by trial and error. Nothing wrong with that. I also find that while a big push right now seems to making sure that silos are torn down between different departments and tech comm pushing for more visibility in company culture, it’s not exactly happening from my standpoint. It’s hard to be a one-woman army against a global company (although I’m still trying and am happy when I achieve a small success). Should I be looking at new topics to learn about at future conferences? Maybe. I’ve also attended sessions where it’s something that I’m interested in, but in the end I can’t apply it, which is frustrating. For example, in content strategy, there seems to be a big push into content marketing, and the company I’m working for is still trying to grasp the basics of content strategy, so how can that help me at this point?Like I said, perhaps that’s my problem, and not the problem of the conferences.
Lastly, the best part of conferences is the worst part too–socializing. There were a few conferences recently that I would have liked to have attended. They were within my field, I’d been to one of them before, and I knew lots of the people who were attending. So many of these attendees are people whose company I enjoy very much, both as professional colleagues and as friends. When I go to a conference, it’s a fantastic opportunity for all those tech comm introverts to hang out together, and feel comfortable being themselves with no one questioning them. I know I can always find someone to hang out with at conferences, and I’ve made so many fantastic friends. So what’s the problem? When they go to the conferences and I can’t, I see all the photos and posts on social media about the great time they are having, and well…I feel left out. I know that sounds childish, but it’s true. I don’t get out much as it is, so conferences are a great way for me to get out an socialize with my tech comm friends, and truly enjoy myself in a relaxed atmosphere with people who can talk about life and “shop” and it’s all interesting to me. When I see everyone else going to these events and I can’t, I’m back to being the kid sitting in the corner feeling left out. I hate it. Again, that might be my personal issue, but I got the sense that I have some tech comm friends who also couldn’t go to some of these conferences this year had the same aching to be there too, but couldn’t, and felt left out. I know we were missed, as those who attended told us that they missed us–and I appreciate that, but it’s just not the same.
There are SO many conferences during the course of a year between STC local, regional, and national events, as well as independent conferences like Lavacon, IDW, Intelligent Content Conferences, GALA, TC-UK and so many more, nobody could possibly have the time or money to attend all of them. Heck, so many are popping up these days, it’s even a struggle to choose which ones to attend! Being a working mom, I definitely don’t have time for all of them. The two that I missed this month were not only because of time and money in general, but because of the big project I’m working on at work needs my undivided time during my work hours because of an upcoming due date, and the load of work that needs to be done. I couldn’t break away even if I wanted to unless I wanted to fall severely behind in my work and work weekends and nights once I got home. Even the few I went to last year had consequences for me going away when I did.
So what’s a person to do? I think the social aspect of it all gets to me the most right now. I truly enjoy the company of technical communicators, and I wish I could spend more time with them. I can’t even attend the local STC meetings for my chapter each month because of distance and time (not so much the cost). Yet, I see several of my tech comm friends always out and about at various conferences during the year, and I wonder how they can pull it off based on the issues I mentioned above?
I’m still grateful for social media to keep me in touch with all these great people I meet at conferences who have become my friends. But I still have to pick and choose conferences, going forward. I might not make it to the same conferences every year, partially because I want to check out new venues and paths. I’ve only committed to attending my local STC chapter’s regional conference so far , but I’m thinking of checking out another this year. I’ll most likely go to the STC Summit, but I don’t know that for sure. I’m thinking of seeing if I could do one overseas (Europe) instead of two on the West Coast, depending on what I can save up and swing financially. I like travelling, andt I need to expand my horizons a little bit.
In the end, maybe it’s my inexperience that makes conferences tough for me. I’m always wanting to learn new things, and I know conferences do their best to bring new information to the tech comm masses. I can easily say without reservation that I have learned things that I could bring back and made me a stronger technical communicator. But how many can you attend before you feel like you’ve heard something before, or because it comes from people who are WAY more experienced than you, you’ll never completely “get it” or never have a chance to experience what they’ve done anytime soon? This is the frustration that haunts me. For me, conferences are the best option for professional development, and yet it’s hard to get excited about some of them. Personal burnout? Maybe. Yet, I ache to see my tech comm friends, because I enjoy seeing them so much. It’s a dilemma.
For those of you who have been technical communicators for a much longer time than me, how do you do it? How do you choose? How are you able to work with the time and cost issues, as well as finding conferences that will engage you other than socially? Let’s talk about it in the comments.