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How’d You Get That Tech Comm Job? –2014 STC Summit edition

Hello all,

I’m still unpacking and unwinding from all the travel and excitement that’s been going on in the past week from Adobe Day and the 2014 STC Summit. It was a great time, and in some ways, I wish it could’ve been longer. Technical communicators are awesome people!

I was thrilled that I had a great showing of people who came to my first Summit presentation, and I got good feedback from it as well. The presentation initiated a conversation, which is what I wanted to happen, so that was good. I just posted my slides on Slideshare, but in case you are someone who attended and are reading my blog first, the slides are below as well! Since the Prezi link won’t work directly in the slides, I included the link to the Prezi section of the presentation in the appropriate slide, so you could copy and paste to it.

Enjoy!

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STC-PMC Presentation of “How Did You Get That Tech Comm Job?”

Last week, I had the privilege of doing my first professional presentation as a fully-fledged technical communicator. The STC-Philly Metro Chapter (STC-PMC) had its annual STC Mid-Atlantic Technical Conference, and the theme this year was, “Sharpening Your Personal Brand.” Let’s face it–if anyone has figured that out over the past year, that’s been me! The STC-PMC was gracious enough to accept my proposal for this conference, and I truly appreciated the opportunity.

The presentation I made was based on my blog post, “What Did You Do To Get That Tech Comm Job?” that I posted here a few months ago, after I accepted my current position. I added some additional information that I hope will be helpful in this SlideShare presentation. Of course, you miss out on the anecdotal information in the process, but you get the main idea here. When you get to the slide that says, “Mobile Learning Revolution”, go to this page instead. I put the Prezi presentation without the voiceover into these slides, which was based on a social media project I did last year, but this link provides the basic voiceover that I did for that section. The idea was that this is a template for how to become immersed in a particular culture in order to get involved via social media. For me, it was m-learning that I pursued, but my rules apply to any topic. This is just an example.

I was really proud of myself in this respect as well–I presented my entire presentation from my iPad. While other presenters had their laptop computers out, I just connected my iPad to the A/V system in the presentation room using my A/V cable adapter for my iPad, and away I went! It did make it a lot smoother than using my laptop, and definitely lighter! I brought my big 17″ laptop with me, just in case my iPad didn’t work, but I now know I didn’t need it. Hooray! Another victory for mobile! 🙂  Maybe next time, I’ll see if I can present from my iPhone! 😛 I can confidently say that I practice what I preach about using mobile now.

All in all, it was a great experience, and I’d be glad to give the presentation again if someone asked. I met a lot of great people, including many who were Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook names and faces before the conference, as well as people who I hadn’t connected to before.   One thing that helped ease my anxiety in giving my presentation was that the keynote speakers actually touched upon some of the same things as I did–and they’ve been doing this a lot longer than I have! I had to learn things the hard way (on my own). That helped me realize that I’m on the right track, and I’m always happy to share that information with other people.

So, without further ado, please enjoy my slideshow of my presentation below from last week!

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Well, that didn’t work.

Today, I was very excited to rush home from my part-time job to get to my laptop in time to attend a webinar.  I’ve decided that part of the way that will help me get ahead in the m-learning world is that I have to do a lot of listening in order to learn myself.  My graduate courses have covered a lot of ground, but they haven’t covered everything, so I might as well take advantages of free resources that are readily available to me, and do some of my own additional m-learning and e-learning.

Anyway, I just wanted to say…I was disappointed. I’m not going to name the specific webinar or who was hosting it to protect the innocent. I’m sure this host has put out plenty of good webinars, but this one wasn’t that great.  Was I benchmarking this against others I had attended? Well, sure, who wouldn’t?  When I attend a seminar in person or a webinar online, I’m just another student or learner like anyone else. I want to come out of that hour feeling that I learned something, or gained some new perspective on topics that I already know.  That really didn’t happen here.  Now, again, I’m not going to totally “diss” the presenter. It was obvious that the presenter knows his/her field well, but it was evident that he/she was asked to speak about one aspect of the field when that person was more familar with another supporting aspect of the field. I was bored by the PowerPoint slides, the information covered was not explained clearly, and the person was clearly rushing at the end, because he/she had several slides still to go and 2 minutes left on the clock.  I was bored, but I stuck with it until the end because I hoped to gain some little nibblet of information that would be new to me. Now, I’ll give the presenter the benefit of the doubt, that perhaps he/she was nervous, or was jumping on slightly unprepared, or perhaps even just rushed out of one meeting into this webinar and didn’t have a chance to switch mental gears well and it just got out of sorts. That happens.  But still, I was watching the numbers for the participants start very strong, and dwindled down very quickly in the last quarter of the alloted time, and that can’t be a good sign.

I happened to see that another tech comm acquaintance of mine was commenting on Twitter about the same webinar (again, not naming names to protect the innocent), and it was interesting when we started speaking through direct messages–offline to the rest of the world–that we were having the same experience. I had attended webinars with this other person, so I know that he/she had other similar experiences as I had. I was just glad it wasn’t me, but that maybe the presenter had not done his/her homework, and really wasn’t addressing the right audience.

I mentioned my disappointment briefly on Twitter, but chose to include no details. I had another acquaintance direct message me, and his/her reply was that many people will come online claiming to be experts, but really aren’t, and it can be a letdown. He/she continued by saying to me that some people are “knowers” and some are “do-ers”, and sometimes being a “knower” isn’t enough to be an expert and be doing presentations like that.  I couldn’t agree more.

I’ll be straight-up. Look, I’ll admit that right now, I’m more of a “knower” than a “do-er”. I’m not in denial about that, and hopefully I’ve tried to make it clear while I’ve been writing this blog that I am–in many respects–still a newbie. I was in the e-learning world many years ago, before I became a mom and tried other things, so in that respect, I was a do-er at one time, and I’m trying to become a do-er again.  For now, I am mostly a knower, but I will never admit to being a know-it-all.  This is why I know I have a lot to learn. This is why I attend webinars, and read blogs, and keep up with all the great articles that other e-learning, m-learning and tech comm professionals are posting on Twitter or elsewhere. I’m hoping that by the time I finally get the chance to DO the job of working in the e-learning and m-learning field, I will be able to DO my job even better. But will I be an expert? No, and frankly, I don’t think there’s truly anyone on the planet that know EVERYTHING about a given topic, even the foremost authorities on a given topic.  Being the daughter of an educator and being a lifelong learner, I think I will always be a learner, because the world is moving very fast, and there’s always something new to be discovered. I am knowledgeable and competent in many things–some topics more than others. I am always more than happy to share what I know well with others, and learn from others as well, and have healthy debates and dialogues on topics. That’s true learning and teaching.

Anyway…back to the webinar. Even with this webinar, I felt like basic e-learning principles weren’t being followed. Nothing about the instructional design of the webinar engaged me as a participant. I have been in webinar where I felt like, “Wow, it’s done already?” but this was not one of them. I was waiting for it to be done.  I left it feeling that I didn’t really learn anything, and that, heck, even being a newbie I could do a better job with that webinar. I am not boasting when I say that or being conceited. I try very hard not to be that way.  But, I felt that the main topic was approached with too much detail, and didn’t get to the meat of the topic. It gave me the feeling that if I wanted to do a webinar, or had to do online presentations and stuff, I couldn’t do any worse that this person.

As I thought about it more, I’ve given presentations to people anywhere as young as a Cub Scout to high-level executives in my career, and in the end, the message is the same– know what your audience expects, deliver on the expectations or do better, and like any good technical writing, keep it short, clear and concise, yet engaging. Heaven knows how many times I had to get up in front of my Cub Scout den to teach a bunch of little boys some dry subject that was required by the Boy Scouts of America, and I had to make it interesting for them. Same thing goes for grown-ups too– you’ve got to keep it moving, and even take the driest topics and make them interesting.

Nowadays, part of the drive with m-learning is that content and formatting addresses these same topics of keeping it short, clear, concise, and engaging.  With technology available today, we don’t need boring PowerPoint presentations! Even Powerpoint has the ability to include video, audio and animation. There are free programs available on the web like Prezi to make presentations even more lively, animated and interactive.  Presenters need to think of how they would be sitting in the audience of their own presentation. Do you think it’s good? Would you be interested in learning more after hearing it? What would make the presentation more interesting to you?

I’m looking forward to still watching and participating in future webinars as I learn more and more about m-learning and e-learning. I know that m-learning is growing so rapidly that it’s hard to keep up, but applying the same best practices of m-learning into webinar presentations will go a long way in keeping the caliber of the field high–and keeping my interest.