I had a chance to hear and meet David this past weekend. He was a big hit at last year’s STC-PMC Mid-Atlantic Conference as well as a STC-PMC chapter meeting in the last year, so I knew that I had to see him at this year’s STC-PMC conference. I wasn’t disappointed, and was glad to find a kindred content strategist soul!
This is a video David made that explains what content strategy is. He used this same story at the conference, but expanded on it and other topics during his talk. If you get a chance, be sure to catch any of his presentations. He’s a rising content strategy star!
After a few years of talking through social media alone, I had the pleasure of meeting Neil Perlin in person at the STC-PMC conference a couple weeks ago. I attended one of his presentations as well at the conference, and throughly enjoyed listening to him talk about mobile and other emerging technologies. I also enjoyed talking with him directly about these topics as well. He gave me some great personal advice along the way, and look forward to receiving more of his advice as time goes on. I’ve been a fan of his work, and I can understand why he’s a very popular speaker.
Neil gave a great presentation online through the TC Dojo by Single-Sourcing Solutions about writing for mobile, and it ties in very nicely with the presentation that I gave at the eLearning Conference 3.0 at Drexel University last week as a follow-up. Here’s Neil’s presentation–I highly recommend watching it to get some great ideas about how to approach writing for mobile, whether it’s for technical communication or m-learning:
In a nutshell, the 2014 STC-PMC Mid-Atlantic Technical Conference was better than last year, in my opinion! A slightly different format, a different day, more networking, and excellent speakers made for a fantastic event.
Okay, now for more details.
First, having been a member of the conference’s planning committee this year, I know that a lot of work went into making this event a success. Kudos to my fellow volunteers! Special care was taken to choose the best proposals submitted, and it definitely was reflected in the best of the best! There were so many great subjects to choose from that even among the presenters, some were saying to each other, “I want to go to your presentation, but I’m presenting at the same time!” I think some of the attendees also had hard choices to make, since sometimes they couldn’t decide between topics during a given session!
Nicky Bleiel, who is currently the President of the STC, gave the keynote address for the conference. She talked about flexible content with responsive design. The main message of her talk was that with responsive design, technical communicators can create and deliver a single responsive output that will work on thousands of devices, including new devices, old devices, and even ones that don’t exist yet. She showed us a few examples, such as Microsoft and Lycos websites in which the content remains the same, even though the output in different browsers changed to work with the size of a particular browser size. Many companies started making separate mobile sites, but the content was not the same as the full site. Responsive web design is Google’s preferred configuration when ranking sites. Mobile users want content parity, meaning they want everything that desktop owners have, thus they want one Web. Fluid layouts, fluid images, media queries in the coding, and stacking or collapsing grids are the key to creating responsive design.
During the first breakout session, I gave my own presentation, “Blogging Out Loud: The Basics of Blogging,” so I didn’t get a chance to see anyone else’s presentation during that time, obviously. I did have a lot of people in my room, which pleased me, and we had a great discussion during the question-and-answer time. It was a great group, and smart questions were asked.
After a lunch break filled with awards, volunteer recognition, food, and networking, I chose to attend Todd DeLuca‘s talk about volunteering your way up the career ladder. Todd kept the presentation fairly open, sharing some of his own insights about volunteering from his personal experiences and how they were able to apply to his professional life. The group attending participated by sharing ideas and experiences themselves about volunteering, bringing about a great conversation. Todd’s main idea was that it doesn’t matter how big or small the contribution, or if the volunteer opportunity is inside or outside of work. The experience fulfills you when helping others, but also fulfills you by allowing you to gain skills and experience that helps yourself. I think one idea he presented resonated with me, which was that volunteering is an offer to help, but it’s also a promise that evolves, as it’s a commitment that is followed through and builds trust. I also liked his point that volunteering is a safe environment to grow because usually there is less risk and some mistakes are expected, so the environment is often more nurturing than work. That’s a great environment to learn! Todd has been volunteering for things inside and outside of his job for years, related to tech comm as well as unrelated, and felt that he’s reaped benefits that apply to where he is professionally. I know that Todd will be speaking at the 2014 Spectrum conference for the STC Rochester chapter in a few weeks, and he’ll also be speaking at the STC Summit on this topic, so I encourage you to attend to get more details and ideas!
The last presentation I saw for the day was by Neil Perlin. Neil and I have known each other through both e-learning and tech comm social media circles for a while now, but hadn’t met before. It was a real treat to meet and chat with him, but to also hear him speak, as I know he’s rather popular on the e-learning and tech comm circuits. Neil’s talk was about emerging technologies, which is a subject he’s excited about and presents frequently. Neil covered a wide range of topics that are currently in use now and look to be expanding in the future. These topics included more mobile content that needs content strategy to steer it, more use of analytics to understand what our users need and use, using social media extensively, augmented reality, wearables, the use of the “cloud” and cloud-based tools. He also stated that there is a need for standards in order to future-proof our materials to avoid problems as technologies come and go, since it’s so hard to predict what will everyone use. He advised us to stay current by going to conferences and staying on top of general business issues and trends. Business issues can kill a technology, so staying current on your company business is a show of tech comm’s support of corporate strategy. His last bit of advice was to review your tools regularly for environmental change, accept the rise of content and social media, don’t denigrate tools in favor of writing, and embrace and help shape change!
After the conference, WebWorks and Publishing Smarter hosted a nice post-conference get-together at the Iron Abbey, a pub-restaurant down the street from the conference venue. It was a great treat of libations, appetizers, and networking further with tech comm peers.
Overall, it was a great experience. I liked the format this year because it felt more relaxed with fewer breakout sessions. Presenters weren’t rushed as they often are at events like these, and more time was allowed for networking with everyone. Perhaps it’s because I’d had a different experience last year as a total newbie that it was so different to me, but I don’t think so. The topics of the conference, the agenda, and the camaraderie of those hosting at the “City of Brotherly Love” came together into a pleasant Saturday of learning. As a smaller, regional conference I think the more intimate setting helped it be a more personalized experience for all, thus it was a big success.
(To any of the fellow speakers I reviewed here–if you’d like to add or correct anything that I summarized here, please feel free to do so in the comments area below!)
If you are in the Philadelphia area next year around mid-March, I highly recommend coming to next year’s STC-PMC Mid-Atlantic Conference. I guarantee you’ll enjoy it.
One of the things I like about the STC having a chapter set-up is that even if the closest chapter isn’t next door, it’s usually still close enough to find people from your region with whom you can connect. For me, I found my “tribe” with the STC – Philadelphia Metro Chapter, or “STC-PMC” as we call it.
Every year, the STC-PMC hosts a Mid-Atlantic Technical Conference that people from around mid-Atlantic region–and beyond–come to learn and present information going on in the world of tech comm. My first exposure to tech comm conferences–and presenting–was at last year’s STC-PMC conference, and it was just a positive experience. I met many people whom I had only known through social media, and met new people as well. Philadelphia is known as the “City of Brotherly Love”, and it’s evident with this STC chapter. I immediately felt welcomed both as a member and as a new presenter as well.
The conference itself opened my eyes to new possibilities and new ideas as well. I also felt that it validated many of my own experiences as well–that I was coming up with similar ideas and solutions as others in the field. I also liked that unlike the STC Summit or some of the other conferences I’ve been to, this one is a little smaller and more intimate, allowing everyone the opportunity to get to know the speakers and the other attendees on a more one-to-one level.
This year’s STC-PMC conference is on Saturday, March 22nd just outside of Philadelphia in Willow Grove, PA. This all-day event is going to be jam-packed full of good information that’s timely and will be helpful in your tech comm evolution. I’m presenting this year, and my presentation is called, “Blogging Out Loud: The Basics of Blogging.” It seems I know a little something about blogging and am willing to share. 🙂
But I’m not the only draw–Neil Perlin, STC President Nicky Bleiel, Ellen Buttolph, Roger Renteria, Ben and Marilyn Woelk, Donn DeBoard, Todd DeLuca, Traci Browne, David Dylan Thomas, Bernard Aschwanden and Christopher Ward will all be presenting as well. There’s lunch, prizes, and lightning talks, too! All at a very affordable price!
Afterwards, there will be a free networking event at the nearby Iron Abbey restaurant sponsored by WebWorks and Publishing Smarter. (You don’t need to go to the conference to attend the networking event, but you’ll get more bang for your buck if you do both!)
So, it’s a fantastic event that the STC-PMC is setting up, and gee–it’s on a Saturday! You don’t have to worry about missing work to take advantage of this great networking and learning opportunity.
Okay, I’ll admit this is going to be a slightly self-indulgent (and slightly long) blog post. I read something recently that said that there shouldn’t be so much “self-promotion” in promoting your blog. This has always been a blog that not only encourages community, but it also tracks my own journey through technical communications, for better or worse. Taking the time to do the year-end review of what’s gone on in the past year is a good exercise for anyone.
At first, I thought my year wasn’t all that great, meaning that it wasn’t exciting. I hadn’t achieved some things that I wanted to do; I did not fulfill all my tech comm resolutions for the year. But as I looked through photos of the past year on my mobile devices to come up with something to put in this blog post, I realized that a LOT of good things still happened this year.
The year started off with a bang, as I was finally working full-time after a year of unemployment. The new job ended up being a good opportunity. I get to work from home, I’m being paid well (a lot better than I ever had before), and it’s doing something that comes naturally to me–content management. I have had the chance to use my UX and web design abilities during this position, too. Things have gone well enough that my contract has been extended for another year. I know that there’s a good chance that later in 2014, the company I’m contracted to will be switching CMS software, so it’ll be an opportunity to learn a new system and flex those content management muscles. I’m looking forward to it! It’s been a long time since I had a job that I truly enjoyed and feel appreciated for what I do. In past positions, I would offer my suggestions and advice based on what I had learned from my social media connections, graduate school courses, conferences, and personal experience, and I’d be ignored. I don’t mind if someone doesn’t take my suggestion if there’s something valid that will discount it, but using the excuse of “that’s the way we’ve always done it” or “that’s what the end user is used to, so why change it?” doesn’t cut it for me. There’s always a better way. This was the first position that actually gave me a chance to use my voice and makes some executive decisions that would benefit the end user. My manager supports my decisions 99% of the time, so that’s been a huge load off my shoulders. Stress has not been a major issue with this job, and I know I’m fortunate to have made this employment connection.
Having a job, and a good job at that, would make for a good year. But there’s been more.
2013 was the year that I started to go out on the public speaking circuit. It started with my first conference presentation at the STC-PMC Conference in March, followed by two webinars this past fall. Three presentations might not sound like a lot, but considering that I have only presented to my tech comm peers twice beforehand (my capstone presentation at grad school and an Adobe Webinar that Maxwell Hoffmann helped me with immensely in 2012), and all these presentations were STC-related, I figure that’s a pretty good feather to add to my cap. I’ve been told that the presentations were well-received, and I have gotten some good feedback, so I consider that a big success.
I also added an additional writing credential to my repetoire. I started writing a by-line for the STC Notebook blog that started out as a column as a newcomer for the 2013 STC Summit. That column has now turned into a regular monthly column for the STC Notebook called Villegas Views. Again, I feel like I’ve received some good feedback on my writing there, so that’s another success.
I attended three conferences this year, namely the STC-PMC Mid-Atlantic Technical Conference, the STC Summit, and Lavacon (although I was only at Lavacon for a day–hey, I still need to write about that! I’ll try to get to that soon!). The biggest one, of course, was the Summit, which was mindblowing for me. I loved being able to travel, considering I work from home day in and day out. (I’m not complaining, but it was a welcome change of scenery.) Actually, all the conferences were wonderful and overwhelming at the same time, and that sense of feeling somewhere that I belonged was never more evident than when I attended these events. I’m SO glad I did, and that leads me to the last thing that I found to be the greatest part of this year.
While I had started to develop some professional connections in 2012 through social media and through my first visit to Adobe Day at Lavacon in 2012, both social media and these conferences enabled me to expand my professional connections exponentially. However, it became more than just professional connections. I’ve ended up making some fantastic friends along the way. I know most people don’t think of me as being shy or introverted, but I actually am. I’m horribly awkward socially , and I know it. Social media helped with the introductions, for sure. A few in-person introductions have helped as well. I’ve said this before, and I’m sure I’ll say it many times again, but I have found that technical communicators to be one of the most friendly and inviting groups of people I’ve ever met. I have appreciated every person who introduced himself or herself to me in person when knowing me from my blog or a social media connection. I’ve appreciated the friendships that have developed over time from these connections. I’ve loved having some of these friendships with those who are industry leaders develop into mentorships as well. When one of those supportive mentors encourage me or tell me how proud they are of my accomplishments, I want to cry tears of joy. (Heck, I’m crying tears of joy just writing this!) For so long, I’ve felt like an outsider, so to have my professional peers look to me as an equal and show me constant support and encouragment is a huge boost that I’ve needed for years.
This blog has grown, too. The numbers aren’t done for the year yet as I write this, but I’ve added a lot more readers and had more response to TechCommGeekMom in 2013 than in 2012. I’m sure I’ll be doing more celebrating when the blog hits its second “birthday” in March, but for the calendar year, it’s been great. I know I haven’t always been able to keep up with this blog as much as I liked during this year, but I feel like the efforts that were made to grow and expand have been supported by the tech comm community.
So, thanks to all of you for reading my posts either here, on the STC Notebook, or in social media. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me and share ideas with me. Thanks for continually teaching me more about technical communication, and helping me to expand my mind and my understanding of this profession, and teaching me how I can continue to grow in this profession.
2014 is already shaping up to be an exciting year as well. I will be attending three conferences before the year is halfway done, of which I’ll be presenting at two of them, I believe. I know, for sure, that one of the conferences I’ll be presenting at is the STC Summit 2014! That’s a big deal to me. I mean, think about it–only out of grad school two years, and already presenting at the annual Summit? Not too shabby, I would think. I’ll be continuing to write here at TechCommGeekMom, and I’ll still be writing my by-line for STC Notebook, and I’m hoping that there will be some more opportunities to do presentations either in-person or in webinars.
2013 has been quite the year for me…time will tell how 2014 will be!