Reflections on the 2013 STC Summit / by Julie Waxgiser, Tom Myers & Nitza Hauser

The STC Summit is the biggest yearly gathering of Technical Communicators from around the world. A number of us participated in the STC Summit this past May in Atlanta, GA. Starting with the Leadership day on Sunday, May 5th, and thru 3 days of conference proceedings, educational sessions, evening events, meetings, learning, and fun.

The following are some reflections from different perspectives on the summit.

Get the Most out of the Summit by Julie Waxgiser

The Society for Technical Communication (STC) Summit is an annual global technical communications conference with attendees and thought leaders from around the globe.

The offerings can be overwhelming, and attending three to five hour-long sessions a day for the three main days of the Summit can be exhausting. You can, however, choose or mix up different types of sessions.

Dive into a Topic

Pre-conference half-day and full-day workshops, certificate courses, and vendor workshops allow you to immerse yourself in a topic fully. For example, the 2013 Adobe workshop included a panel discussion and individual presentations by experts in the technical communications industry. Certificate courses by highly respected presenters included information architecture and technical editing.

Hour-long Presentations

Each day of the main three days of the Summit has three to five hour-long sessions that span multiple tracks:

  • content development and delivery
  • content strategy
  • education and training
  • management of people and projects
  • professional development
  • user experience and accessibility
  • web design and development

An hour gives a good handle of a topic and often includes time for questions and answers.

20-minute Increments

Every year, Neil Perlin has a one-hour session called Beyond the Bleeding Edge. He invites three speakers who speak for 20 minutes each, presenting a case study or description of new tools, technologies, and trends.

Progressions are another Summit offering. Round tables are set up around a conference room. Each table has one presenter. You choose a topic/presenter and hear the presenter in a round-table discussion, attending three 20-minute sessions in one hour of a progression. Each progression has a theme such as professional development or communication and translation.

Lightning Talks

One of the one-hour sessions includes 10 five-minute presentations. Each speaker prepares 20 slides, which automatically advance every 15 seconds. All the topics are thought-provoking, and some are light or humorous. The last presenter presents the ninja deck. The coordinator of the Lightning Talks prepares the slides for the presenter, but the presenter does not know what is on them until the slides appear. Hilarity ensues.

Top 10 Reasons to Attend a Summit by Tom Myers

There are many great things about attending the 2013 STC Summit in Atlanta USA. Here are my top 10.

(10) Finding out there is an STC band. They will let me play drums next year.

 (9) Watching how many bodies they can cram onto an airplane. New York is great, but it gives a refreshing perspective to leave for a bit. My brain likes the change.

 (8)  Hitting my first educational session at 8:00am, finishing up an evening event at 1100p, and falling into bed at midnight, to be to my first educational session at 800a. I haven’t done that since university. I still can.

 (7)  Summit@aClick. I get a link to all the presentations that I saw and that I didn’t see. It’s like taking the conference home--forever.

 (6) Hearing David Pogue speak. He is amazing and funny.

 (5) Attending Leadership day. Those of us in chapter leadership have a day of our own to learn how to be better leaders. There are some great leaders there and I can see that I need more work.

 (4) Learning things. I went to so many education sessions and learned so many new things--it’s unbelievable. I am sharing some of it with my colleagues at work. It makes me look so good.

 (3) Getting awards. We have a great chapter that won several awards. I was dizzy running up to the stage three times and smiling and waving. But it feels great.

 (2) Hanging out with my NY Metro co-attendees other than in a chapter meeting, board meeting, or competition judging day. We are fun people. You’d like to hang out with us.

...and the best thing about attending the 2013 STC Summit in Atlanta USA -

 (1) Meeting famous STC people. Many of them I know their names but they are nice people as well.

You should go to the 2014 STC Summit in Phoenix USA! 

Most Stimulating Presentations by Nitza Hauser

Attending an STC Summit is such a stimulating event! You get to meet like-minded professionals, attend fascinating presentation on a wide range of topics, and most importantly - you feel like you belong! The 2013 Summit in Atlanta was no exception. There was such a large selection of lectures, I ended up listing for myself about 3 options for each hour, and could not decide until the last-minute which one to attend. (Thank god for Summit@aClick, where I could later download and listen to any presentation from the Summit!)

My top 3 presentations were (with links to Summit@aClick downloads):

3. “Bending without Breaking: Info Dev Flexibility in Agile” by Jennifer Cole - Intended for people already familiar with basic terms in Agile methodology, Jennifer gave useful insights and shared her experience on writing documentation as part of Agile teams.

2. Every Page is Page One” by Mark Baker - Mark did a great job explaining how to structure your information when your users skip around thru your content, blazing their own trail thru your web site. Very useful and well delivered presentation.

1. Addicted to Meaning: Mental Models for Technical Communicators” by Kai Weber - Kai went thru the definition of meaning within the Data Information Knowledge Wisdom (DIKW) pyramid, how people perceive meaning in everything, and how we - technical communicators - should utilize the mental models of the designer on the one hand and the user on the other to provide meaningful user assistance. His content was insightful and his presentation amusing and inspiring. Highly recommended.

Needless to say that, upon returning to work, I could spread the wealth and share presentations and insights with other Technical Communicators and Instructional Designers at work. Can’t wait for next year!