2018 Summit Session Reviews for IDeaL

By Jamye Sagan

During the 2018 STC Summit in Orlando, FL, I attended several interesting presentations. Here are highlights from three of them.

Introvert in the Workplace

Ben Woelk (@benwoelk)

Over the past few years, Woelk has emerged as a leading authority on introverts and their leadership qualities. This presentation discussed how introverts can be influencers and leaders in the workplace. One item that resonated with me is that influence has to do with your presence and accessibility, not your job title.

Woelk also described the traits of introverted leadership, which include: placing the spotlight on the team instead of self, listening to listen and not to simply respond, and cultivating a safe space to share ideas. Most of all, the introverted leader embodies servant leadership, which is basically leading by example and working alongside your team. Overall, introverted leadership is all about harnessing your innate skills to help influence and be a role model with those with whom you interact.

Great presentation not only for us introverts, but also good for extroverts to better understand how we work.

All I Know About Collaboration I Learned from Rock and Roll

Aiessa Moyna (@aiessamoyna)

In her presentation, Moyna shared five different lessons about collaboration through the lens of various rock music groups.

Seek diverse perspectives. Using the example of how Dave Grohl has been part of Nirvana and Foo Fighters (two vastly different music groups), Moyna explains how teammates should examine issues from different points of view.

Build trust and bust barriers. Through the warning tale of Yoko Ono’s influence on the Beatles, Moyna shows how teammates should maintain focus on a common vision and not foster an “us vs. them” attitude.

Work your network. Just as Dave Grohl collaborates with artists from vastly different genres – such as pop singer Justin Timberlake, jazz musician Dave Koz, and R&B group Boyz II Men – we should reach out beyond our immediate team. Moyna emphasizes that we should stay in touch with people we’ve successfully worked with before.

Manage conflict. Conflict is inevitable; sometimes we must stop and ask ourselves these two questions: What is the issue? How can we solve the issue? Moyna uses the example of the breakup and eventual reunion of classic rock group The Eagles in explaining this lesson.

When all else fails, improvise. Moyna uses jam bands such as Phish and Grateful Dead to illustrate this lesson in flexibility and cultivating a comfortable working environment. Even though members of jam bands may play vastly different instruments, they listen to and follow one another as they perform. Jam band members also look out for one another and do not let a member fail. Most importantly, jam bands foster a comfortable environment where members can take risks and, if they fail, simply try something new.

Overall, Moyna uses great musical analogies to show how people with different skills work together.

Can You Hear Me Now? Podcasting as Teaching & Communication Tool

Jennifer Goode (@ProfGoode, www.thepodcasthost.com)

In her presentation, Goode described how podcasts can be used in education and communication

Since podcasts are serial in nature, deal with specific topics, and are accessible at any time, they make excellent tools for asynchronous learning. Podcasts also appeal to auditory learners and can help build a community via common listenership.

Goode recommended that the ideal podcast is 15-30 minutes – long enough to delve into a topic, but not so long as to lose the listener’s interest.

Not only did Goode explain why podcasts are ideal learning and communication tools, she also shared advice on recording and production equipment:

Minimum equipment needed to record a podcast include microphone, speakers, and free sound editing software such as Audacity.

Better equipment includes: more advanced sound editing software, microphone with boom arm and pop filter, noise-cancelling headphones, soundboard, and room-dampening materials.

In fact, the moment I heard about audio equipment and recording techniques, I immediately thought of our own Robert Hershenow (@rdhcomm), who has delivered several webinars and presentations on this topic.

Finally, Goode explained basic steps for planning a podcast:

  • Select a topic, audience, format, and podcast name.
  • Script an intro and conclusion, to provide a consistent framework for all podcasts. Of course, the body content will change.
  • Integrate media (e.g. music, sound effects, cover art) to enhance your podcast (but watch out for copyright issues!)
  • Publish podcast. Goode suggested publishing through website or media host, and using a directory (e.g. iTunes, Spotify, RSS) to make podcasts easier to find.

This session provided a wealth of practical information that I could incorporate into my work relatively quickly.

Li-At Rathbun Feels Our Pain at #STC18

By Viqui Dill, IDL SIG co-manager and proud member of the Technical Editing SIG  

Watching Li-At Rathbun work a room is a joy. That’s why I knew that her presentation, “We Stoop to Conqquer: Adjusting to Mediocrity,” would be a must-see for me at the 2018 STC Summit. Once again, she did not disappoint.

Rathbun’s presentation was about technical editing. But the principles could be applied to any type of project management. Technical writers in every specialty have to make decisions about how to balance the sides of the scope/schedule/cost triangle. Excellence is often given a lower priority due to resource and schedule constraints. In this session, she addressed two important questions: “When our boss or client says ‘good enough’ work is good enough, shouldn’t it be good enough?” and “Why is it a struggle to produce mediocre work when that’s what the customer wants?”

Li-At Rathbun puts her own spin on the project constraints triangle: fast, accurate, accessible.
Li-At Rathbun puts her own spin on the project constraints triangle: fast, accurate, accessible.

https://twitter.com/viqui_dill/status/999297236256329733

Rathbun reinforced the project constraints triangle that managers often use to make choices between the competing demands for quality, scope, and cost. Creating a safe space for open discussion, Rathbun devised a “cone of silence” and even gave us our choice of male, female, or gender-nonspecific anonymous names. Let the healing begin.

Attendees began sharing their painful stories about projects for which they had to let go of quality for the sake of a deadline. We heard real stories from frustrated editors, writers, and managers. I can’t disclose specifics, of course, but I can reassure you that if you’ve ever been asked to hurry up and not be so picky, you’re not alone. Also, lots of SMEs think that good writing is easy. Hilarious.  

Rathbun has the gift of engaging an audience and drawing them out. When writers or editors asked a difficult question, she turned to the managers in the crowd for an answer. She kept the conversation going and reassured attendees that the struggle is real. She also encouraged us to share our coping strategies, keeping the discussion upbeat.

I left the presentation feeling energized and affirmed. I am not alone in having to balance and let go. The room was full of fellow travelers who have to make hard choices. We accept mediocrity for the sake of cost and schedule. We live to write again on the next project.

My favorite take-away came from attendee Kathy Johnstone who advised that we keep three priorities in this order: get it done, get along, and get it right. Relationships and team morale are more important than perfectionism and will ensure that the next project goes smoothly. Sometimes we just have to let it go.

See the session details on CrowdCompass here

https://event.crowdcompass.com/stcsummit2018/activity/PPhBZgATpM

Wed, May 23rd, 10:10 AM, Li-At Rathbun introduces herself to the attendees at “We Stoop to Conqquer: Adjusting to Mediocrity.”
Wed, May 23rd, 10:10 AM, Li-At Rathbun introduces herself to the attendees at “We Stoop to Conqquer: Adjusting to Mediocrity.”

https://twitter.com/viqui_dill/status/999292851157635073

Secretary’s Column

By Marcia Shannon

Second quarter was enlivened with the Summit. If, like me, you could not attend, read on for feedback from those who were there. I am sorry that I could not meet those who attended our SIG Business Lunch. I heard that there was a good turn out and it was enlightening, and encouraging, to meet members face to face.

I am writing this during my favorite part of the TV season: dance competitions. Between So You Think You Can Dance and World of Dance, there are so many artists doing breathtaking things, to evoke emotions, engage the audience, and tell a story. Where we technical communicators use words and images, they communicate through music and movement. That common ground fascinates me and sparks my imagination.

Taking a break from writing to watch these dancers reminded me that dancers take classes to polish their core moves, acquire new skills, and stay current with techniques and trends. Those are shared goals among all sorts of communication professionals. Whether you opt for a refresher in proofing and formatting, learn a new software tool, or expand your skills into a different industry, technical communicators are always in learning mode. Experience is vital, but we all need to refresh our skills every so often. I hope you are getting the full benefit of your STC and SIG memberships by attending the free-to-members webinars that are available regularly. Most continuing ed and technical colleges offer online, inexpensive single-topic classes, which are an easy way to brush up your skills.

To have the full SIG experience, volunteer for a SIG leadership role. The SIG thrives when there is high participation. None of the leadership roles is a full time job and there are always other volunteers who jump in to help with the big projects. The monthly meetings are open to all members. Drop in, check it out, perhaps spot where you can help. Don’t be a stranger.

Coming soon: Virtual Open House

By Jamye Sagan

In November, the IDL SIG will host our sixth annual Virtual Open House.

As a virtual community with members spread out around the world, it can be challenging for us to cultivate a sense of community. The Virtual Open House enables current (and future) IDL SIG members to learn more about our community and the services we offer by attending the live event, or by viewing archived events via the student database. In addition, attendees get to meet members of the SIG leadership team and chat with fellow members.

Even if you cannot attend live, you can still join the party once we release the recording.

We will announce Virtual Open House dates and details as they become available.

Coming soon: Demographic Survey

By Jamye Sagan

In the next couple of months, we will release our IDL SIG member demographic survey. This survey, which we conduct every two years, enables us to capture the pulse of our membership and helps guide development of programs and services that would benefit our members.

As a token of our appreciation everyone who completes the survey will be entered into a drawing for one of two $50 Amazon gift cards. Even if you enter the drawing, your results will still remain anonymous.

If you’d like to review results from past surveys, please visit http://www.stcidlsig.org/discussion-lists/surveys/. Doing so will give you an idea of the types of questions we ask.