Speaking at the STC Summit: One Tech Writer’s Journey from “No Way!” to “Been There, Done That, Got the Badge Ribbon” (and how you can too) *

By Allie Proff | STC Member

A few years ago, I attended my very first conference. I was amazed.

Up until that point, I had only worked in one group in one company. I’d worked there for nine years, so I was experienced, but only in my own little corner of the world. It was eye-opening and refreshing not only to learn the content from the sessions, but also to see what other people did at other companies around the world. I’ve heard people refer to the networking that goes on as the “conference within the conference.”

At that first conference, another attendee and I were discussing the speakers, and what we learned. “You should sign up to be a speaker,” she said. “That’s crazy!” I replied. But it got me thinking. I really love helping people and explaining things.

“I can do this,” I thought.

How often had I given a presentation to my engineers or other writers within the company? I mean, I am a technical communicator, right? I should be able to verbally present my writing. I may be horrible at improv or comedy, but I can do well when I have a chance to really research, prepare, and practice.

Then the doubts started to set in.

Who was I to give a session? I didn’t feel like a recognized expert in anything. Then I started reviewing notes of sessions I attended. Some of my favorite sessions were research-based or case study-based. A presenter didn’t have to be the smartest person in the world. Sometimes value comes from time spent summarizing hours of research. Value can also come just from having a different experience or approach, and even more so when the presenter found some valuable lessons learned from a failed experience.

My fellow attendee also pointed out a speaker’s entry fee is waived or reduced. My company’s policy was to send a new person to conference every year, which helps everyone get an opportunity to grow and develop. But the travel budget is separate from the conference budget, and my company was willing to pay for my flight and hotel if I paid my own way for the registration fee. I’d get to come again next year. Awesome!

These thoughts simmered in the back of my mind until I just happened to be on the website one day and saw the call for speakers. “What the heck,” I thought to myself. “All they’re asking for is an idea of what I’ll present and the learning outcomes for the attendees. Conference is still seven or eight months away. I’ll try and see what happens.”

So I submitted two ideas that I’ve been wanting to research for a while and waited. One idea was rejected, but the other was accepted! I was elated and terrified at the same time. It seemed surreal to see my name in the program.

I investigated. I explored. I practiced my presentation on family and friends. I tweaked my presentation. I presented at a brown bag lunch and learn at work. I tweaked my presentation some more. Finally, the conference arrived.

I practiced (yet again) in the speaker rehearsal room, and felt very supported by the conference staff and helpers. I attended sessions and networked, and finally my turn came. It wasn’t the best presentation in the world, but it wasn’t the worst either. A number of people told me they found my session very useful and thanked me for compiling all the information into one place. The experience was so positive and rewarding that now I look forward to what topics I can research and present next year.

I’ve presented at three different conferences now over the course of three years. I don’t consider myself special or outstanding, and even though I enjoy being with people I’m an introvert at heart. There will always be people who know more than me about any given subject, but there will always be people who know less than me and those are the people I can help.

Now it’s my turn to say to you, “You should be a speaker.” Even if you’re relatively new to the profession, or newly graduated, you still can make valuable contributions. Take a question you’d like to have answered, and submit that as a topic. Stay focused on your message and one to three key takeaways. Look up public speaking tips by TED coaches on the internet. Practice on friends, family, and coworkers. Present at your local chapter or at a smaller conference first, if that would help boost your conference. You can do it!

One of the great things I appreciate about the Society for Technical Communication is how supported I’ve felt by everyone I’ve met. If you’ve been a presenter, I’d love to hear about your first time. If you’ve never presented but are inspired to try, I’d love to hear from you as well and offer my support.

See you next year!

*This article first appeared in STC Notebook (available at https://www.stc.org/notebook/speaking-at-the-stc-summit/)


Co-manager’s Report for Q3 2017

By Viqui Dill

Hello IDL friends! We had another great quarter and have many more great things planned. Our webinar series is going strong and we have our own channel on YouTube. Looking ahead, we are going to rock the 2018 Summit and want to help you get involved. Let me demonstrate.

Webinar Series

Phil Havlik kicked off the new season of webinars with “Digital Citizenship in an Online World”. Havlik helped us understand our own roles in the online world and gave us tips on how to be stronger and more informed members of the digital community. Find a link to the recording for this and other webinars on our website: http://www.stcidlsig.org/membership/webinars/free-recordings-of-idl-sig-webinars-for-members/

Chuck Campbell was our speaker in September with “Create Presentation Handouts that People Will Actually Use”. Campbell reminded us about the value of handouts, showed examples, and gave us tips for this common training resource. Find a link to the recording for this and other webinars on our website http://www.stcidlsig.org/membership/webinars/free-recordings-of-idl-sig-webinars-for-members/

More webinars are planned for the next few months.

Robert Hershenow will be presenting “Your Brain on PowerPoint: Better Presentations Through Science” on October 12. You can register today on Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/your-brain-on-powerpoint-robert-hershenow-tickets-37341618787

Allie Proff will be reworking her Emotive Analytics presentation from the 2017 Summit on November 16. You can register today on Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/remembering-forward-allie-proff-tickets-38464209486

Phylise Banner will be presenting on December 7. Watch for news and links on our website http://www.stcidlsig.org/events/

Debbie Kerr will be presenting “Learning Styles and the Cancer Experience” on January 18. You can register today on Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/learning-styles-and-the-cancer-experience-webinar-with-debbie-kerr-tickets-36458859430

Ed Marsh will explore using analytics on February 15. Watch for news and links on our website http://www.stcidlsig.org/events/

Students attend for FREE. We have opened up our webinars to students and academics for free. Register with a *.edu email address and attend for free. Explorers are welcome. You do not need to be enrolled in a tech. comm. or IDL program. As long as you're a student and you're curious, you are invited to join us. Find out more on our website http://www.stcidlsig.org/news-students-attend-our-webinars-for-free/

We have a YouTube channel! We’re now hosting our recorded webinars and meetings on YouTube. Check out our channel here https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCW68UREs2Cxs6KJUM7nZdtA

Summit Planning

We’re starting to plan the festivities at the 2018 Technical Communication Summit. Want to help plan the fun? Visit the Summit website https://summit.stc.org/ and then contact us at manager@nullstcidlsig.org. We need you!  

Virtual Open House

Look for our annual Virtual Open House, happening in November. We love to showcase all our volunteers and accomplishments. See you there!


By Marcia Shannon

I attained Certified Professional Technical Communicator status in 2016. At that time, I was planning to retire from my full time technical writing job, so why did I seek certification? I did it for validation, for confirmation, and as incentive to pursue a freelance writing career. I wanted, no, needed validation that I understand and practice technical writing. I needed confirmation that my 30 years of output as a sometimes unrecognized technical writer met requirements. I wanted to be able to present myself to future employers with professional credibility, in addition to my B.S. in Business Administration, my writing samples and experience.

If you are thinking about pursuing CPTC, go for it. Start by going to the STC website section about certification, https://www.stc.org/certification/ , to look over the requirements. You will need the book, Richard Johnson-Sheehan’s Technical Communication Today, Fifth Edition. Choose the format that  fits your learning style, hard copy or digital, buy or rent. I bought a hard copy because it is a very useful addition to my reference shelf.

My approach was to find and study the  sections in the text that correspond to the nine core skill areas that are on the test. I wrote study outlines for each skill area, referencing the book pages. I  also used  the study materials available on the web site. As I worked my way through all of this, I realized that I needed a way to test my learning.

I attended the two day pre-Summit examination prep class, which was followed by the exam.. We were a very nervous group, hoping to use this new designation to better our careers as well as our skills. Alan Houser, our very patient and knowledgeable instructor led us through the prep, helping us to be calm and confident for the exam.  Those were two very long days, part review of known skills and part unlearning some bad habits.

The benefits I received from taking the chance and doing the work were many--making new friends in the class,  clearing away doubts that I might not be a “real” technical communicator and finding the confidence to start freelancing. If you are the least bit interested in becoming certified, I strongly recommend pursuing it. I found it to be absolutely worth the time, the cost, the effort.

Co-manager’s report Q3 2017

By Lori Meyer

Hi, IDL SIG members and friends.

This is an exciting time for technical communicators. The greater number and variety of jobs in both techcomm and instructional design is encouraging. Our vibrant SIG chapter is as active as ever, and we have the recognition to prove it: In 2017, we were named an STC Platinum community!  We want you to stay with us in 2018 and continue to be part of our value-adding, award-winning community. And if you haven't joined us yet, we invite you to become a new members in 2018!  

Here are some examples of how you can benefit from being an IDL SIG member:

  • Our quarterly newsletter, IDeal: Design for Learning, provides an in-depth look at the topics of interest to technical communicators and instructional designers, provides member profiles, and offers useful articles about the tools and technologies that are helping us grow as professionals.
  • Our SIG web site provides valuable information about what is happening in our community, as well as in STC and the profession. We welcome contributions from our members!   
  • You can attend the STC annual Summit conference at member rates, attend our SIG annual business meeting and breakfast, and meet your SIG leaders and fellow SIG members. Summit 2018 will be held May 20 - 23, 2018, in Orlando, FL. Find out more about Summit at http://summit.stc.org.

I recently completed 33 years of membership in STC, and am grateful to be part of a community of professionals who have become my colleagues, friends, and teachers. I hope you will see STC's staying power in YOUR professional life as well...and that you will say Yes to renewal in 2018!  For more information about STC membership in general, visit the membership page on the STC web site at http://stc.org,  and click Join or Renew along the top navigation bar. When you join or renew, be sure to choose IDL SIG as one of your communities. Note: If you choose Gold membership, your membership dues automatically include ALL SIGs.

If you have any questions or concerns about your membership, please feel free to contact us at manager@nullsigidlsig.org. We love talking about STC and our SIG, and would be happy to answer any questions you have, or guide you to resources you need.

On behalf of our more than 400 SIG members, thank you for being part of STC and our SIG. We look forward to having you as a member in 2018!


Secretary’s Column Q3 2017

By Marcia Shannon

Membership in the IDL SIG is one of the best avenues to sharpening your skills and honing your craft. It may have been summer in the Northern Hemisphere, but the learning didn’t stop for us. In August, Phil Havlik presented his  "Digital Citizenship in an Online World" webinar. Chuck Campbell gave us  "Create Presentation Handouts That People Will Actually Use". If you did not attend, the recordings are available free to everyone.

In September, we moved from Adobe Connect to GoToMeeting for the monthly meeting. Among other benefits, the GoToMeeting platform works well with headphones and provides space for participants to be seen via webcam. We were too shy to use that feature at the last meeting – maybe we’ll try it during the October meeting.

All SIG members are welcome at the monthly meetings on the third Thursday, 7:30 p.m. (Eastern). With elections coming up, now is a good time to get acquainted with candidates and explore how you can participate in the SIG.

STC Membership Annual Renewal is now open. The STC and IDL SIG are stronger when we have a wide and committed membership, so encourage your colleagues to join both. Ask if your employer will subsidize some or all of the cost; you and your company will find that the benefits of membership are well worth the cost.