2021 Summit Session Reviews

by Jayme Sagan

I attended many interesting presentations at the virtual 2021 STC Summit. Here are highlights from a few of them. 

Survey Says: Don’t Start a Feud. Write Stronger Surveys

Dr. Jennifer Goode (@ProfGoode)

In her presentation, Goode spoke about how well-designed surveys can provide valuable information and insights. She not only explained the different types of surveys available, but also the different categories of questions available and when they should be used. She shared some items to consider when designing a survey, including calculating how much time is needed to complete AND tabulate/share results. She also shared several tips for building the survey, including:

  • Using plain language
  • Grouping questions logically
  • Maintaining consistency
  • Not immediately starting the survey with sensitive questions
  • Not burying the most important questions at the end 

Overall, survey designers must always keep in mind why a user should take the survey. They also need to consider how they will use the results once collected and tabulated. Taking time to create a solid survey is worth the work. After all, according to Goode, “good surveys yield good data.” 

Quick Fixes for Bad Slides

Mike Parkinson (@Mike_Parkinson)

In his presentation, Parkinson shared 13 tips for designing presentation slides, to make them easier to view and comprehend. Memorable tips include:

  • Bleed pictures into the slide background for greater visual impact: Instead of using a small photo, have it fill the entire slide and overlay any title text. 
  • Use path animation in PowerPoint to simulate movement. Doing so draws attention to the concept at hand.
  • Put text inside bullets/graphics to make them easier to view and more interesting.
  • Cut clutter by presenting bulleted information with consistent illustrations and brief text. For example, instead of listing steps in text bullets, chunk them out and illustrate them with numbered shapes, images, etc. 

Parkinson also shared links to several free and low-cost resources for building graphics, including https://www.billiondollargraphics.com/build-a-graphic/.

Overall, we should fix slides to help make them more effective in conveying their message or showing a concept, not merely to make them look pretty. Most of these tips, such as using safe fonts and using higher-resolution images, require minimal effort while some tips, such as building custom images and animations, may require more effort. 

Tell Your Story the Disney Way

Lou Prosperi (@LouProsperi)

In his presentation, Prosperi explored 13 aspects of technical communication through the lens of Disney Imagineering. Imagineering, a portmanteau of “imagination” and “engineering”, pertains to the research and development related to Disney-related items. Some memorable observations include:

  • Casey’s Corner: Just as this baseball-themed café focuses on telling the story of baseball through its décor, technical communicators must decide which story they want to tell and stick with it.
  • Attention to Detail: Disney attractions pay great attention to the tiniest details because they want to convey a specific mood or story. Likewise, technical communicators must decide how much—or how little—detail to use when conveying their own message through their deliverables. 
  • “It’s a Small World” effect: Through peppy music and droll animatronic characters in various settings, this attraction uses repetition and reinforcement to create a memorable experience—the exact elements technical communicators use to emphasize key aspects of their documents.
  • Plussing: Walt Disney coined this term for improving upon an already-good idea. As technical communicators, we constantly ask ourselves: “How can we make things better?”

I thoroughly enjoyed this virtual stroll through the “Wonderful World of Disney” and how Disney’s vision shows us how we can effectively reach our audiences. After all, as Prosperi emphasizes, “the heart of Imagineering is effective communication.”