IDL SIG Manager’s Column: Maralee Sautter


Here is my first newsletter column as IDL SIG manager since I stepped up to the position in May. Currently, I’m catching my breath after the flurry of Summit activity. But not me alone; all our IDL SIG volunteers were very busy with Summit virtual events this year. Even as I exhale in my weariness, I can only say that I’m happy to be part of this incredible team. 

If you weren’t able to attend the Summit or the SIG’s virtual events, please sit back and enjoy a nice recap of some of our Summit events.

Social Networking Event - Mon, June 7, 2021 

Each of us is YOU-nique! Attendees lauded our SIG virtual event as one of the most fun events of the Summit. We asked attendees to go on a scavenger hunt in their homes, bring back items they found, and share “finds” in the Zoom screen with us. People shared their stories of why the item was special to them, and we learned how each story was unique, but still part of the human fabric that binds us. Behind the scenes, SIG volunteers were surreptitiously spotlighting, learning about, and screen-grabbing photos of the attendees. In the end, a special scrapbook page was assembled and sent to each attendee who participated. If you don’t believe that it was fun, check out the YouTube video,

Summit Honors - Tuesday, June 8 

The STC Summit Honors Event was inspiring for us since not only was our community awarded a Bronze Community Achievement award, we received the Most Improved Community of the year. Of course, there were a lot of other awards and honors given out during the event.  Congrats to all! For a list of the STC honors and awards, check out the STC Honors and Awards page. Click here to see this great event in retrospect. Watch now, because this link may not be available for long.

STC SIG Open House - Wed, June 9, 2021 

The virtual open house was an opportunity for members and non-members to explore STC SIGs in 15-minute increments and an opportunity for attendees to visit 3 SIG breakout Zoom-rooms. In the IDL SIG breakout room, we had people sign up for a drawing, explore our website, ask about membership status, and find out more about the SIG. In the background, we had a recurring slide deck touting what we do as a SIG. The chat was lively, and we gathered some exciting ideas for future webinars.

IDL SIG Annual General Meeting (AGM) - Tue, June 29, 2021

Typically, we meet in person at the Summit to conduct our SIG business meeting. Because Summit was virtual this year, face-to-face didn’t happen. We were busy planning the social event and the open house, so we postponed the AGM. That gave us the time to plan an awesome virtual meeting that let us all get to know our community from different leadership perspectives and we had fun with SIG awards, chatting, and drawings. Please check the meeting out on YouTube—it’s well worth your time.

Together with the rest of the volunteer team in the SIG, I hope you have a great summer!

Maralee Sautter

Manager’s Report: Marcia Shannon Stepping Down

This is my last manager’s report for the IDL SIG.  Destiny Dudley is preparing to take over SIG leadership in January. I am looking forward to backing up Destiny and the rest of the SIG leadership team in 2021.

For most of us, 2020 may be the worst year we have had to endure. So much turmoil and fear and hardship and sorrow outweigh whatever I might say to sum up this year. For me, the pandemic-imposed isolation was reduced through virtual webinars and meetings and Summit. Volunteering kept me busy and useful, distracting me from obsessing about the daily dose of depressing news.

Right now, the focus is on gathering contributions for the Student Outreach Essay competition. All technical communication educators, in or out the SIG, are called upon to encourage your technical communication students to share their best work in our essay competition. This is not limited to a single winner; we are happy to publish as much good work as is submitted. There is the additional award of a student membership in STC for each published. You can help your students start their professional portfolios through the Student Outreach opportunity.

Programming will continue to be a frequent benefit of SIG membership. Your suggestions for topics are always welcome. We will also rely on the results of the demographic survey to determine what programs to present in 2021. Think about presenting a webinar this year. You are an expert in some aspect of tech comm and there are others who would love to hear about it.

The strength of the SIG depends on its members’ willingness to participate, volunteer, to support the programs. Thank you for your contributions toward keeping the SIG strong. There are several open positions on the leadership team. You may be one of the people we need to fill a role. It is rewarding and satisfying and challenging and a lot of fun to be a volunteer for IDL. I strongly recommend that everyone try it.

Manager’s Report from Marcia Shannon — Q2 and Q3 2020

Q2 2020

What a complicated three months this second quarter has been. The effects of the pandemic and the measures taken to slow the spread of COVID-19 have been rough on many of us. I hope you are safe and well along with your family and friends. It’s a relief to focus on tech comm for a short while to share what has been happening in the IDL SIG.

A major highlight of this time was our own Jamye Sagan’s elevation to STC Associate Fellow. Congratulations, Jamye, you are always one of IDL’s bedrock supporters.

Despite the loss of our annual get together, STC’s first-ever virtual Summit was a very successful event. As a first time presenter, I learned how to prepare a webinar for broadcast, which was a useful experience. More importantly, the Summit sessions went well, with few delivery glitches. Attendees were enthusiastic participants in the chat windows, an unanticipated bonus of the venue. Seeing and interacting with that feedback enlivened the recorded sessions so much more than just listening to a playback does. As always, Summit had depth, variety, and lots of useful information. I definitely missed the face-to-face excitement of putting names to faces from past webinars, but most folks were not shy about being on camera during breaks. You can have a satisfying networking experience virtually.

I attended the opening and closing remarks, several networking events and fifteen sessions. The bonus of the entire Summit recordings being available through August 31 means that I can watch almost all of the 90+ sessions. If you did not attend Summit, I do recommend registering at the after-Summit discounted price. Everything you want to know about the content is available on the STC website here:

Are you curious about CPTC requirements at the foundation or practitioner level? There’s a session about that. There are sessions about DITA, Agile, Adobe, content delivery and maintenance.  Are you looking for career advice? Here are a dozen sessions about working in tech comm.

  • Advance Your Career Through Personal Branding
  • Bias and Your Job Search
  • Business Essentials: The Five Facts Every Professional Should Know about the Technical Communication Business
  • Four Secrets to a Killer Résumé
  • How Getting Away From Your Desk Can Help You Grow Your Career
  • In the Middle: Managing Middle Careers in an Era of Disruption
  • Independent Consulting 101 – Going Out on Your Own
  • The Technical Communicator as a Generalist
  • The Times They Are a'Changin'
  • Volunteering to Advance Your Career (STC)
  • Your Future Career with Tools and Technology: Tools and Technology Panel Discussion

My favorite sessions covered a wide range of topics. They brought a fresh perspective of technical communication. I learned something immediately useful. Here’s a list of my favorite sessions.

  • Navigating Tech Comm with Geoffrey Chaucer by Brigid Brockway
    More than a history lesson, this showed the deep roots, almost proto-tech comm practices that still influence TC today. Brigid brought humor and erudition to this.
  • How My Cats Helped Me Quickly Develop Training Materials by Jamye Sagan
    Jayme’s presentation brings high-level theory into our everyday circumstances.
  • How to Hack Repetitive Publicity Tasks and Get Your Life Back! by Liz Fraley
    This was my jaw-dropping, light bulb moment. I am very shy with all social media, a stumbling block for a freelance tech commer. Liz shows us how to get control of using social media for business.
  • Running with the Bulls: PM the PMs and live to tell about it by Viqui Dill
    Viqui addressed the well-known problem of shoe horning tech comm into project planning, despite project manager’s notorious resistance to it.
  • The Art of Interviewing SME's and Tech Comm Celebrities by Nicky Bleiel
    Nicky shared techniques and approaches for coaxing information out of and fostering cooperation from subject matter experts. I found it very helpful.
  • The Future Workforce Is Here – Now What? by Tana Session
    Like finding out about personality types, Tana showed how being aware of generational hallmarks can help us communicate more effectively in and out of our work places. I did not agree completely with all of the cohort descriptions, but they are useful for targeting an approach to any given group.
  • Now I Get It: Three Strategies for Effectively Sharing Scientific Research by Jennifer Goode
    Boiling down thousands of words of detail into eye-catching informative flyers or wall posters can be difficult. Jennifer shared several clever and useful poster strategies to succeed.

Just before Summit, STC and the CAC (Community Affairs Committee) announced a change to the structure of Special Interest Groups. When membership season begins September 1, every special interest group will become a “community of interest” or “community of practice”.  The SIG leadership teams with CAC’s guidance are transitioning to this new titling now. This is more than a title change. The designation is based on the structure and mission of the group.

Communities of interest will be based in Slack, each with its own channel and a volunteer facilitator to guide the content. They will be discussion groups although no bounds have been set on what or how they do that. All STC members will have membership in all communities of interest as part of their dues.

Communities of practice will be topic-specific. Examples of current SIGs transitioning to COP are Instructional Design and Learning, Technical Editing, and Policies and Procedures. COPs will be able to choose to maintain websites, have an elected volunteer leadership team, present webinars, run competitions. They will also have a channel on the STC-sponsored Slack group. They will be supported by the usual $10 fee per COP collected at renewal or when joining or when a member decides to join a COP outside of those actions.

In order to maintain IDL’s COP status and to keep doing everything we are doing now, we need volunteers. In particular, we need someone or several someones to handle that Slack channel as well as to take over Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn. Can you help?

Speaking of volunteers, we need help from all IDL members with education ties, both students and educators.  The complications from pandemic-driven distance learning makes it difficult to publicize our Student Outreach competition. Please share the SO brochure with your students and other educators:

We will be busy in third quarter with programs, leadership team elections and planning our annual open house. Keep up with us via social media and the website. It’s about to be busy season again. Stay safe, stay well.

Manager’s Report

By Marcia Shannon

SIG Manager

Welcome to the first manager’s report of 2020. First, thank you for renewing your membership with STC and IDL. With your support and participation, the IDL SIG continues to thrive. Your leadership team has planned activities throughout 2020 to provide the education and community networking that support your career in technical communication. Watch for email announcements and check the website for details of upcoming events.

First quarter was busy. January 31 was the deadline to submit the Community Achievement Award application. Completing that very detailed form was a good review of all that the SIG accomplished in 2019. It is also a good checklist of what other activities we can complete in 2020. In February and March, Ed Marsh and Kelly Schrank shared useful information that you can use to advance your technical communication career. Both webinars are available on our YouTube channel.

The Student Outreach Essay competition deadline was February 22. Judging continues through March, so watch for announcements about the results. If you missed this year’s deadline, start planning to enter the next competition. Submissions are welcome throughout the year. The SIG needs support from educator members to encourage their students to enter the competition. It’s a good opportunity to be published before graduation. Suggest that students rework an essay they submitted in class to meet our newsletter style.

The hot items for second quarter are holding the annual SIG election and planning our Summit activities. Both are opportunities for you to become involved in the SIG. We plan to introduce new leaders and members during the IDL SIG Business Meeting at Summit. We invite you to be part of our celebration.

The strength of any community depends on participation and the willingness of members to work together to make the group thrive. Your next opportunity to do that is the annual elections. There are many open slots on the leadership team, both elected and appointed. Appointed means that you step up and say “I can do that”. Cheers from the other leaders will welcome you!

We need two assistant co-managers to transition to 2021’s co-managers. This is a coordinator role, not as burdensome as managing. If your career goal is any level of management, this is an opportunity to try your wings with plenty of support from other leaders.

We need a secretary. My experience as secretary was uncomplicated: Attend the monthly meeting, or listen to the recording, then write and publish the minutes. It usually took about three hours across a couple sessions each month.

Committee members can take turns covering a position or work one part of it. For example, one member of the Social Media committee could handle Twitter while someone else posts to Facebook. The committee chair would coordinate the work.

You could learn webinar management as part of the Programs committee and add it to your skills list for that next job review.

Without participation, there is no SIG. Please share your talents to keep our SIG thriving!

Marcia Shannon
Marcia Shannon

Marcia Shannon was secretary from 2016 to 2018, assistant co-manager for the SIG in 2018, and transitioned to co-manager in 2019.

Manager’s Report – 4th Quarter 2019

By: Marcia Shannon

By the time you read this edition of the newsletter, 2019 will be days away from closing. I hope you packed this year with adventure and hope, with more good times than hard times. Mine was, thanks to a growing participation in SIGs and Chapters.

At IDL, we started this year with the Student Essay Competition judging. It fascinated me to see fresh perspectives on many technical communication topics from almost-ready-to-launch new professionals. If you are not familiar with the competition, go to the Students tab on the IDL SIG website, where you can find information, including  a webinar and slides. The deadline for entries is February 22, 2020. You can download the entry form and instructions from our site.

If you know students who would benefit from a membership in STC and the IDL SIG, be sure to steer them to the site. If you are an educator in the technical communication field, promote our competition in your classes, whenever you can.

As IDL SIG manager, I learned a lot more about GoToMeeting than I ever expected. Between connectivity issues with my service provider and some hitches and glitches with GoToMeeting, the early meetings this year were difficult to complete. We got those problems resolved and began planning our table at Summit 2019. IDL was well-represented by speakers in several of the Summit tracks. Some Summit presentations will be repeated as IDL programs into next year so watch for announcements. Sign up even if you cannot attend the virtual presentation because you will receive a link to the recorded version after the presentation date Check out the website for information on upcoming presentations. Remember, this continuing education perk is free to SIG members.

Something I learned at Summit is that it takes more than a couple folks to represent the SIG during the Communities Showcase. We need volunteers to spend about 30 minutes at our information table, talking up the benefits of our IDL SIG. We also need volunteers throughout the year to back up our current leaders. As much as we enjoy what we do we want to share the fun with as many of you as possible. If you make New Year’s resolutions, consider volunteering for IDL. We need you.

My most personal benefit of being involved with the knowledgeable, dynamic, supportive SIG leaders is that of being accepted to speak at Summit 2020. I received a lot of encouragement to be brave and submit an entry, so I did. I smiled for a whole day when the acceptance email arrived.

We are preparing our 2020 budget right now. The more members we have, the more funding we receive from dues which means we can spend more on promoting IDL by bringing in speakers and holding competitions and even enticing Summit attendees with a bit of swag. Be sure to include IDL in your 2020 membership and encourage others to choose us as well.

My favorite motto remains “Never party alone.” With more volunteers, we can have a 2020 full of interesting IDL activities. I hope you will be part of the action. Best wishes that your holidays are joyful and your new year sparkles and shines.

Marcia Shannon
Marcia Shannon

Marcia Shannon was secretary from 2016 to 2018, assistant co-manager for the SIG in 2018, and transitioned to co-manager in 2019.