IDL SIG Manager’s Column

By Maralee Sautter

Hello, IDL SIG members!

In the northern hemisphere, colorful leaves are falling and swirling in an earthbound course, signaling the advent of autumn. The days are becoming shorter and scents of pumpkin spice are adrift in coffee shops and neighborhood bakeries. While you may not have the same weather as I do here in the Pacific Northwest, I am relieved that cooler weather is here: the record-breaking heat and wildfires experienced over the summer are gone. 

While the crazy weather has affected all of us—from coast to coast—nothing has stopped the IDL team from a flurry of activity. We have been busy planning, preparing, and delivering great programs and virtual activities to benefit you, our IDL members!

IDL announcements are back

The antiquated Mailman system went into retirement last year. Happily, in late August, we began sending IDL announcements using Mailchimp. To be sure you receive these mailings, add to your address book. If you are not receiving mail from the SIG via Mailchimp, check your spam folder. Students and new techcomm professionals may receive additional mailings from the Student Outreach Coordinator.

Join our discussion forum 

Are you interested in sharing news, asking questions, or discussing ideas with fellow IDL SIG members? We have a solution: Join our IDL SIG Slack channel and post your ideas or questions. It’s easy! First join the STC Slack channel. After joining, select #sig-instructional-design. Read instructions for joining Slack on our website.

A peek around the corner

Joint program with STC Chicago & the IDL SIG  

Get that Interview! How to Beat the Dreaded Applicant Tracking System webinar with Jack Molisani Wednesday, October 13 at 1 PM EDT. Click here for details

Two-hour Workshop 

Zoom-proof Your Presentations with Leah Guren, Saturday, November 6, 2021 at 12 –2 pm EDT. Read more details on our Facebook page. “Like” us while you’re there!

Virtual Open House – Mid-November

The IDL SIG Virtual Open House is open to IDL members and would-be members to learn about our benefits and volunteer opportunities. We showcase the volunteers who make the IDL SIG run as smooth as maple syrup. 


The Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s a contest! Practitioners, bring us your worst technical communication disasters and our students will judge your article, up to 500 words. There are prizes for the most terrifying disasters and winners will be published in our Q4 newsletter. Names can be changed to protect the innocent.

Watch social media outlets, announcements, and our website for more details about this fun social event.

First Fridays at 5

First Fridays at 5 is a virtual social event for students and the Instructional Design & Learning (IDL) Special Interest Group (SIG) members happening the first Friday of the month. You don’t have to be a member to join. Our students always have something brewing. For past events, check out our student page.

Membership Drive begins

Our Membership chair, volunteer Lori Meyer, has a great article elsewhere in this newsletter. One thing is worth repeating: Remember to sign up for IDL SIG on the join or renewal form.
Note: Gold membership includes all SIGs and COIs and does not require signup.

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.