We had a blast at #Conduit19

By Viqui Dill, IDL SIG Programs lead

On April 5 and 6, the STC Philadelphia Metro chapter held their annual Conduit regional conference at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. IDL SIG members were well represented, both as attendees and as presenters. I attended on the second day, April 6.

Getting to the conference on time was a challenge. Philadelphia was hosting the 13th Annual Race for Humanity to benefit Camp Can Do. Imagine crossing the street dodging runners in both directions as the race went around the Swann Memorial Fountain adjacent to the Franklin Institute.

Danielle Villegas, IDL SIG member and past president of the STC Philadelphia Metro Chapter (STC-PMC), welcomed attendees and opened the day.

Bernard Aschwanden, representing the event host, Adobe Technical Communication, delivered opening remarks. Using a clever combination of stories and product announcements for Adobe, Aschwanden urged the group to make one to one connections and build one to one relationships using any means possible, even twitter.

Neil Perlin delivered the keynote address, “Preparing for the Unknown.” He reminded the group that our tools have changed, noting that pencils have given way to the typewriter, replaced by the word processor, and now the worldwide web. “Tools are irrelevant,” Perlin stated, and then he quoted Rick Lippincott and said “We explain things.” One takeaway he gave the group was to accept the permanent temporary incompetence that comes with constant learning.

Attendees then broke up to attend their choice of four educational sessions.

IDL member Ed Marsh presented “Adding value as a technical communicator.” Marsh urged the group to document how they add value to the organization. “Newsletters work,” he recommended. Pdfs are a bad way to document because the only analytic available with a pdf is the number of downloads. Pdfs are terrible on mobile devices. Technical communicators should embrace data driven content and use the analytics provided to find out how users write and think. Marsh reminded the group that the number of words is not a measure of success. Success means that the right information is delivered to the right person, at the right time.

Although the topic was out of my comfort zone, I next attended “Negotiation Skills: The Missing Ingredient to Content Career Success” presented by Jack Molisani. He began with an icebreaker and rewarded participants with chocolate if they spoke up. He urged the group to do their homework before the negotiation. Know the success criteria and decide ahead of time when to break off the negotiation and walk away. Whenever possible, let the other side make the opening offer. Handle objections with historical data. Molisani then had the group do an exercise negotiating for a lawn care agreement. Each of the groups reported how the negotiations went, what went well, and what did not go well. He then wrapped up with reminding us that negotiating is an art, and that we should find and negotiate with “your people.”

The groups then came together for an amazing lunch provided by the Franklin Institute. Members of the IDL SIG took a moment to get a group photo. Ed Marsh, Laurie Marshall, Cindy Pao, Viqui Dill, Tim Esposito, Todd DeLuca, and Jim Bousquet represented our SIG at the conference.

After lunch, attendees again broke up to attend their choice of four sessions.

Steven Jong presented “Working and Writing across the Generations” explaining how different generations think and communicate differently. Millennials are now the largest generational group and Jong urged attendees to learn how to reach them with mobile-friendly content that is diverse, visual, and embedded.

For the last session of the day, I presented “#PowerOfStory – The cultural program that got me clicks” to a bright and engaged group. I encouraged attendees to speak up by giving them miniature rubber ducks in fun costumes, reinforcing the storytelling theme. My current job is to do internal communications within my company for IT. It’s my job to help four thousand employees make friends with our programs, especially the much avoided Microsoft Office 365 suite of products. I explained how I was able to leverage our corporate #PowerOfStory program to engage employees online and help them get over the fear of change to be able to use the tools for content management and communication.

The groups then came together for the closing session and door prizes. I was lucky enough to win a book of my choice, picking “The Language of Content Strategy” by Scott Abel and Rahel Anne Bailie.

After the conference, attendees gathered at the Kite and Key gastro pub for continued networking and collaboration.

Regional conferences like Conduit, InterChange, and Spectrum are a great benefit of STC membership. Shorter and less expensive than the big international Summit conference, regional conferences often feature some of the same speakers and topics. Smaller conferences make it easy to recognize faces and learn names, leading to better networking. The Conduit conference is an annual event and I urge you to make plans to attend in 2020.

How to Create Objectives

By: Daniel Maddox

Course developers seem to diverge in terms of how to create course objectives. I have observed two very different methods in use. This article examines the strengths and weaknesses of each method.

What do we need to teach?

Commonly, the first question that is asked when we sit down to create a course is, “What do we need to teach?” In a course I took in college, this was the question we were told to start with. It was also the question used by a documentation department I once worked for. This is a very simple question to start with, but it does bring with it some difficulties. Here is a brief description of how this method works:

Stage Description
Initial This question guides everything else that you do. You begin compiling a list of needed course content right off the bat.
1 After you figure out what you need to teach, you start asking questions about who you’re teaching, and what your goals are with that teaching. What is the audience’s background? What are their expectations? Where will they be trained? What technology is available?

It may be at this point that you write down the objectives for the course. However, you might wait until stage 2 or 3, when you have finalized your list of course content. That way, you can roll those categories of content up into objectives at the end of course preparation.

2 Based on your analysis, you create a plan for getting the content together. Who are the subject matter experts whom you need to interview? What will the weekly expectations be for completing the work?
3 How do you ensure that you have taught the content you intended to? How do you ensure that your audiences really gets it, knows what they need to know, and can do what they need to do?

At this point, all that remains is to create the actual course content, deliver it, and evaluate it.

This is a very simple method to use. Anyone can sit down with a couple of subject matter experts or salespeople and write down a list of topics that need to be addressed. And anyone can look at that course content and create objectives that relate to teaching that content. This is really the only strength that I can think of. Simplicity is nice.

There is one glaring weakness with this method: How do you ensure that you have solved the right problem? If you start out by discussing what it is that you need to teach, how do you ensure that, to borrow from Stephen Covey, you are leaning your ladder against the right wall? You can evaluate the course however you want, but if you don’t start out by defining the problem, then how do you know that the successful delivery of a given set of content will solve that problem? This method puts the cart before the horse.

What is the problem? What are our objectives?

Here is a description of the second option we have in creating course objectives:

Stage Description
Initial The first questions you ask are: What do we want class participants to walk away with? What do we want to achieve in this course, at a high level?

Based on your answers to these questions, you create a list of overall objectives right off the bat.

1 Based on your objectives, you know what content you will need to create in order to satisfy those objectives. The content begins to come together pretty quickly and logically at this point.
2 Based on the content that will meet the objectives, you figure out how to create and deliver the content in a way that satisfies the objectives most directly.
3 To do this right, you just go back to the overall objectives. Does the course content get us to these objectives?

In this situation, you will know at the end of your evaluations whether or not the course was successful in solving the original business problem.

There is a higher up-front cost to using this method. You might need to have a separate, initial meeting with subject matter experts to nail down overall objectives before you can begin actually deciding what content to deliver in the course.

Recommendations

How do you move from option #1 to option #2? What if there is significant resistance to this change in your organization? What if people just want to ask, “Hey, what do we need to teach here?”

Why not start with a testing of the new method? Use the old method to create one course. This is your control group. Then use the new, objectives-focused method to create a course. When you have performed your evaluations, go back and compare the two methods, to see which actually did more to solve the problems that they were created to solve. With careful analysis, you and your management will see how much sense it makes to create objectives before thinking about what content to deliver.

We need co-managers, Love Actually style

Hey IDL friends!

I made this silly video to help get the word out that we need co-managers for the next fiscal year. Lori and I will be stepping aside and we need some fresh volunteers to participate. Please consider this need and then step up. Send an email to manager@nullstcidlsig.org to get involved.

We need co-managers, Love Actually style

Here is the text of my Labor Day cards below.  See the real video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KtVKu9CfDA

SHH! SAY IT’S LABOR DAY SINGERS

WITH ANY LUCK BY NEXT YEAR OUR SIG WILL HAVE NEW CO-MANAGERS

BUT FOR NOW, LET ME SAY WITHOUT HOPE OR AGENDA, JUST BECAUSE IT’S LABOR DAY, (AND ON LABOR DAY YOU TELL THE TRUTH) TO ME YOU ARE PERFECT AND MY WASTED HEART WILL THANK YOU IF YOU’LL STEP UP AND BE OUR SIG CO-MANAGER

IT’S A SUPER FUN JOB THAT ONLY TAKES A FEW HOURS A MONTH TO RUN OUR LEADERSHIP MEETING, APPROVE OUR EXPENSES, AND ENCOURAGE OUR MEMBERS AND VOLUNTEERS

WE HAVE MANY GREAT VOLUNTEERS

IT LOOKS GREAT ON A RESUME, COUNTS BIG ON STC FELLOW APPLICATIONS, AND LETS YOU FORM RELATIONSHIPS WITH SOME OF TECH COMM’S FINEST

AND LORI AND I WILL BE HERE TO HELP YOU SO WILL BETH, JAMYE, KELLY, MARCIA, MARALEE, SARA, SCOTT, AND SYLVIA

SO PLEASE CONSIDER BECOMING OUR NEW CO-MANAGER

HAPPY LABOR DAY!

IDL SIG Business Meeting May 21, 2018

Hey everyone who attended our business meeting at the #STC18 Summit. We're so glad you joined us.

Slides are available in a number of formats:

We also have pdf versions of the other handouts:

Join our SIG for just $10 by sending an email to Erin Gallilee  membership@nullstc.org. We would love to have you aboard!

And if you haven't yet, could you please take a minute to tell us how we did? We have a short survey with 8 easy questions.

https://goo.gl/forms/2VAjPE0aHYTGH8lR2

Thanks again for joining us. Don't be shy about contacting us with any questions, suggestions, feedback, or just to say "Hi."

Your IDL SIG volunteers, Viqui, Lori, Mellissa, Jamye, and Crista

manager@nullstcidlsig.org