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.


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.

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.


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


IDL SIG Honest-to-Goodness Face-to-Face Biz Mtg & Lunch Buffet

Register on Eventbrite


The Instructional Design and Learning SIG is holding its annual business meeting on Monday, May 21, 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM.

Come hear about what we offer our members, what we've accomplished during the past year, and learn how you can get involved. Get the most out of your STC membership: meet fellow SIG members face-to-face. Wondering how a SIG works, why people belong to them? Come check us out!


Celebration 4, Hyatt Orlando Hotel
9801 International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819


11:30 AM - 1:00 PM EDT


Free (but you must pre-register as we need firm numbers on May 19)


  • Cream of tomato and basil soup, oyster crackers, shaved parmesan
  • Build your own salad bar to include: sliced grilled chicken, chopped egg, kidney beans, and diced ham, mixed field greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, carrots and peppers, chef's selection of dressings
  • Freshly baked rolls
  • Assorted cookies
  • Fudge brownies
  • Freshly brewed iced tea

Come join us for soup, salad, and schmoozing at our honest-to-goodness face-to-face business meeting and lunch buffet!

Register on Eventbrite

You're personally invited!

Meet an IDLer: Viqui Dill*

By Viqui Dill and Sara Buchanan

Buckle in, you're about to learn about the wonderfully talented, funny, and experienced Viqui Dill. She has taken the time to give me a wonderfully detailed and honest interview about her life and experiences as a woman in the workforce and active member of STC.

Viqui has been an STC member since 2007 when she was newly hired at American Woodmark. She shares, "my coworker, Nancy Mule' very enthusiastically recommended the society and mentored me through the registration process. My first community affiliation was with the Washington, DC – Baltimore chapter. I remember how nervous I was when I attended my first event. But I ran into Carolyn Klinger by chance in the women's room and she put me instantly at ease. She introduced me to Annette Reilly who was the speaker for the day. I also met Helen Sydavar and we exchanged business cards. From that meeting on, I have looked forward to our face-to-face meetings and try to be more like Carolyn and put new attendees at ease."

STC Baltimore Chapter members Carolyn Klinger, Greta Buskirk, and Viqui Dill at STC17.

Currently, Viqui serves as a co-manager for the Instructional Design & Learning (IDL) Special Interest Group (SIG). Her journey with the IDL SIG started in 2012 when her and Robert Hershenow were both members of the Rough Drafts band and presenters in the instructional design progression session. Robert invited her to the SIG based on the content of her presentation and explained that they were looking for someone to take over the webinar programs. Viqui shares, "Robert was co-managing with Mellissa Ruryk and I loved their leadership style, empowering volunteers to do whatever best used their strengths. I love putting on the webinars because it's a platform for showing off the great rock stars of our field and sharing great information with the community. I always learn something and I get a chance to get to know the presenters in the process."


IDL SIG Receiving the Platinum STC Community Award at STC17

Viqui is "a bad ass bass player. Bass is the most bad ass of all instruments." She played at #STC17 with the Rough Drafts! She even shared proof:


The Rough Drafts at STC17
Viqui Playing Bass for The Rough Drafts

Viqui works at American Woodmark as a Technical Communication Leader supporting infrastructure projects that touch all the employees at the company. She reports directly to the CIO and "works with and learns from some of the smartest, sharpest folks from all across the company, from Sacramento to Orlando." She continues, "I have the best job ever. My company has an annual President’s Award for projects that have a big impact on the way we do business. I’ve worked on two winning teams that were recognized by the company president, one for Quality, and another for our builder service centers. It’s great to be a part of a winning team and even better when the team gets recognized by the president. Also, my company has a very strong culture of caring. We have a number of committees that ensure we walk the talk. I am a member of a team that sets up monthly lunch and learn sessions that give employees an opportunity to tell their own personal and professional stories. The speakers are so candid and the sessions are so heart-warming that I love working on this team."

Viqui took her first tech writer job at BMC software. She was working as a software developer and wasn't enjoying it when her friend, Mary Boyd, invited her to apply to a tech writer job. Viqui shares, "I loved the work immediately and enjoyed staying in the technical world without having to write the code. I'm an extrovert and the additional opportunities for human interaction were a good fit."

Her journey includes a BS from Virginia Tech in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research where she learned to think analytically and pull apart problems into manageable pieces. Her education continues through her work with STC where, according to her, "I learn something from y’all most every day. We have our Summits and regional conferences (I’m going to Interchange and Conduit this year). We have webinars. We have social media. You teach me leadership skills, project management, learning theory, practical hands-on tips, and tool mastery. You pretty much mentor me through the whole tech comm process." American Wookmark, her workplace, recognizes the value of her STC membership and involvement as the best way to develop and sustain her job skills. She continues, "I am lucky to work for a company that supports my professional development by covering my membership, event attendance, and some of my volunteer time."

Viqui told me that if she could give advice to herself she wouldn't "take things so seriously. My biggest mistakes have been made when I was thinking that something was a big deal when it really wasn’t."

I asked Viqui how the Tech Comm industry has changed throughout her career to which she responded, "We have gotten lighter, tighter, and much much faster. We no longer produce paper manuals so there’s an expectation of getting a quick turnaround on projects that didn’t use to happen. And crowdsourcing is possible because we can get our user communities involved. And because we have our online tech comm communities, I have so many more resources available to me. I think y’all have made me smarter every year as I hang out in the online #TechComm world."

She shares the struggles she's experienced as a leader,"Leading volunteers is tricky. You’ve got to be willing to be the one who does jobs nobody else wants to do. You’ve got to love love love the folks who are willing to walk with you. That’s why STC is so great. We have great leaders and they set a great example for the rest of us to follow. Servant leadership works every time." I work with her in the IDL SIG and I can attest to her wonderful leadership and true appreciation for the work everyone does.

Viqui further shares her experiences as a woman in the workforce, "So one of the reasons I love tech comm over programming and engineering is because we’re female friendly. When I’m struggling to earn the respect of a colleague at work, I try to keep in mind the overwhelming respect I receive in STC and also here at work from my supportive management. We do eventually win people over and having the support is so important. We’ve come a long way (baby). Read this blog post about my own personal harassment story that happened back in 1978."

When asked about how she maintains work/life balance, Viqui shares, "I’m an energetic empty nester. I raised my son and I raised my husband and now it’s time to raise myself. I say “yes” a lot. Volunteering is fun and energizing. Plus, I get to work with a lot of smart and talented people as I volunteer." And, my personal favorite, "I only wear comfortable shoes."

Thank you Viqui!


*This article was first published by Northeast Ohio Society for Technical Communication. See: http://neostc.org/cmswp/in-the-spotlight-viqui-dill/