Friday, May 7, 2010

STC 2010 - A short walk from history.

For the first time in many years I wasn't chained to a vendors booth during the STC Summit, which meant as well as presenting, I could actually take time to sit in on many other sessions, and have lengthy hallway (and coffee shop) conversations.


What struck me about this year's Summit was how upbeat it felt in contrast to recent years. There was, at least to me, a definite feeling that the STC, and the industry itself, had weathered a crisis and was heading in the right direction. Yes there are still challenges to face, but there is definite light at the end of the tunnel.

There was less talk this year about jumping on to the latest production technology fad, and a lot more about considering our audience and answering their needs. As Anne Gentle put it during one panel, "it's about answers, not about documentation."

[Although one technology fad that was pretty much a constant - was the use of Twitter - used as both a communications tool and a way to post notes and ideas from sessions it added another valuable layer to the conference experience.]

I was also pleased to see that on the whole the attendees realized that as the industry is changing, so they need to. There were very few with the crossed-arms defensive "I am a technical writer" posture; most of the people I spoke to, and the audiences in the sessions I attended, realized that this is the perfect time to make yourself even more valuable by adding new skills and re-evaluating and realigning your role. Be it Information Architect, Community Manager, User Experience Designer, Multi-Media Producer, or something else, there is great opportunity out there for skilled and open minded technical communicators.

Each time I visited the expo floor it seemed busy, and all the vendors I spoke to were very happy with both the constant traffic flow and the questions they were being asked.

When I set out for the conference I had delusions that I would get an hour or so each evening to sit in my hotel room and write - it didn't happen. Literally from breakfast at 7:00am to crashing at 11:00pm each night, it was pretty much constant conversation and learning. All the presentations I attended were excellent and the two panels I participated in were great fun. I know the panel format was a bit of an experiment this year, but I hope that it returns for future conferences.


The conference was held at the Hyatt Regency in Dallas, and was just a couple of blocks from the infamous Dealy Plaza, site of the Kennedy assassination. (in fact I could see the plaza from my hotel room - see photo above.) Hence my title about being a short walk from history. But I also believe that the profession itself is now also a short walk away from its own history. It faced a crisis over the last 12 months that it has endured and come through, and we are now on the first steps of a new direction. What direction that new history takes, will be up to us as a profession, and us as individuals, as to how we adapt and embrace the new challenges awaiting us.


2 comments:

Larry said...

Thanks for sharing your impressions of the Summit, Alan. I'm very glad that you found the atmosphere to be upbeat. (I sometimes have a hard time gauging that sort of thing.)

I did see less of the cross-armed, defensive posture, just as you did. That's a very healthy sign for our profession.

Great photo. It portrays the geography of the building, the grassy knoll, and the street. I couldn't bring myself to visit, though. The memory of that day still chills my blood.

Karen said...

This is a very informative post for someone who did not attend the conference. I want to know about the sessions, but I am almost more keen to hear about the atmosphere and the buzz. The sessions are the reason for the conference, but sometimes it's as though the chat in the corridors is what it is really all about! After an "Annus horribilis" for STC, your account gives hope. All nicely written, of course! (Crossing my fingers for Sacramento.)