Trip Report—STC 51st Annual Conference
by Jocelyn Williams, STC Houston Immediate Past President and Independent Consultant
Are you seeking training and networking opportunities? Then consider conferences as the places for such opportunities. Last May, Navigating the Future of Technical Communication , STC's 51st Annual Conference in Baltimore, Maryland , offered plenty to satisfy one's professional development goals in technical communication.
On Leadership Day, incoming STC President Andrea Ames announced that her theme would be “Member Value.” This STC focus confirmed that the 2003 – 2004 STC Houston theme “Providing Value” was right on target! Leadership Day included sessions on programming planning, conference coordination, chapter leadership, volunteer recruitment, and the transformation initiative.
In order to remain a premier organization that provides value to its membership, STC must examine the membership's needs and restructure to best meet those needs. STC must “transform” itself to better educate the public about the profession and offer greater member value. STC has formed committees to look at areas such as:
Our transformation won't occur overnight; it will take time. Members should be open-minded, remain informed, and provide recommendations that will strengthen our Society.
Highlights of the conference also included the recognition of STC Houston as a Chapter of Excellence. STC Houston has been a Chapter Achievement Award recipient for several years. The Society applauds our efforts, and we set a high standard for others.
The Honors Reception and Banquet, a formal gala that honors the Society's newly elected fellows and associate fellows, included recognition of our own Jim Hunt. He is most deserving of this honor.
Ben Shneiderman, author of Leonardo's Laptop: Human Needs and the New Computing Technologies, kicked off the conference as the Opening Session speaker. He stressed the importance of focusing on human, not product, capabilities in design.
My greatest difficulty came in deciding which of the myriad technical sessions to attend. The technical sessions were jam-packed with presentations covering five areas of interest to technical communicators:
• Usability & Information Design
• Theory, Research, Education, and Training
• Tools andTechnology
• Writing and Editing
George Slaughter and I copresented a session entitled, “Web Site Usability Testing Demystified.” The session, which targeted those new to Web usability or those needing a refresher, covered Web usability basics: type of tests, navigation, the planning and conducting of a test, analysis of test results, and preparation of a test report. Several attendees “performed” their own usability tests on the eight STC Region Web sites. We received excellent feedback from attendees on our evaluations (STC's form and our form).
For the valuable professional development sessions and networking contacts, you won't find much that's comparable to the STC Annual Conference. Make plans to attend the next one scheduled for May 2005 in Seattle, Washington. It's a smart, strategic investment!