Vol 44, Issue 6

July/August 2005

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STC Houston Receives Honors at STC Annual Conference

by George Slaughter, Senior Technical Writer, The Integrity Group

STC Houston garnered its share of recognition at the 52nd STC Annual Conference in Seattle by receiving the coveted Chapter of Distinction Award for the third time in the past five years.

The Chapter of Distinction Award is the highest award that a chapter can receive. STC presents this award at its annual conference to the most outstanding chapter by chapter membership size. STC Houston is in the second largest category, with members in the Greater Houston area, the Bryan-College Station area, and Louisiana.

This award marks the sixth consecutive year in which STC Houston has received either a Chapter Achievement or Chapter Pacesetter Award, and the thirteenth time in chapter history in which STC Houston has received such recognition. STC Houston also received Chapter of Distinction Awards in 2001 and 2002. In 2003 the chapter received both a Chapter of Excellence and Chapter Pacesetter Award, and in 2004 the chapter received a Chapter of Excellence Award. Congratulations to chapter President Cindy Pao and her administrative council of Lisa Alvarado, Mary Gwynne, Linda King, Angela Livingston, David Remson, Jennifer Smith, Rebecca Taylor, Monica Waddell, Jocelyn Williams, and Nicole Wycislo for their leadership this year!

In another chapter achievement, the Houston newsletter team received an Award of Excellence for Dateline Houston in the STC Newsletter Competition. Congratulations to chapter vice president and newsletter managing editor Nicole Wycislo and her team of Luette Arrowsmith, Cathy Bettoney, Melanie Boston , Linda Branam, Jamie Diamandopoulos, Jim Hunt, and Rebecca Taylor, for their leadership and success!

In other awards, two STC Houstonians, Patricia J. Bishop and Melanie G. Flanders, received STC Associate Fellow honors for their years of service to the profession and Society. Associate Fellow honors are conferred only on senior members who have attained distinction in the field of technical communication. Moreover, this honor is not applied for by those honored. Instead, Associate Fellows receive this honor by being nominated by their peers. Congratulations to Pat and Melanie, and thanks to STC Houston Immediate Past President Jocelyn Williams for her leadership in organizing the nominations!

For more information about Pat and Melanie, see the related articles in this issue of Dateline Houston.

Highlights of the 2005 STC Annual Conference

Cindy Pao, Information Developer, BMC Software, Inc.

The 52nd Annual Conference, held May 8 through 11, has wrapped up in Seattle, Washington, so here's a report to tell you just what I experienced!

I attended sessions on Leadership Day (Sunday, May 8), as well as technical sessions on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. I have notes, handouts, and a Proceedings CD with most of the information from all the sessions I attended. If you'd like me to share any of this information, let me know!

Leadership Day

As a returning chapter president, I attended Leadership Day to represent our chapter and to gather some more knowledge from other chapter leaders.

The opening session speaker was Rob Ziegler, who used stories from his mountain-climbing expeditions to talk about leadership. His presentation included some breathtaking pictures, poetry quotes, and tips to help us become and remain strong leaders.

Later that morning, the incoming and outgoing Board members handed out community awards. STC Houston won a Chapter of Excellence award! Yipee!

Still later that morning, I attended the leadership progression during which three topics were offered: Community Finances, Transformation Update, and a Community Mind Meld.

After lunch, the STC Houston group broke up to attend the various breakout sessions. Since STC Houston has finished the rechartering process, I participated in the “Rechartering – We Made It! More Value for More Members” session and also attended the “STC Transformation Value for Students” session.

Community Mind Meld

Linda Oestreich organized this session so that one chapter president and one Special Interest Group (SIG) manager would moderate at each table. The discussion at the table was about ideas and activities that both SIGs and the chapter have completed, and how we could better work together. I found out about some activities that other chapters have completed:

•  STC booth at job fairs
•  STC booth at book fairs
•  Members donate tech comm books to the chapter; the chapter donates those books to tech comm students
•  Joint kick-off meetings with other professional organizations in the area

STC Transformation Value for Students

If you are a student member of STC, did you know that you can join an unlimited number of SIGs? You can also sign up as a member of your geographic community in addition to your student community. So, if you know a student member, bring her to a meeting; encourage him to join all of the SIGs. This marvelous opportunity is available only to student members, so we need to encourage them to take advantage of their membership while they can!

Technical Sessions

The technical sessions are really the heart and soul of the conference. The topics range in difficulty from very basic to advanced and cover such a wide range of subjects! I was lucky enough to cover several areas of personal interest. Here are my favorite sessions.

STC Academic Community Issues: Part I—Education

Several faculty members from various technical communication programs gathered to talk about the new academic community in STC. I am interested in this community for two reasons: first, I want STC Houston to draw in more of the students in our area; second, I'll be heading back to school after the 2005–2006 program year, and I want to know how the academic community and the professional community interact.

The members of this panel talked about how chapters can provide value to students:

• Giving schools input as to industry needs and skills
• Providing program reviews for the tech comm programs at local schools
• Providing chapter members for student advisory boards
• Sharing job descriptions or profiles
• Supporting undergraduate and graduate research

Geographic communities can also nominate students to Sigma Tau Chi and Alpha Sigma, the Society's two honorary societies for students.

Presentation Skills

Fabien Vais gave a great presentation about making presentations! This session was a good session for beginners. He covered choosing your topic if you can, preparing an outline, how to research your topic (whether you have chosen the topic or it has been imposed on you), organizing your materials, writing your script, and designing the presentation itself (you don't always have to use PowerPoint).

Fabien also gave some good tips for using PowerPoint that included text size and how many slides you should present per minute (1-2).

Last in the session, Fabien talked about behavior during a presentation. He advocates practicing the presentation ahead of time, familiarizing yourself with the room, and having at least one backup plan.

I enjoyed this session because the information is so practical and because, while Fabien did talk about PowerPoint, he didn't focus the session on it. The PowerPoint tips toward the end of the presentation were the right amount of material about the software.

The Three Laws of Communication

Jean-luc Doumont presented his take on good communication. Why three laws? Because 3 is “the simplest complexity.” With three laws, we should be able to get our audience to pay attention, understand, and be able to act upon what we've told them.

Jean-luc's three laws are as follows:

• Adapt to your audience.
• Maximize the signal to noise ratio.
• Use effective redundancy.

This was the first session I've attended with Jean-luc Doumont, and I really enjoyed it. He's a good presenter, and he covered the subject well.

Honors Banquet

Hands down, this was my favorite part of the conference. This year, the members of STC Houston filled two whole tables at the banquet, and I think that's awesome. After surf and turf for dinner, the STC Board handed out awards. Pat Bishop and Melanie G. Flanders received their Associate Fellow plaques and recognition. And then… STC Houston takes the Distinguished Chapter award!

Dancing followed the banquet, and I think I have a picture of Jim Hunt sporting a feather boa!

Other Sessions

Here are the other sessions I attended:

• “Envisioning Science” by Felice Frankel
• “Innovation, Excellence, and Survival” by Vanadis M. Crawford and Lee French
• “Developing Technical Graphics: A Hands-on Workshop” by Heidi Mirka
• “Using Rhetorical Figures in Technical Writing” by Valerie M. Ball and Patricia A. Heuser
• “Object-oriented Programming Essentials for Technical Communicators” by Shawn Stephens
• “Effective Slides: Design, Construction, and Use” by Jean-luc Doumont
• “Online Learning Environments: Using Weblogs and Videos” by Nancy L. Hoagland, Karen Kasonic, Emma J. Rose, and Jon Speights

Keep in Touch

If you'd like to look at any of my notes, handouts, or the proceedings CD, let me know. You can send me an e-mail at president@stc-houston.org.

Copyright © 2006 Houston Chapter, Society for Technical Communication
P.O. Box 42051, Houston, TX 77242-2051 | 713-706-3434