Unpacking My Takeaways from #STC11

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Unpacking My Takeaways from #STC11

Category:Infosec Communicator,STC,STC Rochester,Summit,techcomm,Uncategorized Tags : 

Open SuitcaseIt’s been a little less than two weeks since the Society for Technical Communication Summit in Sacramento ended. Summit was an intensive four day immersion in the multifaceted profession of technical communications. I wanted to share what I found really important about the event, before the memories fade. I’ll start unpacking my takeaways here and in future posts.

I hope you’ll take the opportunity to discuss what I’m unpacking and share what you unpacked when you got home by commenting on this post!

Here’s my Top Ten list of takeways:

  1. The strength (and pride) of STC lies in its communities. Over the last few years there have been questions about the value that geographic chapters provide in an era when people are increasingly connected online. The Pacesetter Awards show that innovation comes from the grassroots level, whether from a geographic chapter or SIG. Some of the communities have done outstanding work in building and documenting solutions that can be applied across STC. For example, the Carolina chapter broke new ground in providing webinars for their geographically diverse membership and in partnering with Southeastern Michigan and Rochester to co-deliver online content.
  2. Relationships between communities bear fruit. STC recognized several chapters and SIGs with Community Achievement Awards and Pacesetter Awards. What I found interesting about the communities receiving the awards was that key leaders of these communities consulted with, counseled, mentored, and exchanged ideas with each  other. These awards aren’t a competition. The recipients found ways to build each other up during the year. My conversations with community leaders during the year sparked much of what the Rochester chapter accomplished and helped us move forward in unanticipated ways.
  3. STC will continue to move forward as it provides value, although with an increasingly new base. Although I believe membership is down slightly from last year, STC is operating in the black and is continuing to add new members. (Personally, I believe the tide has turned.) The launch of key initiatives such as certification and MySTC should have a continuing impact as we move forward.
  4. Twitter played (and will continue to play) a key role at Summit. Twitter was used in two chief ways at Summit: to tweet and retweet session content and to facilitate face-to-face networking opportunities. The Twitter stream using the #stc11 hashtag provided an easy way to find out what was happening. There were more than 5000 tweets associated with the #stc11 hashtag in less than a week. That’s a lot of communication.
  5. There are some really committed and capable people in and moving into community leadership. I’m very impressed with the earnestness and ability of the people I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with during Leadership Day and afterwards. I’ve only gotten to know the leadership of Toronto, Philadelphia, Carolina, and Southeastern Michigan at all well. What I’m seeing in those chapters is encouraging and demonstrates a desire to serve their members and to  strengthen STC as a whole. They’re not in it for their own glory. They’re in it to make us better.
  6. Leadership Day provides a foundation of knowledge and, more importantly, connections for new community leaders. I can’t overstress the importance of Leadership Day for the new and current leaders. Last year, I found the sessions explaining the intricacies of community leadership for new leaders absolutely critical to moving our chapter forward. This year I was able to participate in the progressions where community leaders shared their insights for success (and their struggles), providing sparks for new ideas and solutions for overcoming common, but vexing issues we face. Although I didn’t know it at the time, the connections I made at Leadership Day last year became my chief contacts in discussing issues and opportunities at the community level.
  7. MySTC can play a key role in strengthening community. MySTC provides a social networking platform on which members (and invitees) can share ideas, “friend” each other, create discussion and task groups, share photos and videos, and CONNECT with other members. We’re still figuring out how to use it. It’s not perfect, but it’s really great to have an easy way to connect with members outside and inside our current communities. The innovators among us will jump in and determine ways for us to work collaboratively.
  8. The vote on student membership rights at the business meeting was profound. Student members of STC were never enfranchised to vote in international elections, although their rights varied at the community level. The business meeting saw discussion and a vote on a proposed amendment to give them the vote. The proponents for student voting rights spoke passionately when presenting their arguments for passage of the student voting amendment. Opponents, although fewer, were articulate in their defense of the status quo. The amendment required a two-thirds vote of the members present. The amendment passed handily and the atmosphere in the room was charged. I did not expect the feeling of accomplishment we had when the amendment was approved.
  9. Certification may help the profession, especially by providing credentials for technical communicators who do not have degrees that relate clearly to the profession. I have degrees in anthropology, church history, and am ABD on my PhD in early modern European history. This is not obvious preparation for a career in technical communications. I was concerned about credentials so that I could get past initial screenings. Certification can provide credentials for those of us who have “non-standard” educational backgrounds.
  10. The content of the sessions at Summit was great. Isn’t it interesting that the content at Summit was the last thing I listed in my top ten? I enjoyed (and learned something in) almost all of the sessions I attended. However, for me the chief benefit of the conference was establishing and strengthening connections. These people are my techcomm tribe. They get it.
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Ray Gallon

June 13, 2011at 4:35 pm

Ben, thanks for posting this, and especially for the comments about Leadership Day.

I agree with all your points, particularly about the new member base and about the session content being number 10 on your list. For a look at some of these questions through another facet of the crystal, you might want to check out the post I just put on my own blog:

“My sister didn’t go to the STC Technical Communication Summit. I did. Here’s how it happened.” which you can reach at


It talks about only one aspect of the conference, your point 10 – and how that is an important part of attracting the new base.


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Closing Thoughts on a Year Done Well | STC Rochester Chapter

June 13, 2011at 3:45 pm

[…] Unpacking My Takeaways from #STC11 (benwoelk.wordpress.com) […]

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So, what’s all this hubbub about MySTC? | STC Rochester Chapter

June 4, 2011at 1:54 am

[…] Unpacking My Takeaways from #STC11 (benwoelk.wordpress.com) […]

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Tricia Spayer

June 2, 2011at 8:45 am

Hi Ben,
this is great! Thanks for sharing. I couldn’t agree with you more. I also believe communities are the key to STC’s strength and future growth.
I’m also glad you mentioned the importance of Leadership Day, and I also look forward to working with you more in the upcoming year.
STC Director
2011-2012 CAC Co-Chair

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Mary Knepper

June 2, 2011at 7:57 am

Great summary of your Summit experience! As others have said, your ideas and experiences parallel mine. All of us who know you or subscribe to the Rochester LinkedIn benefit from your insight and energy. Rock on!
Past president of the East TN Chapter

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Vici Koster-Lenhardt

May 31, 2011at 1:26 pm

Ben, I’m so happy to see such great press about Leadership Day! I couldn’t have wished for better outcomes!! I enjoyed finally meeting you in person and look forward to working with you this year.

Warm regards,
2011 Leadership Day Co-Manager
2011-2012 CAC Co-Chair

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    Ben Woelk

    May 31, 2011at 2:24 pm

    Hi Vici,
    I know I’m starting to sound like a Leadership Day shill, but I really do think it’s valuable! Looking forward to working with you as well. (I have lots of ideas!)

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Ben Woelk

May 31, 2011at 12:18 pm

Hi Kai,
Thanks for commenting. I think there’s a lot of data mining to be done with the tweets. I’ve only skimmed the surface in what I’ve looked at. It would be interesting to see how the tweets tie to specific sessions during the conference. Of course, with a fairly small number of people being responsible for a high percentage of tweets, that data is going to depend on what they attended.

In the comments around my earlier post about Twitter use at the conference, we discussed the pros and cons of both tweeting during sessions and assigning a specific “tweeter” to each session. We did this at #security11, but only to one room.

I don’t see any problem with the retweets as they may have helped draw readers to the #stc11 hashtag.

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May 31, 2011at 11:56 am

Hi, Ben, thanks for sharing! I didn’t attend the STC Summit, so I’m making up by reading tweets and blog posts like yours.

I saw a lot of the stc tweets, I’m estimating 10-20% of the 5000. However, apart from the ones about O’Reilly’s keynote, I found the noise ratio higher than at other conferences I attended or didn’t attend. Many were about sessions beginning or cheerleading (“So and so is totally nailing it…”) or RTs.

Maybe it has to do with the cross section of tweets I saw, but I was missing the play-by-play key point tweets that made twitter so valuable during other conferences. Just my impression.

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Tony Chung

May 31, 2011at 11:52 am

Ben: Your posts are always insightful. You touched on a lot of the same ideas that, had I the time this year, would have written in my own blog post. I also found that communication and community to be a big deal, and learned a lot more from the few Leadership Day sessions I attended than I originally expected.

Being as far away from head office as we can in North America, it is easy to feel alienated and develop opinions on the board’s position that are counter to their actual belief. Leadership Day is an opportunity for everyone to get on the same initial starting point, and discuss ideas for moving forward. If necessary, these meetings could follow with a vote at the business meeting.

I hope we make better effort to live stream Leadership Day next year, and provide two-way communication for more virtual participation.

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    Ben Woelk

    June 1, 2011at 3:04 pm


    In my opinion, Leadership Day has the potential to be the most important part of the conference in building strong communities–foundations, innovation, and an opportunity to build key connections who can help you weather the upcoming year.

    I believe there are plans for virtual leadership meetings this coming year.

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