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Report on the 51st Annual STC Conference — Transformation Was in the Air
2004, Q2 (June 02, 2008)
by Landra Cunningham Hester

Held in Baltimore, Maryland at the lively inner harbor, this year’s annual STC conference was an exciting gathering. As the incoming President of STC@NCSU, I had the opportunity to experience this conference for the first time. Thanks to the Carolina chapter for the scholarship that they provided me to attend it and for their continued investment in the leadership of STC@NCSU.

The foremost topic at the conference was Transformation, a term used for the changes that STC is making to keep up with the evolving technical communication profession. STC will become a global "community of communities," which will include existing chapters and SIGs as well as "virtual communities." A new membership model will contain five membership categories, each with varying features, and members can choose which type of membership they want depending on their needs. This new model promises to offer members more flexibility and more customized support.

Those coordinating the Transformation initiative hope that members will not feel unexpected effects of the change; however, they do ask that we remain patient and flexible as the organization makes changes that are essential to its survival. For more details, see www.stc.org under Transformation Initiative.

The Leadership Day and main conference sessions were great sources of information and motivation. The Leadership Day panel discussion entitled "Innovative Chapter Development Ideas" featured award-winning chapters’ creative suggestions for increasing member involvement. Their suggestions included:
  • Break large projects into small tasks
  • Have committees (there is safety in numbers!)
  • Reward volunteers
  • Show specific benefits that an individual would receive from getting involved with a project (resume builder, portfolio addition, and so on)

Members of the panel also presented what was called "The Art of Begging," or suggestions for requesting and receiving free products and services for the benefit of the chapter. They suggested:
  • Approach donors/sponsors with specific requests, not for donations in general
  • Show the incentives of giving
  • Call instead of emailing.

During the main conference, I attended a presentation on XML for writers that explained the basics. XML seems to be of major interest to technical communicators—the audience filled the chairs, sat on the floor, and stood wherever they could. XML, or eXtensible Markup Language, is a tagging language that allows users to make up their own tags.

It allows writers to focus on content, not format, describe information more precisely, and facilitate single sourcing. Presenter Tina Hedlund explained that using XML in single sourcing creates new job areas for technical communication professionals, including information architect, publishing specialist, repository manager, and consistency editor.

Landra Cunningham Hester is incoming president of STC@NCSU. She can be reached at ljcunnin at ncsu dot edu. End of article.

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