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Tri-Doc 2005: Shaping the Future of Technical Communication
2005, Q2 (February 21, 2007)
By Terry Smith

After a year and a half of preparation, Tri-Doc 2005 was held at the North Raleigh Hilton on April 8–9. Our chapter’s primary goal for the conference was to provide value, and I dare say we succeeded! As Tri-Doc 2005 Programs Manager, my view of the conference is assuredly biased, but I do want to share some information about the conference with you.

Over 220 people attended, making this our biggest STC Carolina conference so far. There were 35 sessions and a special address at lunch each day. This year’s Society president, Suzanna Laurent, gave the keynote address on Friday, while a panel of STC leaders led a no-holds-barred session on the STC transformation on Saturday. The trade show included booths from placement agencies, colleges, documentation companies, printers, professional organizations, and more. Everyone received a Tri Doc briefcase bag with a full-color program and freebies. Oh, and let’s not forget those door prizes, which had a total value of nearly $20,000!

The fee was modest; in fact, the early registration price of $125 did not cover the costs of the two-day conference (to say nothing of the $60 student price). On a case-by-case basis, we gave deep discounts to unemployed technical communicators. The biggest factor for making the conference affordable was the support we received from the 18 sponsors who subsidized the conference with cash and prizes. Keeping the price low was a big step toward our goal of providing great value.

Surely the greatest value of the conference came from the terrific sessions! The focus was on the tools and skills that would allow us learn about and even influence the changes happening in our field. XML was a big topic (in fact, we received many more XML session proposals than we accepted). Our XML sessions began with the basics of “Do I need to care about XML?” and “What is XML?” and moved to more advanced topics. As always, the tools sessions were very popular: Photoshop, Camtasia, Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Word, Dreamweaver, open source Web tools, and Flash. There were also multiple sessions for important web trends and e-learning. The best attended session? Visual Rhetoric: Some Basic Principles of Document Design, Typography, and Layout.

While planning the conference, we hoped to break even or perhaps make a profit. In the end, STC Carolina funded about $1500 of the cost. The final cost of the hotel and meals, the goodies and prizes, media services, and all the other things totaled about $50,000. I’m still collating the information from 1500 session evaluations, but the rave reviews say that Tri-Doc 2005 was a success and great value.

Lunch at Tri-Doc 2005
Lunch at Tri-Doc 2005

Terry Smith was instrumental in the success of Tri-Doc 2005, serves as programs manager for the Carolina chapter, and has been active in the FrameMaker SIG and competitions for years. She can be reached at programs at stc-carolina dot org. End of article.

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