I just listened to a recording of Saul Carliner’s presentation from the 2012 TCANZ Conference, and I remembered anew what a wonderful experience it was to be at the conference and hear Saul discuss the past, present, and future of the technical communication brand.
The noun conference comes (via Middle French) from the Latin verb conferre “to bring together”; figuratively “to compare; consult, deliberate, talk over”. This seems like a luxury in our busy working lives – but conferences provide a special opportunity to hear local and international speakers, compare notes, discuss ideas, and reflect on our profession and day-to-day practice.
Organisations such as the Society for Technical Communication (STC) and TCANZ are vital for each and every technical communicator. Not every technical communicator needs to be on the executive, but membership of the professional body is terribly important. With membership, there is no minimum level of active participation – you can just pay the subscription and ignore the emails that come in. It’s like many things though – the more you put in, the more you get out. By attending workshops and branch meetings, you give heart to the individuals creating these events, and you contribute to the sense of professional community, and you make yourself available to the network (as a mentor, speaker, employable resource, friend…). You take away new ideas, learn new skills, or even just receive confirmation that you’re on the right track. You get to meet others in the profession, find out where the job opportunities are, get yourself known, and so on.
Why does any of this matter? There are so many reasons. If we don’t behave like people with a common interest and common things to learn and share, we won’t see ourselves as a professional community. And if we don’t see ourselves as a professional community, we can’t really expect others to see us that way.
In his presentation, Saul takes us through a whirlwind journey from early days of technical communication, before it was a recognised profession, to where we are today. He looks at where our work fits into the larger communication picture – how we differ from our colleagues in PR, Training and Development, and so on. He makes the point that the world of communications is changing rapidly, and that there are huge opportunities for technical communicators, but that we need to understand our point of difference and be careful about how we position ourselves.
I think his whole presentation is worth listening to, and you can in fact view it on the TCANZ YouTube channel. To give you a taste though, I thoroughly recommend Saul’s discussion of:
- information architecture and content strategy opportunities – they’re there, but they aren’t ours for the taking (2 min 49 s)
- what you can do to develop and strengthen the technical communication brand (3 min 56 s)
When and where are we conferring next, I hear you ask? The 2014 TCANZ Conference is in Christchurch, 13 – 15 October. We have some fabulous local and international speakers lined up, and are looking forward to welcoming all conference goers with a good measure of southern hospitality and plenty of food for thought.