I’ll be speaking at the following events this winter and spring. Watch for my presentation materials on SlideShare.
January 9: HEISC (Higher Education Information Security Council), Town Hall. Recording available.
January 30: Bullet Proofing Your Career Online (with Hannah Morgan, @careersherpa), ABCPNG (Always Be Connecting Power Networking Group), First Unitarian Church, Rochester, New York
Description: What are the 10 key steps to building and securing your online reputation? A security professional and a career sherpa provide their perspectives on how to create an online presence that enhances and promotes your career safely and effectively.
April 23rd: Bullet Proofing Your Career Online (with Hannah Morgan, @careersherpa), STC Rochester Spectrum Conference, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York
April 24th: Leadership Day, STC Rochester Spectrum Conference, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York
Facilitating the event and the panel discussion
May 17: Engage! Creating a Meaningful Security Awareness Program (with Cherry Delaney, Purdue University), EDUCAUSE Security Professionals Conference 2012, Indianapolis, IN
Abstract: This session will help attendees identify available resources and tools and determine the steps needed to create an engaging security awareness program. We’ll share how to integrate social media, video and other resources in an effort to reach a variety of audiences. We’ll also discuss how to leverage security incidents to create opportunities for engagement with your community. We’ll conclude the session by helping you plan a series of targeted activities for a high profile event such as the National Cyber Security Awareness Month.
May 20: Communications Liftoff! Rocketing your Community to the Stars, Leadership Day progression, STC Summit, Rosemont, IL
May 21: Bullet Proofing Your Career Online (with Hannah Morgan), STC Summit, Rosemont, IL
May 23: Shockproofing Your Use of Social Media 2012, STC Summit, Rosemont, IL
It’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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Twitter Use at #STC11 Summit (benwoelk.wordpress.com)
- Why Professional Conferences Matter (benwoelk.wordpress.com)
- Determining our Value Proposition (benwoelk.wordpress.com)
- STC Rochester Named Community of Excellence (stc-rochester.org)
Society for Technical Communication Summit Conference Leadership Day Presentation, May 15, 2011
Join the discussion on MySTC at http://ow.ly/51WfG
I’ve heard a lot of discussion recently that professional conferences aren’t needed anymore because of the inter-connectivity afforded by the Internet. Why is it reasonable to spend hundreds or even a couple of thousand dollars to attend a face-to-face conference?
Over the last week, I’ve been part of the leadership teams for and attended two conferences, the STC Rochester Spectrum regional technical communications conference and the EDUCAUSE Security Professionals Conference in San Antonio. It’s been an incredible experience.
Here’s what I’ve found:
- Spectrum provided an opportunity for me to meet face-to-face with people I’ve been talking to via social networking for almost a year. This is important because I was able to have indepth conversations with key leaders about critical issues affecting our profession. These conversations wouldn’t have been viable in social media. They may have been doable through Skype or phone, but the ability to read the nuances of a conversation when you’re not together is really difficult.
- Spectrum also provided STC Rochester an opportunity to showcase our abilities (and to have those abilities affirmed by other community and society leaders.) It was important for our chapter to understand our connections and I think our membership was “blown away” that international leadership would attend. We were truly honored.
- Spectrum provided state of the art content in technical communications. In the sessions I facilitated, Kristi Leach was able to test a usability session with peers and gain invaluable feedback and Hannah Morgan provided a fresh look at the importance of social networking in your branding and in your career. Other speakers presented key information about current tools and the future of our profession.
The Security Professionals conference allowed me to see (way too briefly) colleagues that I speak with on conference calls and work with, but from a distance of thousands of miles. We’ve become friends and it’s great to be able to unwind with a team that’s worked hard together all year.
- The Security Professionals conference gave me the opportunity to present with a panel of fellow practitioners that are remediating private information at our respective universities. It gave our audience an opportunity to hear how four schools are tackling similar problems and the “unvarnished” truth of the stuggles we’ve faced and inroads we’ve made. This was invaluable to our attendees, because they could ask questions and establish the networking contacts that will save them time and dollars as they tackle similar problems. We become resources for each other.
- The Security Professionals conference also allowed me to work in tandem with Cherry Delaney of Purdue University, my former co-chair of the Awareness and Training Working group. We were able to share with a group of ISOs, information security practitioners (and even a CIO) the steps needed to create a holistic strategic Security Awareness plan and share examples of how we’ve approached the task of educating end users. We were also able to work with them in small groups to develop specific steps and put together the beginnings of an action plan.
The interaction at a professional conference is one of the key enablers to moving forward in your profession, becoming “unstuck” when you’re out of ideas, and establishing a network of contacts to help each other.
This interaction was helped by the fact that the conferences were of a size (120 and 350) where you could actually see the same people in several venues. Large conferences don’t always allow for that.
For me, professional conferences matter.
What do you get out of them?
Change is necessary but change is uncomfortable.
We should ignore the past. We should value the past. We should just do it. We should learn from past efforts. Do we dash forward, make our mistakes and sort things out as we go? Do we assess the path forward and move carefully down it? How strong should our sense of urgency be? How fast can and should we move forward? How do we mold individual desires into a shared vision?
We need to attract new members. We want to retain existing members. We have many senior members who have contributed faithfully to STC Rochester. We have new members who may not know our past but who are willing to pour themselves into redefining our organization and positioning ourselves for the future.
I’m trying to find a path that allows us to retain the distinctiveness of what has made us STC Rochester while moving to a model that is sustainable and will foster growth. Part of this path forward includes implementing a marketing strategy. We’ve received our marketing plan from Neil Hair’s RIT Marketing Concepts class. The plan identifies key opportunities and strategies for growth. We’ve set up a subgroup to study the plan and bring forward recommendations to our October council meeting.
Our kickoff meeting is September 21st. We’re inviting prospective members and want to be sure we can articulate why they should join STC. There is a good bit of angst surrounding this.
We need to remember to have fun.
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