STC Summit 2018

The #STC18 Technical Communication Summit is the annual conference organized by the Society for Technical Communication, which took place this year in Orlando on May 20-23, 2018.

Incredibly, it was the 65th anniversary. This milestone illustrates the longevity of the STC organization. This year’s theme, Communicate the Future, exemplifies the forward-looking focus that we will all benefit from.

I attended to represent as President of the STC San Diego Chapter and to present about Future-Proof Writing – an extension of my Effective Content Framework tailored for the conference theme.

See more conference highlights on the STC San Diego blog: 2018 STC Summit – Cheers to a milestone birthday and the future!

Read more about the conference theme and industry trends: Communicate the future at #STC18 and beyond.

Communicate the Future at #STC18 and Beyond

The #STC18 Technical Communication Summit is the annual conference organized by the Society for Technical Communication, which took place this year (65th anniversary!) in Orlando on May 20-23, 2018. The theme, Communicate the Future, was all about looking forward—strategically.

What does this mean in practice?

Innovation is a habit, not an outcome

The opening keynote talk, Perpetual Innovation: How the World’s Most Innovative Teams Surface Great Ideas to Deliver Exponential Outcomes, came from Carla Johnson. It was a fitting start to the conference and an opportune topic at a time when the only constant in business is change.

Per Carla, anyone can (and should!) be innovative. The keynote resembled a pep talk from which we can all benefit. As Larry Kunz aptly summarized, “Carla charged us to observe what other brands are doing, distill the parts we can use, and relate those parts to our own brand and customers.”

It’s time to adopt a daily habit of innovation and iterative improvements.

Really, the best ideas aren’t divine. They’re refined over time. That’s what perpetual innovation helps people understand how to do. Really, how technical communicators can become those innovation factories for ideas. –Carla Johnson

Embrace new content interactions

The latest technology-powered interactions are content-fueled interactions. Google calls them micromoments. At MindTouch, we talk about smart microcontent. Essentially, content professionals have an opportunity to impact the world as technology continues to evolve.

As Aaron Fulkerson shared at LavaCon 2017, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will dramatically alter content jobs. At #STC18, we saw many examples of new content interactions:

  • The conversational user interface, in its many forms, presents new constraints and opportunities for content interactions.
  • Nicky Bleiel shared how AI can take technical content and deliver it in potentially unlimited ways. She included striking examples of how Virtual Reality is providing valuable—and life-saving—training content for military and surgical training.
  • My presentation about future-proof writing showed an example of how Augmented Reality is creating entirely new instructional content experiences.

It’s a thrilling challenge to stay connected to the latest ways that content interactions are evolving.

Content strategy is customer-focused strategy

Now that customer self-service plays a more important role than ever, we have to step up our game. Sometimes, that will mean sacrificing our preferred content standards for what’s best for users. Always, it means adopting a user-first approach to everything from how you select a knowledge management tool to how you author effective content.

How do you operationalize a customer-focused strategy?

Just like innovation, it’s an iterative and continuous process. Regardless of the technology used, you can follow a maturity model that enables your customers to self-serve through the entire customer journey.

Originally published on the MindTouch Blog.

Content 4.0 – The Next Wave of Content Experience

If you are a content professional or follow content industry trends, then you’ve probably heard a lot of buzzwords lately, including omnichannel content, Content 4.0, and microcontent.

The reality is that most of these buzzwords are different flavors of the same unstoppable trend. Consumer preferences are shaping the role of content to become more important than ever before.

Evolving the New Content Order

At LavaCon 2017, Cruce Saunders shared a forward-looking presentation about this new critical stage of content: content 4.o. He explained how to future-proof content assets to meet the demands of ever-evolving customer experiences.

Read more about themes from LavaCon 2017, or scan through Cruce’s presentation below.

Looking Forward

Content engineering practices and unified content models will help teams become more effective. As Cruce calls out in his presentation, “Our content must know more than what it looks like. It must know what it is and why it matters.”

Content interactions and intelligence are the path forward for organizations to become more customer-centric. Companies that don’t seize the opportunity to leverage content intelligence to provide more customer value will be disrupted by those that do.

Learn about the customer needs addressed by introducing smart content throughout the customer journey to differentiate your brand.

Originally published on the blog

LavaCon 2017 – Spanning Silos and Evolution

It’s exciting to be part of LavaCon 2017. This conference has truly earned its reputation for being a go-to event for Content Strategists and TechComm enthusiasts. It’s no surprise that this year’s attendance is the highest ever!

The standout themes for Day 1 were all about embracing change and the evolution of content functions.

How do you keep up with constant change? Put your customers first and develop data-driven, scalable processes to continuously optimize for your customers.

Know Your Purpose

Day 1 began with a welcome from Jack Molisani, where he gave a specific call-to-action:

  1. Know your company’s mission statement (if you don’t know it, look it up … NOW).
  2. Consider your company’s mission statement in all your takeaways.
  3. Apply your takeaways as action items to support your company’s mission statement.

Knowing your purpose and where your role fits into your bigger company vision is critical. Aaron Fulkerson further explored how a modern content professional fits into organizational functions. Good news … content is more important than ever! Content Professionals need to be agents of change to ensure that content experience adapts to customer expectations.

Hoa (pronounced “Wah”) Aldous expanded on the theme of embracing change, and Andrea Zeller demoed some fun examples of how content is fueling new virtual reality experiences.

Span Silos

The afternoon breakout sessions offered practical methods for fulfilling this year’s LavaCon theme–Spanning Silos. Building these functional bridges in your organization happens in a few ways:

  • Customer Focus – Putting the customer first is easier said than done. Personalization and data-driven processes are key to ensuring that content meets your customer’s needs.
  • Scalability – Growing efficiently requires content that can scale effectively. Structured content is critical to making your content work for you and your customers.
  • Measurable Insights – Static content experiences will continue to become more obsolete. Dated content delivery (i.e., PDFs) doesn’t serve your customer’s objectives and can’t provide the content analytics you need to evolve.

Listen To Your Customers

Hopefully you’re already benefiting from direct customer engagement. If not, build a business case for why you need to listen to your customers. Fortunately, the closing sessions on Day 1 provided excellent fuel for a strong business case.

Jon Ann Lindsey shared some valuable lessons for how listening to customers helped a little company called Google improve their help content. Stefan Gentz presented some entertaining data about customer attention spans and how Adobe adapted their technical communication strategy.

Day 1 has been a great orientation for the hottest topics impacting content today, plus methods to propel effective content optimization going forward.

While Day 1 of LavaCon urged us to embrace change and prepare for the evolution of content, Day 2 focused more on strategic thinking to start taking action.

The morning of Day 2 began with keynote sessions that set a strong tone for the rest of the day:

  • Megan Gilhooly challenged us to Think Bigger and question some of our most common assumptions.
  • Eeshita Grover inspired a room full of introverts to realize that introverts make excellent leaders.
  • Melinda Howard Belcher walked through how to engage each functional team to work together towards the same experience-first content strategy.
  • Joe Gollner beamed-in to virtually introduce Content 4.0, a theme that appeared in other sessions throughout the day.

TechComm 4.0

The morning inspired attendees to question assumptions and prepare to expand into the voice revolution. These propelling themes continued throughout the midday breakout sessions.

Presentations focused on practical workflows to enable the conveyance of content delivery through organizations. DITA, intelligent content, Information 4.0, Content 4.0, and practical methods to span silos were covered in various sessions.

Ready for what’s next

The closing sessions on Day 2 provided more guidance for expanding content into the 4.0 reality.

Hannan Saltzman made it clear that in the coming years, even page one on Google won’t be good enough anymore–yet another assumption to reconsider. The massive increase in voice searches means that many users will likely only get an answer from the top spot. He also recommended that even gated content should become optimized for voice searches.

Keith Boyd declared this the year of the MOOC. He encouraged Content Strategists to explore further learning through the MOOC format, which is growing in popularity.

Cruce Saunders rounded out the day by talking through the newer modalities for how content will be published in the 4.0 information age.

This content originally appeared on the blog: LavaCon 2017 Day 1 | LavaCon 2017 Day 2

Top Content Experience Strategist 2017

It’s a great time to be a content professional. With changes in consumer behavior and advances in technology, content has a more important role than ever.

Sara Feldman Effective Content

This is a fun space to work in with tons of reasons to keep upping our content game:

  • Effective content fuels intent-based moments, which Google coined as Micro-Moments, where consumers seek information to make a decision (know, go, do, or buy).
  • Rapidly evolving smart devices and AI-powered conversational user interfaces are dependent on new formats of effective content.
  • New data about customer effort, which is heavily influenced by effective content, shows that reducing customer effort has the strongest measurable correlation to customer loyalty.

As Patrick Bosek called out in a recent easyDITA post, these trends in consumer behavior and new technology “demand content to properly interact with us.” I love how he phrased that.

Content Influencers and Strategists List

I’m pleased to be included on a 2017 list of Top 200 Content Experience Strategists and proud to see so many familiar names from my network included on the list too!

The Top 200, as described by MindTouch:

Nominated and voted on by you, the people, this list was simply too extensive and close to keep it confined to the TOP100 as originally anticipated. This list is 100% voted on by the public and offers insight into who the industry feels are implementing an incredible Content Experience through strategic and tactical use of their self-service materials, delivering best-in-class support for their current customers and prospects alike.

The Top 25, voted on by a panel of Content Experience leaders, is a stellar list of influencers to follow. Check out the full MindTouch list of 2017’s TOP25 Content Experience Influencers and TOP200 Strategists.