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 on the MindTouch blog: Communicate the future at #STC18 and beyond.

Be a Winner With More Persuasive Presentations

Originally published on the MindTouch Blog.

Who doesn’t like to win? Unfortunately, when it comes to more persuasive presentations, chances are you haven’t earned a spot in the winner’s circle. A survey shared at PulseLocal San Diego revealed that only 14% of presentations actually drive action.

PulseLocal San Diego – presentation survey during Arthur Schwartz's presentation

Yikes.

No one wants to give (or attend) a presentation that inspires zero action. Thanks to Arthur Schwartz, we can do better! Delivering more persuasive presentations was the topic of his talk at the latest PulseLocal San Diego event.

Last things first

The key to preparation is starting from the end. Begin your prep by asking:

What is the ideal outcome of my presentation?

It’s a rookie mistake to get caught up in research, structure, or even worse— your slide design—before you hone in on what the actionable outcome should be. When people leave the room, what should they be thinking and what should their next steps be?

For a more persuasive presentation, start there and work backwards.

A strong foundation

After you have a clear vision of the outcome, you can design relevant and compelling content.

Arthur’s formula works for any type of presentation:

  1. Create a powerful story – Frame your content around a story that builds emotional engagement.
  2. Show up feeling like a winner – Use purposeful body language to reinforce positive thoughts.
  3. Engage and energize! – Connect to your audience through their pain points or personal motivation, then educate and empower them with your content.

More pro tips for A+ presos

After Arthur’s presentation, an engaging Q&A revealed other tips to help make presentations more persuasive. Here are the key takeaways.

  • Eye contact – Take moments to focus your attention on individuals for ~3 seconds. Don’t be too systematic about, though, and organically pivot your gaze around the room.
  • Authenticity – When possible, engage with folks on a personal level with individual conversations before your presentation begins. Be the same person when you get in front of the room. If you take on a different persona in “presenter mode” you’ll quickly lose that connection.
  • Comfortable silence – Allow pauses to become part of the presentation. Your audience needs those moments to mentally process your content and you’ll be less likely to use those dreaded crutch words.

Freelance Business Fundamentals – Key Takeaways

STC San Diego collaborates with SD/PEN every year to host a fall workshop. I think they keep getting better every year and this year’s workshop to Kickstart Your Home-Based Writing and Editing Business was my favorite by far.

The workshop included five expert-led presentations:

  1. Alex Bennett – Legal Basics
  2. Janina Goldberg – Time Management
  3. Martin Ceisel – Finding Clients and Copywriting
  4. Nikkie Achartz – Pricing and Profitability
  5. Allison Mellon – Digital Marketing Strategy

Top Takeaways

I have too many notes of action items and resources to list here, so I’m sharing my favorite takeaway from each session.

Legal Basics

Contracts can use overly-broad language to describe how the work you perform for your client becomes owned by them. Verbiage regarding intellectual property may say something like:

“… all processes, methodologies, inventions, enhancements, ideas, improvements, developments, modifications, derivative works, know-how, and trade secrets.”

That basically describes all-the-things! Agreeing to that type of all-encompassing language sets yourself up for risk, especially if you are pursuing personal projects or working with multiple clients at the same time.

To gain some control, first try to push back and ask for more specific contract language that describes the exact type of work you’ll be doing for the client. If they refuses to modify the language, then insist on itemizing other work to exclude.

Time Management

I asked for the cure to procrastination and learned a great tip! When you find yourself procrastinating for something important, write down the reasons you are delaying a given effort.

Forcing yourself to acknowledge why you are procrastinating identifies the root causes, which you can address more directly to give yourself the kick you need dive in.

Finding Clients

There is no excuse to not have a portfolio with at least a few quality examples of your work. Even if you are breaking into a new field, either as a new graduate or career-switcher, you have options to create a portfolio.

  • Create a Spec Ad (speculative advertisement, an ad you create on your own) or other samples just to demonstrate the specific skillset you need to highlight.
  • Volunteer for a professional association or community organization and offer your talents for something that helps them and your portfolio at the same time.
  • If your work is protected by an NDA or you don’t have permission from the intellectual property owner, create a scrubbed or modified version of the piece as an alternative.

No excuses!

Pricing and Profitability

When marketing yourself, focus on the reasons and motivations of your potential client. People are motivated to make decisions based on one of three things:

  1. Fear
  2. Pain
  3. Desire

Weave in specifics about how you can save the client time, money, aggravation, etc. If your proposal directly addresses the problem you work will solve and why you are the best person to solve it, it will be received better.

Digital Marketing Strategy

My favorite takeaway about digital marketing is something I already knew, but it’s worth repeating. Don’t over-focus on keywords for SEO gains when publishing marketing content. Search algorithms continue to evolve towards ranking based on searcher-intent and context rather than exactly matching keywords.

Google cares more about relevancy than other factors. Create content that is valuable for users—what I call effective content—and engagement will become your biggest SEO boost.

Event Follow-Up

To see parts of the workshop that were recorded, check out the YouTube playlist: 2017 Workshop – Freelance Business Fundamentals.

To be notified of future events with STC-San Diego, subscribe to the mailing list.

STC San Diego Workshop 2017

MozCon 2017 Takeaways

I’ve been a technical writer and editor for 10+ years and never imagined I’d attend a content marketing conference. Then, just a couple months into a new role with SEO and lead-gen as an important part of my responsibilities, I was lucky enough to attend MozCon 2017.

I love that my career has focused on technical support content and online self-service because being good at my job helps my company and customers at the same time – that’s still true with my new focus.

I was excited to bring back new insights to my team, which would ultimately benefit our MindTouch customers too.

Sara Feldman at MozCon 2017

 

My notes of takeaways took up 8 typed pages, but I can summarize the information-dense week with two main themes.

Focus on intent

Google AI is trying to answer questions better and quicker. It’s more important than ever to be the content you wish you found and be the best answer to the queries you seek to rank for. If you’re not the right answer to the question, Google will 86 you.

Conversely, content that doesn’t guide users to the right answer is the most disruptable. Those are your easy-target opportunities. The best strategy is to attempt to understand user intent and deliver what they need, instead of playing SEO games.

Diversify

User behavior and adaptive technology is evolving rapidly, therefore you should operate as if your biggest lead-gen source(s) could disappear tomorrow. At the same time, it’s essential to be hyper aware of resources vs. reward for each of your channels and prioritize accordingly. Users are increasingly expecting personalized experiences AND they often have different expectations on different channels.

Staying agile (and successful) requires constant testing, measuring, and tweaking. Experiment with different media types and delivery methods and don’t be afraid to take risks or be bold.

STC Summit 2017

The Technical Communication Summit is the annual conference for STC. The #STC17 Summit was May 7-10, 2017 at the Gaylord Resort at National Harbor in Washington, DC.

Highlights

  • The 2017 theme was ‘Gain the Edge to Get Results’ and spanned more than 75 different sessions during the conference.
  • The San Diego Chapter won Most Improved Community!
  • Browse through all the #STC17 Tweets.

Sara Feldman at STC17 Summit

Hot Topics

These topics either had multiple sessions or a lot of interest among conference attendees.

  • Strategies for Introverts
  • Terminology management and translation memory
  • DITA – Even if you don’t have the business case to implement DITA, more people are catching on that you can apply DITA principles to non-DITA setups, a.k.a. structured authoring.
  • Analytics & Reporting – TechComm is paying more attention to content analytics, well beyond just article feedback and ratings.
  • Journey Mapping – Capturing customer interactions has been around for a while, but this specific methodology is getting extra attention lately.
  • Accessibility and ADA Compliance – This is starting to get more attention from a content-perspective.
  • Agile Writing – 4 different sessions explored this topic.

Originally posted for STC San Diego: 2017 Technical Communication Summit Summary

How to get a job via LinkedIn

I landed my last 2 jobs via LinkedIn without even trying.

Spoiler Alert: When I say I landed these jobs “without even trying” – I mean that I wasn’t directly job hunting when these opportunities landed in my LinkedIn inbox. This process still takes effort 🙂

 

Step One – Pack your patience

This is a long game, or at least it was for my last two moves:

  • The first one happened because a recruiter found me and set up a call with the hiring manager, who I clicked with. That position was filled internally (heard that one before?), but a year later when another position opened, I was the first person she reached out to and I landed the job.
  • The second time, over a year later, another direct message on LinkedIn turned into another positive job change. This position description was never even posted online, but I was in the right place at the right time on LinkedIn.

 

How do you show up in the right place at the right time on LinkedIn? See Step Two.

 

Step Two – Do all the things

Or at least, always be doing some of the things. Even if you’re not job hunting right now. What things?

Optimize your LinkedIn profile

At least once per quarter, do a refresh to add your latest accomplishments and new key words. Learn how to consider profile SEO and prepare your profile for a job huntThe recruiter I mentioned above found me based on new key words I had just added to my profile.

Watch webinars

They are free and full of valuable info about new tools, strategies, lingo, and resources. They are also a great way to expand your network with the right people … “Hi Ms. Expert, I just watched your webinar on XYZ and I’d love to connect.” Here’s a list of free Webinars for Technical Communicators or Google [your industry] + webinar. Pro tip: If a live webinar is scheduled for a time you can’t attend, still register and you’ll likely get a link to the recording.

Network with your local professional community

I joined the leadership team of a professional chapter for my industry. If you don’t have time for that, attend events when you can. Meetup is a great place to find local events for your industry. Learn the names of people and companies to follow and then engage with them on LinkedIn.

Post, write articles, comment

Have something to say about what you do. Contribute to discussions your network is starting in their posts and articles, and they’ll be more likely to return that engagement. My most recent opportunity happened because the right person saw a relevant article I had just published on LinkedIn. You don’t need to be an Influencer to write an article that gets noticed.

 

Don’t be complacent if you’re in a good spot now. Your network and credibility is something to build over time, not switch on for a quick return after a missed promotion or unexpected layoff.

 

Recommended Reading: Jeff Goins wrote an excellent piece on Medium – “We assume great careers happen because one extraordinary person makes a big bet that pays off. That’s not how it actually works most of the time.