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.

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