Why isn’t STC at ASTD?

The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) is holding its conference here in Atlanta this week. One of the exhibitors sent me a badge so that I could visit the Exposition Hall. This morning I drove down to the Georgia World Congress Center to check out the booths. I hope we hold the STC conference there in 2009 because it’s a beautiful facility! My pass entitled me to a free lunch, so I reviewed the exhibitor list carefully as I munched my grilled chicken ceasar.

ASTD is a larger, wealthier organization than STC, and it’s about 10 years older as well. The cost of joining is only slightly higher than STC, but their big bucks come from their programs and sponsors. High-powered corporate trainers are likely to be members as well as instructional designers, HR people, and technical trainers. I’m providing this context so that you’ll understand why they had about 5 times as many exhibitors as we did at the STC Summit in Minneapolis.

As I paged through the exhibitor list, I noticed several professional organizations including PMI, the American Society for Quality, and the Society for Human Resource Management. Where was STC? Technical trainers today must be good technical communicators, obviously. They would benefit from membership in STC as much as they do from ASTD. ASTD has a more technical conference that they hold in January each year. STC should be an exhibitor there, too. For that matter, shouldn’t we have invited these organizations to exhibit at the STC Summit? 

STC is still suffering from Tina-the-tech-writer syndrome — a rigid, insular view of who we are and where we stand in relation to others. I plan to write a note to the Society about this. Our strategic goals include more marketing as well as partnering with other organizations and ASTD offered an opportunity to do both. By participating in the events of other organizations, we can learn a lot.

Eventually, it would be nice to work out a sister organization program or partnership. Here’s how it could work: if you are a member of STC, you could also join ASTD, PMI, or a similar professional organization at 1/2 price (or something like that). We could provide discounts to each other’s conferences and programs as well. Maybe it’s a pipe dream, but it could benefit everyone if it was handled correctly.

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6 Responses to Why isn’t STC at ASTD?

  1. Linda says:

    Love the title of your blog, Holly! And don’t worry, I won’t.

    I agree with what you’re saying here about marketing and partnering. Of course STC should be talking with ASTD, PMI, SHRM, and ASQ! We should also be networking with the National Speakers Association, the International Society for Performance Improvement, the International Coach Federation, the Organization Development Network, the Association of Career Professionals, and others.

    In Chicago, we’re fortunate to be a part of the Alliance Group, an “organization of organizations” that brings together local members of international associations in order to network, share best practices, and discuss topics of regional interest. More information on this can be found at our web site, http://www.stc-chicago.org.

    Networking has become an important focus here at STC Chicago. Benefits derived from working with like-minded people and organizations should not be taken lightly. We should do more of it. The best synergy often comes, however, from networking with people and organizations with different mindsets and different approaches to problems. We’re working on that, too.

    We should talk, Holly. I’m sure we can come up with some ways to expand networking and educational opportunities for members.

  2. Martha says:

    Your observations dovetail nicely with your previous post about the evolution (demise?) of the straight-up technical writing role. I love your idea about creating relationships with these other organizations to provide cross-organization memberships at reduced rates.

  3. hharkness says:

    Thanks, Martha!

    Linda, that alliance you are part of sounds like something we should investigate here. We just had our council meeting today and got into some healthy discussion about where networking fits into our chapter activities.

    There are two kinds of networking, I think. One is networking within your profession (at STC meetings and conferences, for example), and the other is networking professionally (which is what you should be doing at work and in partnerships with other professional organizations).

    Yes, let’s talk!

  4. Paula Berger says:

    I’m responding in my role as STC’s lead for partnerships and relationships this year. As immediate past president, I can say that STC is working hard to change what you describe as our “rigid, insular view of who we are and where we stand in relation to others”. STC is emerging from a much-too-long period of internal focus, and our current strategic plan places “growing relationships and choosing partners” as one of our highest objectives.

    STC now has the opportunity to develop a range of partnership programs with all kinds of organizations. And it’s important to realize that the list of organizations with which STC may wish to have relationships is VERY long. There are many non-profit organizations on the list, and also many for-profit.

    We started creating partnerships last year, and we have learned some valuable lessons already about what works and what doesn’t. We are refining the criteria for relationships we developed last year. We are prioritizing our many opportunities to determine which relationships are the most important for STC right now.

    The STC Board of Directors strongly supports moving forward in this area. However, we need to move carefully and with thoughtful deliberation to enter into partnerships that are both valuable and manageable for STC. We have limited capabilities and resources today, and we can’t overburden our staff or volunteers. At the same time, we have many exciting opportunities to provide value to STC as a society and to our members individually. We’ll be working to do our best to balance it all.

  5. hharkness says:

    Paula,
    Thanks for taking the time to comment on this question!
    It’s good to hear that we are making progress in this area. Technical communication touches so many other disciplines that I can imagine how many possibilities there might be for partnerships.

    Are you open to local chapters taking initiatives in this area? For example, if the Atlanta chapter had been proactive and organized to staff a booth at ASTD would the Society have helped us with the funding and providing literature? Just a thought.

  6. Al Hood says:

    Holly,

    When you talk with Linda, please clue me in also. I think what they are doing in Chicago is an excellent idea and one we should pursue. Maybe we can form an Alliance Group here in Atlanta?

    Thanks,
    Al

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