Jazz up those presentation titles!

March 25, 2008

Attendance is declining at our chapter meetings and I suspect that the topic titles are partly to blame.

The February presentation was called “Best Practices for B2B Marketing Writing.” It probably didn’t seem relevant because most of us are not marketing writers. But I came away from Paul McKeon’s presentation with a greater appreciation for the importance of quality content for our readers and the role we can play in creating that content.

McKeon is with The Content Factor, an Atlanta-based company that produces “original content for anything that can help you sell—print or web advertising, brochures or blogs, white papers, websites or podcasts.” They write white papers for KnowledgeStorm, for example.

McKeon pointed out that unlike typesetters, bank tellers, and travel agents, writers aren’t headed for obsolesence any time soon. In fact, in the world of the World Wide Web, there’s been a decisive shift toward content over form. Strong Language recently published an interview with Whitney Quesenbery on this subject.

A catchier title for the presentation would have been “Why Content Matters” or “Ten Ways to Pump Up Your Writing.”

In March, we faced a similar problem. Scott Abel is a popular speaker with a huge following through The Content Wrangler.(By the way, if you haven’t joined The Content Wrangler Community yet, do it now!)

Scott is a lively and provocative speaker, but his title was a real yawner: “Leveraging Software Tools To Help You Ensure Content Quality.” The main point of Scott’s talk was that we need to be doing more to increase productivity through intelligent use of technology to manage content.

Suggested titles if Scott plans to do this one again:
“Why You Aren’t a Professional”
“Improve Your Productivity and Prove It to Your Management”
“Ten Ways to Work Smarter with Your Content”

 We aren’t the only organization plagued with boring meeting titles.
Check out this exciting program sponsored by the Atlanta chapter of PMI tomorrow:

““Understanding SMEs: Using Humanizing Networks to Manage the Project Impact of Subject Matter Experts’ Heterogynous Needs” It has naptime written all over it, but it probably will be a great talk.

When we engage speakers for our meetings, we should help them think of more compelling names for their presentations. It helps boost attendance and makes it more likely the speaker will be asked to repeat the talk somewhere else.

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Writers UA comes to your desktop through blogs

March 20, 2008

Ahhh, Web 2.0!

I only get to go to one conference a year so I usually choose the STC Summit. But I’ve always wanted to go to WritersUA because of the cutting edge technology discussions that take place there.

Thanks to the (pardon the adjective) robust tech comm blogging community out there, I can now get first-hand, detailed, and timely reports from conferences like this.

Check out Pamplisest and Functioning Form for some good blogs on the sessions there.

Our Atlanta technical communicators were well-represented:
Rob Houser, Scott Deloach, Mike Hughes, and Mark Wallis all presented.

Mark reprised his presentation on DITA projects that he gave at our November STC Chapter meeting.
The blog reviews are favorable. Good work, Mark!


Atlanta STC conference is around the corner

March 6, 2008

The Atlanta STC Chapter’s annual conference (Currents) is March 14 to 15 at Southern Polytechnic State University.

I will be there. Will you join me?

Friday is a day-long workshop on design principles led by Jean-luc Doumont of Principae. I’ve attended some of his sessions at the STC Summit conferences and was convinced we had to bring him to Atlanta for Currents. Jean-luc actively engages his audience because he delivers his content with creativity, humor, and style. It’s a pleasure to learn from him.

Most of us have little or no training in design, yet we’re usually expected to design as well as write when we create our deliverables. Jean-luc will help you understand what good design is all about. You’ll come away from the workshop with more confidence to create better templates, illustrated documents, and online Help.

Friday night we’re all getting together at the Delkwood Grill around 5 for cocktails and dinner. If you can’t make it to the workshop, stop by and meet Jean-luc, Mark Clifford (STC 1st VP), and the rest of us.

Saturday morning incoming STC President (at the International level) Mark Clifford give a keynote entitled, “You and Your STC.” This is a good opportunity to hear about the many changes taking place in the STC internationally.

Following that will be several rounds of presentations, workshops, demos, and discussions on a wide range of topics. Yours truly will be speaking along with the leading thinkers and movers and shakers and teachers from our region. This is a chance to take a leap forward in your understanding of technical communication principles, trends, research, debates, and new ideas. Presenters will take the time to talk to you after their sessions if you have specific questions or problems you’re working on.

During the breaks you can shop for the latest books at the book table (if I haven’t snatched them up first!).

Jean-luc wraps up the day with a presentation called “Road Signs.”

But don’t leave just yet! The RAFFLE promises to be the best ever this year thanks to the diligent efforts of Gene Larson, our chapter sponsorship manager. You may walk away with your own copy of MadCap Flare or Doc-to-Help or get a free class at echoeleven. Lots of other door prize goodies, too.

 Seats are still available, so sign up now! I think you’ll agree it’s a real bargain.


Irregardless: Still not OK

March 3, 2008

My favorite e-mail each month is the Q & A from the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS). This places me firmly in the “rear-brainer” category according to Mike Hughes.

At any rate, I was relieved to see that CMOS is holding the line on “irregardless” after a reader cited this from Wikipedia:

The term “irregardless” has begun to move towards acceptance because incorrect words or grammatical conventions are absorbed by the English language based on common usage.

(I shouldn’t have been surprised to learn that there is a Wikipedia entry for this word, but I was.)

To its credit, Wikipedia includes this admonition:

It is apparent that the word originated from regional deviations and was subsequently re-introduced to the wider English-speaking community, and thus the use of the term should be avoided if one takes the position that this word should not enter common use.

But the CMOS answer lady is more blunt.

At the moment, . . . there’s no reason to change a perfectly good word like “regardless” to one that is bound to raise the hackles of many readers.

Dear readers, here’s hoping your hackles remain prone for the foreseeable future.