Fame, glory and … tech comm?

Many technical authors pride themselves on staying above the political fray —avoiding office politics and instead focusing on producing excellent content. But the most effective technical communicators and managers embrace the organizational complexities.

When management doesn’t know anything about tech comm, technical authors must manage “up.” Leading a successful technical communication effort requires close attention to the organizational priorities and aligning tech comm work with those priorities.

In this keynote presentation, Sarah O’Keefe discusses how technical communication can become more influential within an organization.

Building a team to support proposal production in a large organisation

So, your organisation regularly churns out bids for technical equipment and services and your boss wants you to set up a team of specialist communicators to support this work. How do you decide what that team should look like? How do you plan, launch, develop, fine tune and finally manage that team in “steady state”?

In this session Fi will present several approaches to this challenge in large and complex organisations. She will illustrate these approaches with examples based on her experience building teams to support business and technical communications in the professional services, IT and telecommunications, and engineering sectors.

This session is delivered by Fi Parker.

Don’t manage: lead

Whatever the next step might be for your career, leadership will become increasingly important. Whether you are moving into a management role for the first time, have been managing for some years, or are looking for ideas about how to increase the influence and development of technical communication in your business, it is leadership that will protect you, and leadership that will open up new opportunities.

This presentation will make the case for focussing your energies and learning on developing your leadership habits, and will demonstrate what this means in the context of technical communication.

This session is delivered by Paul Ballard.

Technical Writing in Energy and Resources: Risks and Opportunities

Working as a technical writer on some energy and resources mega-projects, it is apparent that there is a potentially vast “undiscovered country” of opportunity for writers. An exploratory study was carried out, with the help of stakeholders at all levels, concerned with identifying and exploring the risks and opportunities associated with using a dedicated technical communication resource on engineering projects. One recurrent theme emerged – that of promoting technical communication as a profit centre. Furthermore, the risks identified were largely culturally predisposed and were perceived as being easily mitigated and/or massively outweighed by the benefits.

This presentation is delivered by Robert Illes.

How to write persuasive business cases and proposals

Persuasive writing is an important skill that cannot be taught too early. Business cases and proposals need agreement from others before you can move forward. Presenting your arguments clearly and persuasively will help you to get that agreement.

This workshop will show you how to develop this essential management skill. You will learn how to create business cases and proposals, with a good logical structure, which are easy to read and persuade readers to your point of view. We will also cover how to write for readers with different behavioural characteristics so that you can be sure that your key messages are absorbed by all of your readers.

The session will include highly enjoyable practical sessions and you will take away a number of checklists to use back at your desk.

This workshop is delivered by Alison Reeves.

Digital accessibility: Strategy, content and delivery

Delivering content across different digital channels is an accepted part of today’s communication landscape. But how do you make sure your information is reaching everyone who wants (or needs) to access it?

This presentation will explain how to create a successful digital accessibility strategy. It will look at existing standards and frameworks, accessibility as part of agile and waterfall methodologies, and provide best practice guidance for accessible content across different platforms.

This session is delivered by Léonie Watson.

Managing documentation projects in an Agile way

Agile methods are increasing in popularity as an approach to project management and product delivery. Originating in computer systems development, the methods are now gaining acceptance for application in contexts other than information technology. Many organisations, across all sectors, are citing methods from the Agile family as assisting in delivering the right products and services at the right time.

This workshop will develop knowledge and understanding of Agile methods from two viewpoints: what a project manager will experience when managing projects using an Agile method and what technical communications professionals and customers will experience when working on a project managed using Agile methods.

John and Alasdair’s workshop will use a variety of workshop interventions and exercises to express ideas, engage the group and to facilitate knowledge and understanding of the Agile family of methods.

This workshop is facilitated by John Burns and Alasdair Bullivant.

Managing accessible mobile content

There are two trends that technical communicators must be aware of, and manage.

  1. In some regions or market sectors, you might not be permitted to sell your products or services unless you can demonstrate accessibility.
  2. The growth of mobile platforms continues to accelerate.

In this presentation, we review the implications of these trends when taken together, illustrated with simple examples. We will explore the impact of accessibility and mobility interaction, and outline ways in which you and your organization can manage technical content to benefit from the resulting opportunity.

This session is delivered by Adrian Warman.

Developing KPIs

KPIs (key performance indicators) are measures that help you manage your team’s activities, improve your content and communicate with your colleagues and customers. Even if KPIs aren’t part of your organisation’s culture, going through the process of developing them will sharpen up your strategy and ensure you and your team are focused on activities that really matter to the business.
This is a hands-on workshop, where you will spend most of the time working alone and in small groups and to come up with KPIs through exercises.
During the session you will:

  • learn about the characteristics of good KPIs
  • begin to develop KPIs relevant to your role

The workshop is suitable for anyone working as a technical communicator or managing a technical communications team.

This workshop is facilitated by Rachel Potts.

Planning user documentation when you are a startup business

In this presentation, we’ll look at how to plan a user documentation project when you’re working for a startup technology company. Working in this environment gives you the opportunity to work ‘from a clean sheet’, but it also has its own challenges of working in a dynamic and rapidly changing environment.

We’ll look at the issues around planning user documentation and the additional considerations when you are a startup. Your budget may be limited and the product or service in development may be constantly changing, so how should you work in this situation? What should you be developing, and what is the value of user documentation for a startup?

This session will cover:

  • What is different about working for a startup
  • Lean startup strategies
  • The value of user documentation for a startup and why should you provide it
  • How to document in this environment
  • What you should document
  • What you should measure
  • What to do when budgets are limited
  • What to do when there is no clear audience

This session is delivered by Ellis Pratt.

Leading the change

“The only constant is change” – Heraclitus taught that more than 2,000 years ago. Has anything changed since then? Do we need professional Change Management? “Yes!” says Stefan Gentz, senior business consultant at TRACOM Germany. Manage the change or be changed!

The Tech Comm business is fundamentally changing before our eyes. We keep adapting, and yet – five years from now, ten years, and beyond, the sector will continue to face new technological, demographic, and economic challenges. In this keynote Stefan Gentz will outline a brief history of change and unveil the real triggers that drive the world’s top 500 managers to initiate (and approve!) change projects. After a quick check-up of today’s major social and economic forces driving the need for change Stefan will search the North Pole with the audience (yes, Change Management can be fun!) to start a journey through the top errors in change management. Finally we will conquer the eight steep stages of successful change management, drop off ballast to climb and will eventually learn why Change Management is not Crisis Management.

This session is delivered by Stefan Gentz.

The Challenges of Remote Management

In this session, Adrian draws on his experience managing technical writers at a distance to discuss some of the issues faced with remote management. The talk will cover areas such as the following:

  • Remote management scenarios
  • Hiring
  • Security
  • Access to company resources
  • Working on shared documentation projects
  • Performance expectations
  • Conducting reviews
  • Data backup scenarios
  • Communication
  • International issues
  • Firing/redundancies

This session is delivered by: Adrian Morse.

Managing as a freelance technical communicator

You leave office politics behind when you become freelance – but you find yourself taking on tasks that would previously have been carried out by others. As a small technical communication business, Clearly Stated has to manage time and resources, provide estimates and quotations, co-ordinate reviews with people over whom we have no control… and find time to actually do the work. All this ramped up a notch when I became an employer! You will find this session useful if you want to learn from my mistakes, or if you take on freelance technical communicators and want to avoid pitfalls.

This session is delivered by Alison Peck.