If you have ever tried to explain to someone what a technical communicator does, you will know there is no easy answer. We cover a range of disciplines (writers, editors, illustrators, information architects and so on). We work in just about any industry and sector you can think of, from healthcare and consumer goods to utilities, financial services, government and military organisations… and everything else in between. You’ll find us anywhere that clear communication is important.
Technical Communication UK (TCUK) is the one event in the UK that brings us together. If you only practise one discipline in one sector, you may feel this diversity is irrelevant. But sometimes it’s the diversity that brings the spark of inspiration – it gives you a fresh perspective, leading to ideas and concepts that you can transfer into your own everyday work. From personal experience, I’ve attended sessions at TCUK on documenting and illustrating machinery (I don’t do that) and on creating motivating e-learning materials (I do some of that), and each time I have come away with ideas I can use in a number of different ways.
Our profession is changing rapidly. Every time someone develops an innovative product, we provide the support that the people who use it need. Every time someone thinks of a new way of presenting information, we have to decide whether we want to make use of it. We can’t stand still – if we do, we’ll appear to be moving backwards. We could, I suppose, do all this ourselves – but I find that I can learn as much in three days at TCUK as I would in weeks of ploughing through online resources.
I’ve mentioned “our profession” – and if you’ve read the recent edition of Communicator, you’ll know I believe that we have to keep up-to-date if we want to consider ourselves to be “professional” technical communicators. I don’t know where else I’d get the level of update that I get at TCUK, as there is so much more than just the presentations. I’ve learnt a fantastic amount in conversations over dinner, at the bar in the evening or at one of the fringe events.
The vendors are there too. They may consider they have a captive audience – conference attendees who are all interested in what they have to sell. But I look at it from a different perspective. I have a “captive vendor” and five minutes at a stand has saved many hours of frustration (and time is money).
There are only two people at Clearly Stated: Andrew joined me in July last year. I decided to take Andrew to TCUK 2012 as I thought it would be a great way to open his eyes to the potential of what we do. The result was that we came away from TCUK with a contract that we would not have obtained in any other way, and a host of ideas for further business development. We are now investigating opportunities for technical communication business that would not have occurred to us before. It was definitely well worth the money.
Alison Peck, Clearly Stated