TCUK16 Speaker John Kearney – “Empathic Tech Comms: create better content with practical UX techniques”


John Kearney will be presenting at TCUK16 on “Empathic Tech Comms: create better content with practical UX techniques”.

John Kearney

Traditionally, we Technical Communicators don’t venture far outside our organisations. We rely too much on the experience and opinions of others, such as Product Managers, or second-hand user feedback in the form of bug reports.

In reality, of course, it’s the user experience that matters.
Perhaps you have several years in the profession under your belt. You’ve done your time writing user guides, online help, configuration instructions, and so on. Or maybe you’re a novice author, unscarred by the experience of wrestling with a quirky version control system or editing a 200+ page Word document. You may or may not have poked around the UX field.

UX is comparatively young when compared with Technical Communication, and it offers a fresh perspective that we can benefit from when answering that most important of questions, “What is the user need?” It has valuable techniques that we can combine with our traditional skills. In light of this, I will look at what I think are the most common problems when creating user assistance content, and the cultural challenges that face us when we try to change what’s delivered.

Using practical examples, I will then show which basic UX techniques can help reduce those problems and improve the value of our content. You can expect to hear such terms as topic-based authoring, personas, usability interviews, practical style guides and more. I believe it is this combination of UX and Technical Communication expertise that can help us create truly clear and effective user assistance.

About John Kearney

John became a Technical Author when funding for English Literature postgraduate work dried up. 19 years later, he’s still in the same career, which probably means it was the right decision.

He’s worked for many companies across many sectors, and has now settled back into a permanent role after a couple of years as a contractor. John discovered TCUK in 2009, and has attended every conference since. He is particularly interested in content quality, usability, and accessibility. You can follow him on Twitter if you really want to: @jk1440.

When he’s not doing his job, he can be found with his nose in a book, dancing, or on an archery field.

He is not as tall as some people think.


TCUK16 Speaker Graeme Dowdell – “System safety and the Technical Author”


Graeme Dowdell will hold a workshop at TCUK16 on “System safety and the Technical Author”.

Graeme Dowdell

Many organisations now have to demonstrate through assessment and documentation that their products are acceptably safe to use. This is known as System (or Product) Safety.

This workshop will look at what skills, knowledge and capabilities the Technical Author can bring to the assessment and documenting of System Safety. We will also examine what a Technical Author cannot do in this field, and when to say no.

This workshop will not deal with specifications. It will focus instead on roles and responsibilities, the concept and assessment of Safety Risk, introduce participants to a few key techniques, and explore the principle documentation issues. The workshop will also briefly consider Risk mitigation, Risk transfer, and how the results of the safety assessment affect the technical publications.

About Graeme Dowdell

Graeme Dowdell FISTC initially followed the classic career path of becoming a Technical Author, progressing to Senior Technical Author, and then managing a small technical publications department. He then broadened the scope of his work and became a Publications and Integrated Logistic Support Manager. In addition to technical publications, that role included managing the assessment and documentation of system safety; managing reliability, availability and maintainability studies; and other equipment support activities. Since 2008 he has enjoyed being his own one-man company.


TCUK16 Speaker Tina Hoffmann – “What’s at Stake? – An introduction to stakeholder management and creating positive working relationships”


Tina Hoffmann will be presenting on “What’s at Stake? – An introduction to stakeholder management and creating positive working relationships”.

Tina Hoffmann

You will have heard of ‘stakeholder management’ but why should you care? And what does it mean? Is it only me or does the advice offered by those who tell us ‘to engage with our internal and external stakeholders’ often have a Machiavellian ring to it?

This presentation aims to show how you can use the basic principles of stakeholder management to build trust, resolve conflict and create more positive working relationships.
Learn how to draw and code your own map (templates provided) and strengthen the interpersonal skills required to enhance your relationships, to benefit you and others.

About Tina Hoffmann

Tina’s career path has meandered from literature and art history via localisation to technical communication. As a supporter of William Morris, Tina believes you should have no document that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. With most documentation containing everything the user needs but cannot find Tina spends a lot of time ‘tidying’.

As Documentation Lead, Tina looks after the technical authors responsible for all IT operational documentation for a leading payment processing organisation. She is accountable for end-to-end delivery of documentation to the company’s “Command Centre” and setting the direction for operational documentation.


TCUK16 Speaker Liz Gregory – “A three-eighths Gripley by any other name (see also: terminology management for technical authors)”


Liz Gregory will be presenting at TCUK16 on “A three-eighths Gripley by any other name (see also: terminology management for technical authors)”.

Liz Gregory

Technical authors all know the importance of using consistent language for clear communication. We also know that maintaining consistency can get difficult when you have large projects, multiple products and authors, SMEs with opinions, or a project handover. And the difficulties get magnified if you need to think about translation. Terminology management can really help, and is a great tool to add to your authoring box. This talk will describe a technical author’s journey from novice to terminology champion, and explore some ideas and techniques that work for projects of all shapes and sizes. Unleash your inner word herder!

About Liz Gregory

Liz Gregory is a technical author who recently made the leap from authoring in a team to being a sole author. She has a background in chemistry and education and writes about both hardware and software. Since starting as a junior author four years ago, she has progressed to an experienced, confident author, and a champion of terminology management and source control. A self-confessed nerd for words, Liz will talk with anyone about anything, and is a dedicated member of the Thames Valley ISTC group. In her spare time she enjoys knitting, web comics, and ballroom dancing.


TCUK16 Speaker Chris Hester – On style guides and portfolios


At TCUK16, Chris Hester will be presenting on “You’ve got style, darlings” and giving a workshop on “From Paperweight to Conversation Piece: Building a Portfolio You Love (and Love to Talk About)”.

Chris Hester

Presentation: You’ve got style, darlings

Whether we’re technical writers or content strategists, freelancers or full-time employees, we (secretly) have our own preferences when it comes to using our words and getting things done. Too easily, we (not so secretly) lose patience with others’ peccadilloes when they don’t abide by the guide.

A good style guide supports a team, whereas a poor style guide is a hindrance. And what if you join a team that has no style guide? Where do you even begin?

Let’s discuss decisions and processes we must consider with respect to style guides, including the decisions to “kill some darlings.”

Workshop: From Paperweight to Conversation Piece: Building a Portfolio You Love (and Love to Talk About)

There is nothing more awkward in an interview than watching someone glance through your portfolio without comment, other than watching it sit untouched.

This workshop focuses on moving your portfolio off the table and into the conversation, starting with a discussion about why we need portfolios and how to develop them. Then, we will break into small groups for review and “first impression” feedback from your peers. Remember to bring your portfolio!

We will reconvene to share highlights of the review, along with tips and techniques for creating a portfolio you are excited about. You will leave the workshop with feedback from each person in your group, plus a plan for showcasing your work going forward.
Portfolios of all shapes, sizes, and formats are welcome to this workshop, as are attendees who may not have a portfolio or those who hire technical communicators.

About Chris Hester

As an independent consultant and the founder of Red Desk Studio, Chris has delivered successful content strategy, training, and knowledge management projects to a variety of clients, including those in the advertising, construction management, entertainment, and healthcare industries.

Chris is an STC Fellow and has been actively involved in the technical communication community as a volunteer, academic mentor, and presenter at events such as the STC Summit, LavaCon, and BigDesign.


TCUK16 Speaker Troy Stein – “What do viewers want from videos?”


Troy Stein will be presenting at TCUK16 on “What do viewers want from videos? Updated Research and Findings”.

Troy Stein

In 2013, 1900 participants told us what makes an effective video.
In 2016, we followed up to see how these video viewing preferences had changed.
We will present the research results. We’ll cover practical tips to improve videos and engagement. We’ll discuss the role of humor, visuals, audio, story telling and more.
This is a sales-free, marketing-free presentation. No product promotions whatsoever.

About Troy Stein

Troy Stein has 20 years corporate video experience. Troy has worked for Cisco Systems, Netscape, his own video company and currently works at TechSmith Corporations. He’s an avid story teller, football (soccer) player, father of five and recently returned from a motorcycle trip across the Arizona desert.


TCUK16 Speaker Ellis Pratt – “Moving into API documentation writing”


Ellis Pratt will be presenting at TCUK16 on “Moving into API documentation writing”.

Ellis Pratt

With many software developers now spending their time developing APIs, there’s an increasing demand for API documentation writers. However, Technical Communicators might be uncertain how to migrate to these roles.

In this session, we’ll look at:

  • What is an API and what is API documentation?
  • The role of an API documentation writer, and how it differs from mainstream Technical Author roles
  • The skills you need as a writer of API documentation
  • The tools used to create API documentation
  • Becoming an API documentation writer

About Ellis Pratt

Ellis Pratt is a Director and Help Strategist at Cherryleaf, a technical writing services and training company based near London, in the United Kingdom. He has over 20 years of experience working in the field of documentation, has a BA in Business Studies, and is an Associate of the Institution of Engineering and Technology. Ellis was ranked the most influential blogger on technical communication in Europe, and he is also on the management council for the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators (ISTC).


TCUK16 Speaker George Lewis – “DevOps documentation: Manage documentation in a shared ownership environment”


George Lewis will be presenting at TCUK16 on “DevOps documentation: Manage documentation in a shared ownership environment”.

George Lewis

DevOps encapsulates the collaboration between Development and Operations teams to create, deliver and operate a product or service. But in such a collaborative structure, who is responsible for the documentation?

Technical authors face a challenge when working with collaborative structures: knowledge is created in the team with the right specialty, not necessarily in the team which owns the document.
As organisations seek to deliver products and services to market at an ever quicker pace, collaborative structures such as DevOps are becoming more common. To make the issue more challenging, these teams may be spread across different organisations and countries.

I shall share doc-department’s experience working with DevOps organisation and how we overcame these challenges with an Open DevOps documentation approach that supports collaboration and communications across teams.

About George Lewis

George is the Managing Director of doc-department; a company that helps organisations access best in class technical authoring services to support their operations and marketing strategies.
Having started his career in tech comm over 15 years ago in Germany, George has served his time as a writer of documents as well as a consultant helping organisations automate their documentation workflows.

George is passionate about changing the perception of tech comm from a costly burden to a solution for business information issues.

You can follow George and doc-department on @docdepartment or on their blog at


TCUK16 Speaker Rahel Anne Bailie – “Pushing Syrup through a Straw: When Content Exceeds Capacity”


Rahel Anne Bailie will be presenting at TCUK16 on “Pushing Syrup through a Straw: When Content Exceeds Capacity”.

Rahel Anne Bailie

What happens when you have thousands of products – or maybe tens or hundreds of thousands – and not enough capacity to deal with them? In a play on “it takes a village to raise a child”, it takes a content ecosystem to produce content with any sort of efficiency. In the brief period of a presentation, we will look at some techniques for dealing with large volumes of product content to a publication-ready state, and how to create the village to raise content.

About Rahel Anne Bailie

Rahel Anne Bailie, Chief Knowledge Office for Scroll, runs the content strategy practice and consults for clients with serious content challenges. She blends techniques from multiple disciplines to develop content strategies that have business impact. Rahel also teaches in the Content Strategy Master’s Program at FH-Joanneum, runs the Content, Seriously meetup, and is working on her third industry book: writing content for a structured authoring environment.


TCUK16 Speaker Madhu G – “Technical Writing and Instructional Design: A great confluence!”


Madhu G will be presenting at TCUK16 on “Technical Writing and Instructional Design: A great confluence!”

Madhu G

Technical Writing (TW) and Instructional Design (ID) are two professions that have one basic element in common – information design. Both professions aim to provide informative content to the audience. Technical Writers stand to benefit from using the principles of ID.
In this presentation, I will provide pointers on how some of the ID principles can be used in TW to enhance:

  • Content planning and authoring.
  • Seeking customer feedback.
  • Providing alternative learning solutions.

About Madhu G

Madhu is working as a Senior Information Developer at ARM Embedded Systems, India. He holds a degree in Information Science & Engineering, and became a technical writer by choice. Over the past ten years, he has worked with various companies such as IBM, Capgemini, Alcatel Lucent, and Cisco on diverse domains. Madhu has played different roles in these companies such as, Software Developer, Instructional Designer, Courseware Developer, Scrum Master and Information Developer.


TCUK16 Speakers Cristina Belli and Maja Engel – “Adding strings to your bow”


Cristina Belli and Maja Engel will be presenting at TCUK16 on “Adding strings to your bow: branching out into usability design and content strategy”.

Cristina Belli
Maja Engel

The word on the street is that the future of technical communication as a single focus on writing documentation isn’t so rosy – in this day and age, who reads the documentation, right? If you’re worried this is the case or you’re looking for something new or you simply need to expand your skill set to remain competitive, this presentation shows you there are opportunities to branch out while still doing what you love and know best: writing. We talk about how our personal interests and natural inclinations led us to branch out into usability and content strategy.

About Cristina Belli and Maja Engel

Cristina and Maja work at ESTECO, an engineering software company in Trieste, Italy. Together they write documentation for four products and contribute to marketing content.
Cristina studied Economics at the University of Sydney. Since moving to Italy 25 years ago, she has specialized in ESL teaching, translation and writing marketing content. She has been writing
technical documentation for over ten years.

Maja has a degree in Conference Interpreting and Translation and started translating technical documentation straight out of university. Prior to becoming a technical writer at ESTECO in 2011 she worked for the EU and the Croatian government.


TCUK16 Speaker Glyn Turk – “What’s right for me, permanent or contract?”


Glyn Turk will be presenting at TCUK16 on “What’s right for me, permanent or contract?”

Glyn Turk

Weighing up the pros and cons of a permanent position or contract work is a dilemma that could apply to many technical communicators during their careers. Each has its own particular attractions, but also potential drawbacks. I have been both an employee and contractor who has faced exactly this decision on several occasions.

As I’ve yet to decide which method of employment I really prefer, I’m happy to share my experiences with others who may be contemplating moving from permanent to contract employment, or vice versa, and hopefully provide some food for thought, if not any concrete answers!

About Glyn Turk

Working as a technical author for the last 16 years, I have experienced both permanent and contract employment for a variety of software companies in diverse industry segments from digital TV to insurance, mobile phone networks to retail and hospitality point of sale. Some have been little more than start-ups, others large multi-national corporations, so I have encountered a wide range of working practices and approaches to the role of the technical communicator.

I’ve recently completed a 12 month contract and have made a return to permanent employment, so the considerations covered in this presentation are fresh in my mind!


TCUK16 Speaker Raymond Gillespie – “Backspace to the future: plain text in the 21st Century”


Raymond Gillespie will be presenting at TCUK16 on “Backspace to the future: plain text in the 21st Century”.

Raymond Gillespie

In this presentation, Raymond Gillespie will step through the history of plain text software documentation. He’ll bring us up-to-date with some examples of contemporary documentation written in Markdown, reStructuredText and AsciiDoc—three of the most popular lightweight markup languages. To finish, Raymond will touch on some key questions facing technical communicators today:

  • What types of documentation projects lend themselves to lightweight markup approaches and what types don’t?
  • Is there a middle ground? Can we integrate lightweight approaches into a more structured approach, for example in conjunction with DITA?

About Raymond Gillespie

Raymond Gillespie has over 20 years experience in the field of information technology. For the past 15 years, Raymond has lived in Budapest, Hungary, working as both a software engineer and a technical writer, mainly in the fields of telecommunication, medical imaging, and navigation software. He is currently working for Nokia as part of an R&D System Verification and Customer Documentation team. He holds an MSc in information management from Lancaster University Management School (UK).


TCUK16 Speaker Erin Vang – “Rockstars, not typists!” and “Where do tech comms managers come from?”


Erin Vang will be presenting twice at TCUK16: “Rockstars, not typists! Expanding your influence in tech organizations” and “Where do tech comms managers come from?”

Erin Vang

Rockstars, not typists! Expanding your influence in tech organizations

It’s an old story: tech writers get mistaken for the typing pool. Engineers aren’t sure why they should have to explain things to writers or review our drafts. When there’s a shortage of writers, people ask us why we can’t just get a couple student interns to help with formatting. But we know better! Let’s discuss how to bring up tech writers’ level of contribution and visibility, so our stakeholders finally start to recognize us as the rockstars who help make products better. We enable customer success, we help our collaborators who see a bigger picture, and we ultimately increase the production capacity of the whole team. We do all these things by using our tech comm superpowers for good. We are the secret, hidden rockstars in tech organizations, and it’s time to get the word out!

The only surprise in my talk is that there are no surprises. Any decent tech comms professional already has all the knowledge necessary to be recognized as a rockstar—but probably isn’t getting that message out. I pull together into one place the basics of knowing your value, delivering your value, and selling your value, challenging tech comms professionals to step outside their (usually shy, humble, introverted) comfort zone and get the attention they richly deserve.

Where do tech comms managers come from?

Where do technical communications managers come from? The stork doesn’t deliver them. Simply asking a top performing writer to take the job doesn’t usually work out very well, either. So let’s break it down. What does the job actually entail? What skills, talents, and interests do you need? How do you acquire these? How do you know when you’re doing the job well? What does leadership actually mean in concrete terms?

This session will be of interest to technical communications individual contributors interested in considering a management track, to general managers wanting to understand better the particulars of managing a technical communications functional group, and to current tech comms managers interested in widening the lens on a big job.

About Erin Vang

Erin Vang, PMP, has several decades of experience in commercial software documentation, quality assurance, project and program management, localization, content strategy, and people management, most recently as a senior manager of tech comms at Dolby Laboratories, and previously in the JMP division of SAS, at Abacus Concepts, and SYSTAT. In 2008 she formed the consultancy Global Pragmatica LLC®, offering services in facilitative leadership, localization, and custom statistical tool development.


TCUK16 Speaker David Farbey – “How Agile is your Parachute?”


David Farbey will be presenting at TCUK16 on “How Agile is your Parachute? Or, is there life beyond Concepts, Tasks, and References?”

David Farbey

You’re working for a great company, you’re surrounded by good people, but something isn’t right. How many times can you write another reference topic, attend another scrum stand up, or tweak another page layout?

In this session, David returns to a favourite topic: what is it that makes people in general, and technical communicators in particular, happy or not happy in their jobs? Along with a review of current thinking on job satisfaction and motivation, he offers some suggestions about what you can do if you aren’t satisfied in your job, and how your existing technical communication skills could be applied in other areas.

About David Farbey

David worked in technical communication for over twenty years in a variety of roles, mainly related to software documentation. He was also an Associate Lecturer on Sheffield Hallam University’s MA programme in Technical Communication. David has been interested in content strategy, information design, and the management of technical communication, particularly in the context of agile software development, for a very long time, and has served on the ISTC Council since 2010. In 2015 David launched a new phase in his career, becoming a technical consultant for a financial services company.


TCUK 2016 Keynote Speaker – Sarah Richards


We are pleased to announce Sarah Richards as a keynote speaker for TCUK 2016.

Photo of Sarah Richards

Content strategist, digital consultant, and former Head of Content Design for GDS. Sarah Richards has led high-performing, award winning, agile teams, and has a longer and more varied editorial career than she cares to admit.

Sarah started in a quiet team of editors and ended up banning Whitehall from using their favourite jargon on GOV.UK. Sarah will explain her journey from having to publish whatever lawyers and policy people said to running an agency that will only take on work if the process is agile and user-centred.

We’ll have more news from Sarah Richards in a later post.


TCUK 2016 Keynote Speaker – Jack Molisani


We are pleased to announce Jack Molisani as a keynote speaker for TCUK 2016.

Photo of Jack Molisani

Jack is the Executive Director of the LavaCon Conference, a conference on content strategy and technical communication management. He is also president of ProSpring Technical Staffing and author of the book, Be the Captain of Your Career: A New Approach to Career Planning and Advancement, which made Amazon’s top 10 career and resume bestseller list.

We’ll have more news from Jack Molisani in a later post.


TCUK 2016 Keynote Speaker – Chris West


We are pleased to announce Chris West as a keynote speaker for TCUK 2016.

Photo of Chris West

Chris West is a professional writer. He writes marketing and PR copy, ghost-writes and publishes works in a range of genres under his own name. His most recent publication is Hello Europe! A History of Modern Europe in Sixty Eurovision Song Contests.

The Beermat Entrepreneur was co-written with Mike Southon, co-founder of 1980s training company The Instruction Set. It was published in 2002 and was one of the first of a new generation of books on entrepreneurship. Previous ones had been rather dry manuals. Beermat told it like it was. The book has been translated into many languages and sold over 60,000 copies in the UK.

Chris West: Life on a Beermat
The Beermat Entrepreneur was one of the bestselling entrepreneurship books of the 2000s. I shall tell the story of how it got written and promoted, and what we did to turn the book into a ‘brand’ – what we got right and what we got wrong!

I shall look at (amongst other things):

  • Choosing the right subject
  • Choosing the right co-author
  • Working with a subject-matter expert
  • Choosing a publisher and working with them
  • Getting publicity
  • Building a brand
  • Brand extensions that worked – other Beermat books, speaking
  • Brand extensions that didn’t work
  • The importance of keeping focus and momentum