TCANZ 2010 day 1 – Conference introduction and welcome
Today I’m attending the TCANZ Conference 2010 in Wellington, New Zealand. Lynda Harris gave a great fifteen-minute introduction and welcome speech. She dubbed herself an “audience warmer-upper” :) and she sure did warm us up. She also added some interesting perspectives to the conference, and gave us some very good things to think about during and after the conference.
Lynda started by mentioning the problems of a technical communication team in a company she has recently been involved with. I suspect the problems are fairly common in other organisations too. The team was shrinking. At the same time, their responsibilities were expanding. This meant that the tasks they were being handed were impossible. They were being set up to fail. Ann said that this was not an intentional strategy by management, but rather came from a lack of understanding.
Communication is the most important thing for any organisation and crucial to its success. Even though we’re in that field, we sometimes forget this point too.
Lynda has made two observations about technical communicators over the years, when interviewing them for a job:
- When asked what value they will bring to the organisation, they respond in terms of their job title or the tools they use. Instead, Lynda wants to hear people expressing their value in terms of how they communicate.
- When tested, technical communicators often don’t do too well in the plain language test. But after being prompted and reminded, they do much better when they do the test again. So clearly they have the skills. Reason? People are distracted from the very core of what communication is all about: clarity, care and connection.
How do we show our value and remind ourselves and others of the work we do?
- Change the way we think about ourselves and the value we offer.
- Build a portfolio of things we can show to prove our value, by keeping a record of our projects and products. Do some user testing: Create a benchmark by testing before we have written the manual, and then again afterwards to demonstrate the value and the ROI.
- Talk about our work. Make the value known across the organisation. A very good way is to enter for awards.
Summing it up: We should think about our own value. What we learn at the conference is going to increase that value. It’s a value that we need to think about, prove, share and celebrate.