The Ideal Tech Comm Association?

Sarah O'Keefe / Conferences, Opinion9 Comments

There’s been a ton of discussion about the various organizations, especially STC, recently. With established associations, it can be difficult to take a completely fresh look because of the constraints of structure, organization, and tradition.

So, I thought I’d ask this question: What does your ideal association for technical communicators look like?

My priorities:

  • Diverse membership across the globe. I want a place to meet other tech comm professionals from all around the world because that’s what our customer base looks like. I need to understand how tech comm in Korea is different from tech comm in Germany.
  • An annual conference that moves around the world. The geographical location of a conference affects the mix of attendees—you get increased attendance from the region in which the conference is held. This helps me with the previous item.
  • A strong online community that offers members (and nonmembers) an opportunity to engage. Probably multilingual.
  • Discovery of new, interesting, and provocative points of view. I’m envisioning free webcasts from interesting people, but this could be done in lots of ways. Provides a connection point for people with similar interests or issues, and strengthens connections outside the face-to-face conference environment.
  • Support for global projects. A way to find resources (contractors, employees, consutants) for tech comm projects worldwide.
  • Industry research. What tools and technologies are being used in tech comm? How does this vary by locale? Company size? Other factors?

What are your thoughts? What does your Ideal Tech Comm Association look like?

About the Author

Sarah O'Keefe


Content strategy consultant and founder of Scriptorium Publishing. Bilingual English-German, voracious reader, water sports, knitting, and college basketball (go Blue Devils!). Aversions to raw tomatoes, eggplant, and checked baggage.

9 Comments on “The Ideal Tech Comm Association?”

  1. How about:
    *Lots of small, local groups (e.g., meetups, tweetups, etc.) maintaining a loose international affiliation of these groups
    *Partner with existing associations (UPA, IEE, etc.) and hold regular unconferneces using local schools and universities as venue
    *Global projects that partner with opensource projects. (e.g., where was STC in designing the interface for the OLPC project?)
    *Emphasis on online collaboration and communication

  2. Oh, nice topic 🙂 I think you’ve hit the high points. (Actually, you’ve hit all the ones I can think of right now.)

  3. Simply put, I’d like it to be like another professional organization I belong to, the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP). Their site is at Every week they put on a half-hour videocast (, have twice annual “photoshop world” conferences at varied locations, a vibrant forum community, a slick bi-monthly magazine full of tips, and discount from many, many vendors. They also have a large presence on Twitter.

  4. I would like to see a structured mentorship program, where students and recent grads can learn how the industry works (locally) and learn how to network comfortably (it’s scary your first several times).

    Had I not had another tech writer in my first tech writing job, I would not have engaged with STC and other networks like I do now.

  5. That’s a good list, Sarah.

    The ideal association would also provide me with a portal to the knowledge that I need to work in the profession.

    The industry research that you mentioned is one component of that, but I’m thinking of the broader body of knowledge that helps define a profession. Out of all the knowledge that’s out there about tech comm, I need somebody that I can trust to direct me to the knowledge that’s relevant, current, and complete.

    Notice I’m not saying that the association should control access to the knowledge. (That’s so 20th century.) Just that it provide a trusted portal.

  6. My ideal organization would help me stay on top of (and respond to) market changes.

    The drum I keep beating is that to attract and engage the next generation of tech-savvy customers, we must do more than just write content—-we must deliver user-optimized content WHEN the user wants it, WHERE the user wants it, and in the FORMAT the user wants it.

    I look to my professional association to keep me informed of trends in the industry and for training, both formal sessions as well as informal to tips and tricks.

    Our industry is so diverse that it is impossible for any one person to learn everything there is to know about everything in our field.

    I turn to my industry association colleagues (in this case, the STC) to find professionals who are experts in the areas in which I am not.

  7. I think mine are very similar to yours and others posting here.

    Much more active and engaged with businesses, both nationally and globally. There are many businesses that need the expertise of technical communicators, and don’t know they do, or worse yet don’t know that there is a profession that can actually help them. Many don’t even know that STC exists.

    And of a similar flavor more interaction with colleges, universities and students. Review of curriculum to make sure to promote necessary change away from predominately proprietary tools and formats Microsoft, Adobe, etc.), to include more open-source inclusion.

    In my mind a professional organization should be the proactive liaison
    between the businesses hiring technical communicators, the colleges and universities identifying, developing and teaching the skills, and those existing professionals available to provide the services, locally, nationally or globally.

  8. @Ed: I looked up NAPP, and they are a for-profit corporation. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. 🙂 It’s interesting, though, to see how one leader has created a compelling experience and set of resources that people are happy to pay for.

    @Patrick: I agree that the marketing/liaison issues you raise are important, and much more needs to be done in this area.

  9. Great question. Here are my criteria:

    Volunteer projects that get members new skills, mentors, and recognition. STC has this, already, I think.

    I like Rick’s item about local groups and meetups–it sounds more agile than what our chapter currently is, and more in line with our local tech community in Tampa Bay. I’d like our chapter to mix better with the local tech community, focus hoopla and preparation on one or two key events, and keep other meetups very, very simple.

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