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November 11, 2013

Impressions of the tcworld conference from a jet-lagged mind


That’s my first impression of the tcworld conference, from which I just returned. I’m still jet-lagged from my trip, but I wanted to briefly share my experiences with those—especially from the US—who are considering attending in the future.

  • Even if you are warned ahead of time that the event is big, you still will be overwhelmed by its sheer size. We heard there were roughly 3900 attendees at the tcworld/tekom/trade show events. (See Kai Weber’s blog for an explanation of tcworld vs. tekom and the trade show.) That number is 4 to 10 times the number of attendees I usually see at US-based conferences. The number of exhibitors and halls for vendor booths is also way beyond what I see at US-based tech comm conferences. The booths are big and elaborate, and some featured bartenders and baristas serving drinks. There was even a blimp floating around.
  • You’ll learn about vendors you know nothing about. Take a look at the list of vendors attending, and you’ll quickly realize there are different ecosystems of tools and vendors in Europe and Asia than the US. (Yes, there is some overlap with the US, but not as much as you might think.) After one of the workshops Sarah O’Keefe and I did, I talked to an attendee who knew nothing about Scriptorium and what we do. It was a humbling and eye-opening experience. Never, ever assume everyone knows—or even cares—about what your company does.
  • The focus on standards is much greater in Europe and Asia than in the US. There were many presentations devoted to different standards that can affect tech comm, and I had never heard of many of them. The presentations I attended on standards were not particularly exciting, but I needed to attend sessions on topics that were new to me.
  • Learning about and experiencing other cultures is as important as attending the event. You can learn a lot about different cultures by merely talking to vendors and participants about topics other than tech comm. Also, I recommend that you make time to visit the city around you. Yes, the conference schedule is very full, but you can have dinner out during the evening (or maybe even miss a particular time slot at the conference so you can walk around the city during the day). I walked around Wiesbaden in the late afternoons just to soak up the city a bit. I was fortunate to have a free Saturday after the conference to visit the nearby city of Mainz, which has a beautiful, 1000-year-old cathedral and the Gutenberg Museum. Being inside a building that’s stood for a millenium should give anyone pause, but it was particularly affecting to me as a citizen of the US, where our historical buildings are generally less than 300 years old.

Special thanks to everyone who gave me really great advice before I left for the conference. I was glad to meet many of you face-to-face.

P.S. Ellis Pratt, I never saw a Flachspüler, and I can’t say I’m unhappy about that!