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Say Yes

By Viqui Dill | Senior Member

Recently, I read and then reread Lean In by Sheryl Sandburg. The author encourages us to do tricky things we might not otherwise want to do: sit at the table, raise your hand, be unafraid, etc.

The author with her guitar. (Credit: Steven R. Winter)
The author with her guitar. (Credit: Steven R. Winter)

I want to add another maxim to the list: say “yes.” Say “yes” at every opportunity. I have said “yes” many times and have learned new skills and picked up tools I could have mastered no other way. Let me give you some examples.

Saying “Yes” to Preschoolers

For years, I have been volunteering to lead music for my church’s Vacation Bible School. The job involves learning new songs with dancing and hand motions, then standing up in front of a crowd of kids and adults teaching them to sing, dance, and motion along.

Vacation Bible School music is an instructional designer’s dream lab. Setting the content to music makes it especially sticky. Participants see the text on the projection screen, then hear themselves speak the words in rhythm. Adding the dance moves and hand motions engages the kinesthetic learning center. The hand motions are often the same ones used in American Sign Language so the participants come away with new skills for communicating. I have observed many of the participants continuing to sing and move long after the singing stops, and they tell me that the songs run through their heads all day long.

By saying “yes” to Vacation Bible School, I picked up a new appreciation for learning design that I can apply every day in my own projects at work.

Saying “Yes” to Disabled Vets

A couple of years ago, I began volunteering for the Disabled Veterans Committee on Housing (DVCH). These folks needed help in a lot of areas, from WordPress Web design, to music for their fundraisers, to graphics that could be used in their publicity campaigns. In the music area, I got to share the stage with such greats as Junior Marvin, guitarist for Bob Marley and the Wailers, and Michael Twitty, son of Conway and heir to his musical legacy. In the publicity field, I learned about the effect of tagging on scheduled posts in Facebook, and got to try out different formats, days of the week, and times of day. I even made a combination theater program/autograph book in printer-ready format.

Because of my work within STC, I was able to plug the DVCH into online ticket purchase using Eventbrite. This simple online tool knocked their socks off and helped them sell every seat in the theater for one of the fundraisers. We were able to build a lot of wheelchair ramps with that money.

In this volunteer position, expectations were low and gratitude was high. I was free to experiment, fail, and try again without risking my job or my reputation. They thanked me at every turn and announced my name from stage and in the local paper. And I got a nifty tax deduction, too.

Saying “Yes” to STC

I remember the moment I decided to volunteer for my local STC chapter. I was standing outside the Sacramento Convention Center, listening to a conversation between the Washington, DC, Chapter past president Carolyn Klinger and Joe Welinske. Carolyn wanted to launch a targeted social media campaign, but was not sure how to budget her time. Joe said, “You don’t have to worry about that. That’s what you have Viqui for.” With that simple affirmation, I felt 10 feet tall and so motivated to use my own love of social media for the good of the chapter.

Before that day, I had thought I lived too far away from the DC area to be a useful volunteer. I saw volunteering as something that had to be done in person, within the geographical area of meetings and events. But volunteering for STC doesn’t have to be about boots on the ground, it can also be about fingers on the keyboard.

As a result of my saying “yes” to STC, I have learned a lot about social media, more about the profession of technical communication, and been able to connect and network with the greats in our field. I’ve even carried the good news of social connection to a couple of Summits and to InterChange, STC New England’s local conference.

Your Turn to Say “Yes”

So in the same way that Sandburg challenges us all to lean in and share our stories, I’m going to challenge you to say “yes.” Your community needs you. Get out there and accept a few challenges. Stretch your skills and learn new tools. Say yes.

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