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Being Prepared to Communicate

By Nathaniel Lim | STC Fellow

When I am not technical writing, I volunteer for the Boy Scouts of America. My current role is behind the scenes, not well-known, and a step away from working with youth. As a commissioner, I support adult volunteers by making sure they have what they need to work effectively with the youth in their units. I visit each of my assigned troops about once a month, offer suggestions for improvement if needed, and report how each troop is doing to my local district.

Like many adult volunteers, I started as a youth. At 11 years old, I joined because my friends joined. We attended weekly troop meetings, camped, hiked, swam, and served our community. Most kids do not necessarily join because they want to be good citizens. They join because it is FUN. In my late teens, I gradually moved into positions of leadership, teaching, and project planning, all in a safe environment. Shortly after becoming an Eagle Scout, I told all this to the Scout Executive of my local council. He said that this is the way it is supposed to happen. Scouting has been called a game with a purpose. This is why I give back to Scouting: it builds character, promotes citizenship, and it is still fun.

Behind the uniform and merit badges

Scouting is much more than just going to summer camp and doing good turns. It is very big on training for youth and adults. Ninety percent of all the leadership skills I ever learned came from the Boy Scouts. Its youth and adult leader training program is incredibly well-developed, drawing from 21st century theories from reputable leadership experts. Even though they have syllabi for all their training programs, some custom instructional design is still allowed. When I am a trainer in Scouting, I make the presentations my own, often interjecting personal stories and anecdotes to drive home a concept.

Like any volunteer organization that requires mass communication, there is always opportunity to contribute my writing skills. I served as a copy editor for the daily newspapers of the 100th anniversary National Jamboree in Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia, and the 100th anniversary National Order of the Arrow Conference in East Lansing, Michigan. (The Order of the Arrow is Scouting’s National Honor Society.) At the jamboree we published the fifth largest newspaper in Virginia for 10 days—enough copies for 50,000 in attendance.

Nathaniel Lim holding the Boy Scouts newspapers he edits
Nathaniel Lim holding the Boy Scouts newspapers he edits
How has scouting helped me be a better technical communicator?

The Scout Law has twelve points. I am sure all of them play into technical communication somehow but will expound only on the first three:

Trustworthy: The document I am publishing has to be correct. Do the writers trust me? Yes, they do. Therefore, what I am writing better be accurate and precise.

Loyal: I have a commitment to completing the document and getting it to the reader. Loyalty also enabled me to get stay active in STC as a volunteer. The word “stay” is important here. Many members will join STC for a while but leave when they no longer see it benefitting themselves. To paraphrase a famous quote: “Ask not what STC can do for you. Ask what you can do for STC.” When I say I will do it, I will.

Helpful: I want to help the reader learn and accomplish the task. Does the document fulfill its purpose? Does it realize its potential? Is the world a better place because someone read what I wrote?

The Boy Scouts of America changed my life. I do not think I would have become a STC Fellow without it. Similar to STC, I have made many friends in Scouting locally and nationally. It is a vast organization to network, learn new skills, and make a difference in the lives of youth.

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