By Nicholas Ducharme | Professional and Academic Member
The upcoming 2018 Technical Communication Summit & Expo in Orlando means that all gazes are cast toward The City Beautiful. Many of us who already live here are gearing up to be the best hosts possible. Some of you Summit veterans might be busy weighing all of the fun locales one can visit while in the Sunshine State. However, what of the first-timers? As a newcomer to major business conferences, I have found myself increasingly preoccupied with questions about what to expect, and how to prepare.
Nobody should have to feel nervous about attending the Summit. Therefore, I decided to contact Debra Johnson for answers to these burning questions. Debra is a Technical Documentation Manager and Content Strategist at Superion, LLC, as well as the Immediate Past President of the Orlando Central Florida STC Chapter. She has attended six Summits in six different states, in addition to multiple employer-specific conferences. My hope is that the following advice can serve all of you, from veterans looking for a refresher to my fellow Summit initiates looking for stress relief.
Before the Summit
One of the first topics Debra brought up was logistical planning. She stresses the importance of research before the Summit. Topics of interest include “miscellaneous costs, hotel layout, transportation, conference area layout, number of sessions [you] could possibly attend in the time allowed, locations of food sources, timing, etc.” It is important to stay tuned for information provided by the Summit committee, and you can also consider contacting the Hyatt Regency Orlando directly.
For scheduling your session attendance, you can review sessions and time slots in advance. Try to build a good itinerary of where you want to go while being flexible enough to change your mind in Orlando.
In terms of packing, definitely bring nice clothes. You need to dress business casual for the Summit. Even at related STC social functions that may seem more casual, Debra warns to “dress it up a bit. You never know who you will encounter. You could be meeting a prospective employer or mentor.” I would also stress that for non-STC purposes, you should pack a bathing suit or two. The Hyatt Regency Orlando and Florida at large have countless opportunities for swimming. Plus, most theme parks not specifically marketed toward water rides still have a few attractions where you can get soaked.
There is a bit of prep work you can do for networking purposes. Bring a bunch of business cards. Your cards do not have to be costly or elaborate as long as they are clear, effective, and numerous. Résumés are not necessary, but you can bring a few just in case. Optionally, you can consider printing your name and contact information onto stickers or small labels. These will be great time-savers when you are signing up for information or door prizes. They can also serve as backups in case you run out of business cards.
During the Summit
By the time you arrive at the Summit, most of your work will already be done. Now you will be able to relax, enjoy yourself, and engage with others.
Collect your welcome package as soon as possible at the registration booth. Take inventory of what is inside, and then familiarize yourself with the facilities. Figure out where the vendor booths, message booths, and survey stations are located before sessions begin.
Stick to mostly inexpensive places for food. Do not rely on room service, as it tends to be very costly at resorts.
While networking, make sure to shake hands and introduce yourself when appropriate. Offer people a business card. Collect their business cards as well, and use their contact information to immediately connect on social media. Tune into official Summit social media.
Use your chosen sessions as networking opportunities, too. They can be a good way to find other attendees with similar interests to yours. Also pay attention to who asks really good questions to presenters, and try to ask some good questions of your own. Show gratitude to the presenters, and get their business cards while you are at it; this will help if you have questions later on. Leave immediate feedback at survey stations.
Finally, make sure to visit extracurricular activities like dinners and award ceremonies. These are yet another great way to meet new people, as long as you do not stretch yourself too thin.
With all of that said, I look forward to seeing you at the Summit. I will bring plenty of business cards.
Johnson, Debra. “Re: Summit Preparation Tips.” Received by Nicholas Ducharme, 6 Jan. 2018.