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President’s Address from the 2019 Summit

I want to talk a little bit about why I chose to run for STC President. The main reason was because I wanted to give back. My membership in STC has been incredible, and has afforded me opportunities for leadership development that I was not offered in my workplace at all. Through the years of my STC journey, I have been an officer in the Rochester Chapter several times, and a Director on the Board from 2013 through 2015. These were great experiences for me that stretched me far beyond anything I had been comfortable with.

After that, I moved to the Community Affairs Committee and started building an outreach team to help support our community leaders, having been a community leader myself. I took a few years off for personal reasons and to reinvigorate. I applaud Alyssa Fox and Jane Wilson—Jane is entering her seventh year on the board—for their stamina and perseverance over the years.

We’re in very complex times, and the issues that are facing STC are common to membership organizations across the world. Membership organizations were built by baby boomers. Most of the boomers have retired or are in the process of doing so. When they built an organization, they pretty much expected to stay in that organization for life, or at least as long as their career was active. We’re not in that kind of scenario now. People will join an organization, stay three or four years, and then move on as their interests and careers change. That makes it especially challenging for STC, because we face a constant churn of new members coming in, older members retiring, and members who have been here for a few years moving on to other things.

I expect us to get through this year. I expect us to build a sustainable future. We will make whatever changes we need to make to do that. But we need to make changes in a positive sense, not just in terms of reducing expenses. As STC’s Treasurer Jim Bousquet has said, we’ve done about as much cost-cutting as we can do; we have a very limited number of staff to execute the direction that the Board gives them. We’re going to need your help on this. This is a bit of a recruitment conversation today, but I expect us to create a sustainable future. That means we’re going to build for tomorrow. You’ll see new models in terms of how STC works.

I know there’s been an opinion over the years of “What is with this Board? Why can’t they figure this out?” But this Board is a very sharp, talented, and devoted group of people who want to make STC succeed and grow.

We’ll be looking at growth mechanisms this year to build membership and not just try to survive. I did not run so that we would survive; I ran so that I can work with a very talented group of people to build STC into whatever new form it needs to take. I encourage you to come along with us and help us do that. We’ll have new opportunities for engagement for members and for involvement in the Society. Expect increased opportunities for membership engagement and for improving the membership experience.

We have a significant percentage of members who are in communities; we have a larger percentage of members who are not in communities at all. These two groups get very different membership experiences.

So one of the things that we will look at this year is how to improve our membership experience overall. How do we provide what members need for their career growth? A lot of cutting-edge things are starting to happen here. Information 4.0, micro content, and other new concepts and new areas that we’re starting to move into.

I challenge you to invest your time, invest your resources. You’re here. You’re committed to this organization, or you’re 127 people who could not find the way out to dinner tonight and decided to join us instead. But I want you to get involved. If there are opportunities to mentor others, mentor younger communicators, please consider doing so. Mentor others! Invite others to join! Share what STC has done for you! There’s a reason you all are here tonight. You all are passionate about the organization or you honestly would not be attending a business meeting the end of the day like this. So share that passion! Get people excited about STC! This is not all about doom and gloom; it’s about building something new for the future. And I believe we can do it. I wouldn’t be here, and our Board wouldn’t be here, if we didn’t believe that. So share what STC has done for you.

I’d also like to see us invest in the future. As you all picked up your red cards, there was a form sitting there for our scholarship program. During the three years I was not on the Board, I was helping build a framework around the scholarship program. We have money in the scholarship program, but we do not have what we need in order to be able to have a sustainable technical communication scholarship. So I invite you to contribute to that. You can do that online at https://www.stc.org/scholarship/. I’m not passing a boot or anything like that—although it was tempting to get Alyssa to bring cowboy boots and we’d use that for donations. But take a look at this. If we get a lot of members contributing small amounts of money, we can offer scholarships, we can invest in our future; and our future is our students.

There’s often been questions like “Why doesn’t the Board tell us more about what’s going on? Why aren’t they more transparent? How do I talk to the Board? How do I get information to the Board about things that I’d like to see, or the changes that I might like to see?” I would encourage you to let us know what you want to see and what you want STC to be for you. We’re not hiding. We’re at board@stc.org. All of you can write us. The Board receives that email and we will respond to everything that comes in. So I’d like to, again, thank you all for an incredible opportunity. It’s a bit daunting. But I’m absolutely looking forward to serving you all as your President for 2019 through 2020. Thank you.

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