Beyond Education: The Real Value of Tech Comm Conferences

con·fer·ence ˈkän-f(ə-)rən(t)s noun: A formal meeting in which many people gather in order to talk about ideas or problems related to a particular topic…usually for several days. I’ve recently returned from the STC Summit, the premiere international Tech Comm conference held in North America. The STC Summit is so much more than just an educational conference for Tech Comm professionals.. Oh, sure, there were plenty of educational opportunities. The Summit offered two keynote speakers, three pre-conference certification workshops, and over 80 education sessions covering seven different themed tracks.

The Real Value

But, in my opinion, the real value lies before, after, and in between all of that education. The real value is found in the professional connections that are made during the conference. I dare not use the word “networking” because the word is so overused and covers so many different things. Connections, whether personal or professional, offer another layer of support in your everyday lives. Connections give you access to expertise in new areas. The real value of a conference is the opportunity to find a professional mentor. Or, if you are more advanced in your field, it is an opportunity for you to become a mentor to someone new to tech comm. The real value comes in the form of peer-to-peer recommendations and access to projects and employment. The real value is the unofficial sharing of ideas, innovation, and technology. It is discovering that there are other people in other companies and other countries that are going through the very same process and technology issues as you and your team.

So Now What?

The conference is over…so now what? What you do with all the new-found knowledge and connections is equally important as acquiring them in the first place. As for me, in the week since the conference, I have connected with many new friends and associates on LinkedIn and Twitter. I have had several email conversations as follow-up to discussions started at the Summit. I’ve joined a Slack discussion channel for key topics. I’ve joined a study group to prepare for taking the certification exam to become a Certified Professional Technical Communicator (CPTC). That’s just in week one, but it doesn’t end here. The journey and the value will continue throughout the year until it is time for the next Summit. It’s all part of what one friend has described as “keeping the magic of the Summit alive.” So, the next time you talk to your boss about attending a conference, don’t just describe the conference content, explain the real value of attending.
MKheadshot4-11-16MK Grueneberg STC Associate Fellow
*Twitter @stcchicago @MKGee *LinkedIn
This blog post is part of a series of curated and edited posts authored by attendees at Summit 2016. The posts will discuss key takeaways and efforts by individuals and STC Communities to build on their Summit experience. If you’d like to contribute a post, let us know.

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