InterChange 2022 Sessions

Jack Molisani

Taking Control of Your Post-Pandemic Career

Keynote speech

Kristen Betts

Advancing the Field of Technical Communication through Optimal Course Design & Neuroplasticity

Advancements in technology and neuroscience provide critical insight about the brain, learning, and performance. Research on neuroplasticity further reveals that the brain continues to change over the lifetime through experience and learning. This interactive presentation examines the critical role of instructional design on engagement, mastery, and transfer of learning across real-world contexts. The presentation also explores the effects of content, curriculum, and cognitive load/overload on learning, motivation, and performance. A demonstration and evidence-based practices will be shared on how to design educational offerings across all learning formats (online, hybrid, onsite) to develop skills and competencies for career advancement. Strategies and resources will be provided to support best practices for lifelong learning through professional development within industry and academia.

Darren Fennessy and Lluís Cavallé

Achieving a High Score While Onboarding New Writers in the New Normal Era

The last few years have seen a vast change to the landscape of how we interact in the professional world. The global Covid-19 pandemic not only changed how we work together, but also hiring and onboarding new team members. However, with great challenges come human ingenuity and innovation: our approach to onboarding had to change to a fully remote workforce. In this talk, we want to share our experience of how our team helps new collaborators to successfully integrate with us. We invite you to a pinball game, where you can discover the excitement of onboarding colleagues in a remote and hybrid environment. Come with us on a journey into the new normal. Insert a coin and let the machine start the game with hidden missions, rewarding (symbolic) prizes, shiny lights, sounds, and (hopefully) useful tips that you can apply in your teams!

John Garison

Building and Sustaining a Career in Technical Communication

Want to learn what it takes to work – and thrive – in your career? We’ve got a presentation for that! Come hear strategies that have helped guide a 48-and-counting year career that even a pandemic can’t slow down.  

John has worked for companies large and small, climbed the ladder from noob to Director, run a training and conference company, freelanced and taught as an adjunct techcomm instructor at a couple of colleges. Today, he works from rural Vermont for a software company in NYC.

He will share observations and techniques that can help you plan for a long and happy career.

Anna Gasparyan

No Shooting Cannons at Sparrows: Adopting Developer Tools to Author Documentation

Using an Integrated Development Environment for authoring documentation is becoming a recent trend. Is it shooting a cannon at sparrows or can it really boost your productivity and docs quality? 

We’ll discuss how you can transfer the best of the developer experience to the field of authoring documentation. We’ll look at tools built into the editors normally used by software developers and see how they can help you reuse content, maintain consistency and adhere to style conventions, avoid mundane tasks, ease search and navigation, maintain different doc versions, and more. 

The popular docs-as-code approach is based on the idea that technical writers should use the same tools as developers. Let’s expand this idea beyond using Git or a static site generator – there’s so much more from the developers world that we, writers, can borrow.

Steven Jong

What’s the Big Deal About Big Data?

If a CPU is a computer, then there are now hundreds of computers for each person on earth, all of them collecting raw data, some at prodigious rates. The total amount of data in the world is doubling every two years, and the uses to which that data can be put are amazing. As a market segment, Big Data is growing faster than the software industry. Documenting Big Data is thus a lucrative and interesting field for technical communicators.

What is Big Data and how is it fundamentally different from storing files? In what fields is Big Data being used today? What are some examples of how the data can be analyzed and used? Are there any ethical issues involved? What skills and knowledge do you need to know to break into the field? The presenter, who has worked for several years for a data storage and analytics vendor, offers his experience and perspective.

Selvaraaju Murugesan

Customer Support and Documentation Teams: Match Made in Heaven!

In many organizations, customer support teams and knowledge management teams work in silos. The customer support team is busy responding to customer tickets and trying to resolve them in the first contact itself. On the other hand, the knowledge management team is busy preparing documentation for the next product release features. This siloed operation leads to an increase in customer support tickets and increases the workload for the knowledge management team.

This talk covers the role of the customer support team in enriching your content and helping your customers to self-serve the content. The collaborative effort leads to high-quality content and more customer tickets being deflected. This talk provides insights into the collaborative model, business process, best practices, Key Performance Indicators, and success metrics.

Smriti Rao

Writing to Win: How to Write Simply and Win Bigly!

Whether you consider it or not, you are a writer (Yay!). When you work in a company, you become a business writer. Writing clear succinct emails, documents, pitches, and presentations can make the difference between your ideas being read, heard, and brought to life! No more walls of text that your boss glazes over. But learn why it is essential to distill your ideas into sentences that shine! 

In this interactive session, we’ll learn a few simple and effective tips to write clear, crisp emails and memos and explore how to communicate effectively with the ‘bottom line up front.’ We’ll also delve into the importance of the AIM (audience, intent, and message) framework when crafting your writing. 

Li-At Rathbun

Working Well With Others

Whether our company uses Word or the latest documentation platform, good documents still rest on good relationships.

This session explores the interpersonal skills that help make better documents, and better co-workers (and better human beings).

We’ll look at the personality traits that help make someone a good technical editor. And we’ll extrapolate how these skills also help make good technical writers and content contributors in general.

Jamye Sagan

How My Cats Helped Me Quickly Develop Training Materials

In an ideal world, we have unlimited time and resources with which to create stellar training and reference programs. However, the real world does not offer us this luxury. Sometimes, we have only days in which to plan, design, and distribute training deliverables which need to engage learners, yet still be simple enough to produce and distribute easily. After all, part of working within the “new normal” of technical communication involves assuming duties we’ve never imagined doing. 

In this session, we will review nine steps for quickly assembling a basic training program from start to finish. Within the framework of relevant cat photos and anecdotes, we will examine each step and share specific tips and strategies for implementing these steps. Where relevant, we will also review some real-life training examples.  

By the end of this presentation, you will have the necessary knowledge to respond effectively to most last-minute training requests.

Three session takeaways (besides enjoying cat photos and stories):

  • Maintain focus on developing your training materials by identifying exactly what your learners need to know. 
  • Keep materials simple by dividing content into manageable sections, using templates, and reusing content where possible.  
  • Take time to develop evaluation tools – even a simple checklist or survey – to make sure your training is effective. 

Christy Tucker

Gathering SME Stories to Craft Relevant and Engaging Scenarios

Scenario-based learning is one way to improve your training and engage your learners. However, that requires gathering stories from Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), which creates a new challenge. You need to negotiate between what your SMEs want and what your learners need. Ultimately, you need relevant examples and stories from SMEs to make your eLearning more realistic, relevant, and engaging. 

This session will focus on a common sticking point in creating scenario-based learning. In it, you’ll learn how to ask focused questions and techniques to probe SMEs for additional details such as mistakes and consequences. You’ll learn ways for getting “unstuck” while working with SMEs, and why it’s better to interview SMEs rather than have them write scenarios themselves. You’ll leave this session with tactics to help you get the concrete examples and stories you need from SMEs.

Ann L. Wiley, Jamye Sagan, John Garison, and Christina Mayr

Tech Comm Challenges and Opportunities

Closing session

Ann Wiley, John Garison, Christina Mayr, and Jamye Sagan will lead an open discussion of what people are most concerned about now and where they see us going in the future in tech comm. Questions we will answer, and invite everyone present to answer too, include:

  • What do you see as the greatest challenges technical communicators have today? 
  • What do you see as the greatest opportunities technical communicators have today?

All are invited to bring their questions too. If we can’t answer during the session, we can figure out a way to collaboratively find or develop the answers.