On October 26, 2016, a dozen STC/SM members and guests convened at Washtenaw Community College (WCC) for Jeanette Brooks’ presentation on mindfulness. Geoffrey Walchak, a WCC technical communication student, wrote about her presentation for us, and Pat Martz, STC/SM blog editor, edited it.
What Is Mindfulness?
“Mindfulness,” Brooks told us, “is increasing awareness while paying attention without judgment.” “Without judgment” is the most important part because as soon as we start to assign value (or non-value) to things or people, it pulls us out of the present moment and into ruminating—worrying about the future, or dwelling on the past; while this is happening, the present moment is occurring and you are missing it.
“But don’t get too consumed by the present,” she warned us. She went on to explain how someone can be both the observer and the actor simultaneously. To pay attention without judgment is like being a witness to what happens to yourself, objectively observing everything as it happens. In time, practitioners can engage in action mindfully. That is to say, practitioners never completely let go of objective observation. Continue reading “Recap of Mindfulness Presentation”
Join us on October 26, 2016, to learn about mindfulness. “Mindfulness” has become the new kid on the self-improvement block. Maybe you’ve heard the term in the news lately and wondered what all the buzz is about. Or maybe you’re curious about why more and more people are using it as a daily practice—including Olympic athletes, professional newscasters, actresses such as Emma Watson, and even corporate meeting-goers at companies such as Google, Target, and Disney. Continue reading “Mindfulness”
Most of us have returned from our summer vacations and some of us have returned to school (or have children or grandchildren who have returned to school). The days are busier and the weather more brisk. We’re thinking about Halloween costumes and parties. We’re getting into the last quarter of the year and for many of us, that means a lot more work.
I love the Fall colors and the ability to open the doors and windows and let the fresh air in. Our chapter is also trying to breathe some fresh air into our programs and networking events. In September, we presented a program about the user’s experience along with a case study of usability testing performed for a BCBSM project. The program was held at BCBSM’s Omni Building in Southfield, was attended by 10 people and was well received. Continue reading “Letter from the President”
We all do our best to consider the user when creating our technical communications, but there is no better way to really find out what our users are thinking than to ask them! Even though it sounds simple, there are many factors to consider when creating a usability testing project.
Catherine Vera-Burgos and Sherri Dansby described how their team at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) conducted an extensive usability testing project to answer the central question: “What is important to the users of our four provider manuals, and how can we make it easier for (internal and external) users to find the information they need?” Continue reading “Program Recap: What is the User’s Experience?”
Evaluation is a key element of any great communication effort. Surveys and focus groups bring great information, yet the most enlightening results can be achieved by watching your users actually use your communication vehicle to get the information they need. Learn how to plan for and carry out successful usability testing for your key audiences. Consider how you can incorporate usability testing to discover how you can improve your user’s experience. Hear about a case study from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and how they incorporated usability testing with the health care providers who use their provider manuals to reveal surprising results.
Join us on September 20, 2016:
When: 6:30–8:30 p.m.
Where: Omni Building, 26899 Northwestern Hwy., Southfield, MI
We will be in the Emerald Conference Room, on the first floor. Enter at the north entrance, check in with Security, and they will direct you to the conference room next door.
The costs are:
Free for students with ID
$10 for members, employees of BCBSM, and members of sister organizations (UXPA, CHI, and ASTD)
$20 for non-members
Catherine Vera‐Burgos is the manager of Provider Communications at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a position she has held for 15 years. In this role, Cathy manages a team of professionals who create communications for health care providers, including: provider manuals, newsletters, websites, e‐learning opportunities, letters, and brochures as well as internal communications for employees who serve providers. Cathy also has experience in the nonprofit field as a program developer and grant writer. Cathy has a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications from Wayne State University where she is working on her Masters in Public Relations and Organizational Communications.
Sherri Dansby has many years of research experience and is currently a Market Research Manager at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, managing quantitative and qualitative studies. She is responsible for research design, execution and insight generation, with a focus on health care providers. Sherri also has research experience in automotive, retail and consumer products. Certified as a Primary Research Expert by the Market Research Association (MRA), she has also served as MRA—Great Lakes Chapter president. Sherri has a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and English Literature from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and an MBA.
Security requires a list of attendees before the meeting, so please let us know that you will be coming. Questions? Email us.
We have had two reports of extraneous characters showing in the email address when clicking the links above. This seems to be a browser bug. If you run into trouble, try Firefox or email our president directly from the Contact Us page; she will add you to our guest list.
Welcome back! I hope your summer has been fun and relaxing. I spent most of mine recovering from my auto accident and doing my physical therapy to return to something resembling normal activity.
While I was home recuperating, I began to research which volunteer positions still needed to be filled for the upcoming year. I got a current membership list and started calling people to let them know I am their new president, that we would like to have some ideas for program topics and locations, and that we have several opportunities to volunteer and help out the chapter.
Contact anyone on the Council if you would like to volunteer to host a program, write a blog post, greet guests at an event, or take on a council position. There are plenty of ways to help out and not many of them take a commitment of a lot of time. If you are just starting out in this business, you can gain some useful experience for your resume!
Membership and attendance at meetings and programs have other benefits as well. Job seekers can attend and let the rest of us know that you’re in the market for a job. Employers can attend and announce your openings and talk to candidates. Attendees should always bring several business cards for that purpose. Job openings are also posted on the listserv. If you don’t know how to post a job opening or if you don’t know how to join the listserv, we’ll have someone available to tell you how do to that.
Keep your eyes peeled for announcements through this blog and the Upcoming Events Calendar; and the listserv and social media for programs, networking events, and Council meetings (which are open to all members). Here is what we have planned for the 2016–17 program year:
September: Usability Testing/User Experience. BCBSM at Omni Bldg, Southfield
October: Washtenaw Community College, Ann Arbor. Topic to be determined
November: Networking Happy Hour, northern suburbs or midtown Detroit
December: Holiday mixer, Ann Arbor
January: Virtual Tech Comm Showcase
February: Online meeting or webinar
March: Washtenaw Community College, Ann Arbor. Topic to be determined
April: Networking breakfast in Ann Arbor
May: Summit in Washington D.C.
June: General business meeting, end-of-year awards ceremony, and potluck luncheon at home of president
All Council meetings will be held at the home of the president for Council members and visitors, and will also be available through Adobe Connect for those who cannot attend in person. During the winter months, the meetings will only be held online. They will be held the third Sunday of every month.
Networking breakfasts, lunches, and happy hours will be another way for you to meet other technical communicators for professional networking and job sharing. These events will take place in a variety of places throughout our chapter’s geographic location. If you would like to host one of these events, please contact us and let us know where and when you’d like to do so.
On July 1, I turned the STC/SM Council over to our new president, Sharon McDonnell. We have just wrapped up a successful program year and will be attending to a few administrative tasks between now and the start of the 2016–2017 program year, so this seems like a good time to look back at the last two years.
Our membership has stabilized.
We worked with the UX community and AMWA in the interests of cross-pollinating ideas.
We had networking events at every time of day, and virtual and realtime programs all over the area.
We reexamined the Council meeting schedule. The two biggest changes are winter Council meetings online and a big Sunday afternoon meeting at the beginning of the program year to lay out the schedule and to start to fill in programs.
We earned two Pacesetter Awards, in 2014, for our website revamping process, and in 2015, for our Choose Your Own Learning Adventure programming in midwinter that introduced members to an STC member perk—webinars—and built a networking event on the theme of the webinars we selected for viewing.
We brought home a bronze Community Achievement Award (CAA) for 2015. We are working towards using the CAA rubric as our basis for planning, as the CAA is meant to reward responsiveness to member needs and good planning.
Thank you to our Council members for all their work in the last two years. Sharon McDonnell, our new president, was a a real help and sounding board as vice president. I’d also like to thank past presidents Maryann Bowen and Mary Jo David, who apprised me of chapter history and precedent and mentored me through my presidency. I appreciate your help and support very much; your counsel helped me to leave things somewhat better than I found them.
Alison Phillips, our new vice president, has agreed to serve as Secretary Pro Tem until someone steps into the job. Thank you Alison; you’ve done a terrific job, and we appreciate your willingness to continue.
However, if you, dear reader, think you would like to assume a leadership role, secretary is a great place to start. The most important part of this role is writing and distributing minutes for our meetings. Please email email@example.com for more information.
With that, we are in hiatus until our transition and planning meeting on Sunday, August 28, 1:00 p.m. Have a good summer.
It was a pleasure and privilege for me to attend the STC Summit in Anaheim, California this year. As a first-time Summit attendee, I had no idea what to expect and wasn’t even sure if the conference would be worth the time and expense involved. An introvert by nature, I was also unsure whether I could feel at ease in such a large group setting.
I am pleased to say, however, that I came away with more inspiration and information than I can summarize in this short article. I left the Summit overflowing with ideas and could fill pages just trying to recap some of the things I learned and the topics I discussed with the many people I met. Instead, I want to take a few moments to encourage those of you who have not attended the STC Summit or other STC conference that participating in such events is well worth it! Continue reading “STC Summit 2016: Reactions From a First-Time Attendee”