Spring Conferences Are in the Air

Spring is finally here, and so is a wide array of professional conferences to attend. You may remember my recap of the STC Summit last year and my belief in the value of attending professional conferences. With the long, dreary winter days behind us, spring is the perfect time to reenergize, set new goals, expand your network, learn something new, and reawaken that drive to advance your career, or even consider a career change. Continue reading “Spring Conferences Are in the Air”

Camtasia: a Recap

On Tuesday, March 21, 2017, we convened at Washtenaw Community College for an excellent presentation on creating video with Camtasia, a video editor and screen recorder that produces cross-platform files. TechSmith’s Andrea Perry spoke briefly about the increasing role of video in instructional design, then showed and reverse-engineered the process of creating a short video, Camtasia Behaviors.
Continue reading “Camtasia: a Recap”

Recap of Panel on Trends in Tech Comm

On Monday, February 13, panelists John Baker, Rich Leazer, and Bob Powell convened in the Welcome Center at Lawrence Tech to focus on three questions:

  1. Why does communication matter in the workplace?
  2. What types of internal and external communication are used?
  3. How is communication accomplished and what are the trends?
Panelists John Baker, Rich Leazer, and Bob Powell listen as moderator Corinne Stavish speaks.

Throughout the discussion, the panel focused on the need to be clear and concise, provide context, and be correct. They considered anticipating users’ needs, understanding audience, and the importance of interpersonal communication regardless of changing technology.  Continue reading “Recap of Panel on Trends in Tech Comm”

Recap of Mindfulness Presentation

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”

Program Recap: What is the User’s Experience?

Photo of Sept 20, 2016 program in session.
Attendees listen intently at September 20, 2016 program.

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?”

STC Summit 2016: Leadership Program Recap

by Alison Philips

Photo of Emily Alfson and Alison Phillips at the 2016 STC Summit
Emily Alfson (l.) and Alison Phillips (r.) at the 2016 STC Summit

Greetings from Anaheim, California! I’m here at the STC Summit and just attended the annual Leadership Program that kicks off the Summit each year. Some of the highlights were:

  • The basics of running a community — Emily Alfson (also an STC/SM member!) delivered an informative talk about some of the many tools available to STC members looking to gain information about running successful STC communities. These resources include the Community Handbook, the Treasurer’s Handbook, the STC website, the CAC website, social media, and more!

Continue reading “STC Summit 2016: Leadership Program Recap”

TechSmith Program Meeting Recap: Using Visuals in our Communication

by Tom Glennan

Do you know what search engine is the second largest after Google? Or how to use visuals and images to “flip” your documentation for meetings? Or even what Snagit and Camtasia are (and why you should know)? These and many other useful skills and tips were revealed and discussed at the October 14th program meeting, “Leverage the Power of Image and Video in Your Communication,” which was presented by Andrea Perry and Matt Pierce of TechSmith Corporation in Okemos, Michigan.
Continue reading “TechSmith Program Meeting Recap: Using Visuals in our Communication”

Event Recap: XML and CMS in a Health Insurance Environment

by Angel Belford

On Wednesday, May 20, 2015 about a dozen or so attended the final program of the STC-SM 2014/2015 year at Blue Cross Blue Shield in Southfield.

Sharon McDonnell provided an excellent overview of Extensible Markup Language (XML) within a Content Management System (CMS) and how it related to the documentation process at Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Highlights of the program included:

• Discussion on how over 9,000 linear feet of print documentation were converted into an electronic format!
• Demonstration of Arbortext in managing XML content.
• Benefits of single-sourcing documentation for managing content on multiple websites.

Check back soon to see our chapter’s fall events and in the meantime don’t forget to register for the 62nd annual STC Summit in Columbus, Ohio from June 21-24 at http://summit.stc.org/.

Event recap: World Usability day in the “D”

by Alison Phillips

Gathering to network before the event starts.
Gathering to network before the event starts.

World Usability Day (WUD), held annually on the second Thursday of November, is a “single day of events occurring around the world that brings together communities of professional, industrial, educational, citizen, and government groups for our common objective: to ensure that the services and products important to life are easier to access and simpler to use” (according to worldusabilityday.org).  This year, there were over 130 events held in 40 countries, and 6 of those events were hosted in locations across Michigan.

The WUD Detroit event, World Usability day in the “D,” was a held at the AIREA Studio in the Compuware building. About 40 participants from various disciplines (including some STC-SM chapter members) gathered to discuss topics related to this year’s theme, “User Experience, Usability, and the Value of Simplicity in Design.” Continue reading “Event recap: World Usability day in the “D””

Choosing the Right Tools to Build Digital Learning

by Susan Fisher

If you’re like many technical communicators, you may fall into one of these categories when it comes to building a mobile learning (or any e-learning) program:

1)   What’s the big deal? It’s just a matter of picking up the nearest authoring software (e.g., Articulate Storyline or Adobe Captivate) and cranking out the screens.

2)   It’s a mystery. Only a trained programmer can do it.

Of course, as with most things, reality is not that clear-cut; it’s a continuum between these two extremes. Fortunately, with some basic knowledge you can determine the tools and resources required for your project — and talk intelligently to your developer or programmer if one is needed. Continue reading “Choosing the Right Tools to Build Digital Learning”