Wow, it is amazing how tired you can get after two days of…well…just sitting around and listening to other people talk. I mean, I spoke for one hour this morning, but man I am beat. Okay enough complaining. Before I leave windy Chicago, I wanted to take a moment to jot down some general notes from the conference.

The Good

  • Well-organized. The conference was organized very well. The STC has this conference thing down. After all, they’ve been holding conferences for 59 years. If you haven’t figured it out in that amount of time, well…
  • Upbeat mood. The mood was quite upbeat, especially compared to last year. Last year’s mood was downright terrible. This year, people seem to be generally happy and there is a lot of positive energy.
  • Lots of tweeting. I think that the tweeting really helped the mood. Tweeps tend to tweet positive things, such as thanking presenters for doing a great job, scheduling times and places to meet with each other, and more. There was a significant number of people on Twitter (and those who were not, were “dared” to get on).
  • More customers. This year, I noticed more companies sending their doc managers, tech writers, strategists, and so on. Over the past few years, as budgets were tightened, there were more contractors and vendors than actual customers. I was very excited that a number of my customers sent attendees. This is a good sign for the industry and a good sign for the economy in general.
  • The Hyatt is huge. But, they seem to have things figured out, too. Everyone was very friendly and accommodating. I particularly appreciated the free Internet everywhere. Why is it that the most expensive hotels tend to charge the most for Internet access which really should just be free everywhere??
  • Lots of learning. The sessions that I attended had very good speakers who were extremely well-prepared on their topics. I tried to go to a variety of sessions – everything from DITA basics, to corporate case study examples, to extremely geeky HTML5, and things in between. I found just about all of the sessions I attended to be engaging.
  • Excitement in sessions. The “lightening round” sessions were very exciting. At least that’s what I read on Twitter. I was actually in other sessions during those. But I followed along.
  • Schedule relief. Instead of 5 sessions per day, there were 4 sessions per day. This gave everyone a nice 3 hour chunk of time in the middle to catch up on email, take a walk, meet new people, and just chill a bit.
  • Vendor Expo. The vendor expo was a very nice venue and a good size for the number of vendors that had booths. There weren’t as many vendors as in the past, but this is the “good” section, so I won’t digress.
  • New connections. I know that I am not the only attendee who met a lot of really nice, interesting people. The colleagues we meet at these industry events often become life-long friends. You look forward to seeing them once or twice a year at conferences. I was really happy to see so many of my buddies. And I made some great new connections, too. There was a lot of business card dancing going on.
  • Shining Chapter. I think the Chicago chapter deserves a special shout-out. They really were organized and very helpful. It is a lot of work to host an event of this size. Hats off to them.
  • Happiness. I got a really cute koala from Kirsty Taylor.

The Not-So-Good

I am not going to be a killjoy and complain about the conference. I really hate it when people bellyache. That said, I’d like to give just a little constructive criticism. Take it for what it’s worth.

  • Power strips. If I had one large pet peeve, it was that the conference rooms did not have power strips. At least none of the rooms I sat in had them. Thank goodness we had a 3 hour break in between the morning and afternoon sessions. I had to recharge my computer because there simply weren’t enough outlets and wall seats to use them.
  • Internet access confusion. I went to the Content Marketing Strategies conference a few weeks ago. They solved all of the hashtag and Internet password confusion by attaching a small sticker with the important information to each person’s badge. That would have been helpful and saved a lot of confusion early on the first morning. Or, print it as part of the badge.
  • Twitter handles. Speaking of badges, it would be really great if the STC would start printing our Twitter names on our badges. I tweet as ContentRulesInc. If you don’t know what I look like, you probably wouldn’t know that ContentRulesInc is Val Swisher. I think this would be fairly simple to add to the badges. Then, when I see “LetsDoTheChaCha,” I’ll know it is Sally Mae. Because her name and her Twitter name will be right there on her badge.
  • Food. For the amount the STC charges, you’d think they could at least give you a cookie at 3:00PM when you’re having a blood sugar event. Enuff said.
  • Equipment. I happened to be the unlucky person whose STC-rented computer started beeping incessantly and died in the middle of presenting. No one had checked to make sure it was plugged in properly. When I checked, it “looked” plugged in. And, really, I wasn’t there to check. I was there to speak. Luckily, I’ve been presenting since some of the attendees were toddlers, so I just rolled with it. These things happen. And this just happened to occur during my session. And I’m doing the writing here.
  • Attendance. From what I heard, there were about 800 attendees. “Back in the day,” we’d get 1,800 attendees. I’m talking back back in the day, when money flowed and and so on. It would be great if the STC could attract a larger crowd at these events. Then the energy really would go up-up-up.
  • Vendors. There were only half a dozen or so rows of vendors. The booths were nice. The people manning the booths were friendly and knowledgeable. But, where did all the vendors go? The last time I had a booth at an STC conference (Seattle years ago), there were a lot more vendors. I could be remembering this wrong, but there were so many vendors that I was able to dodge someone who I didn’t want to see. This year, there would have been no place to hide.

In Summary

  • I am glad I attended.
  • I learned some interesting things.
  • I made some interesting friends.
  • I enjoyed presenting to interested people.
  • I’d love to attend again and speak on topics that are of interest to you.
Val Swisher
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