A Technical Communicators Conference in New Zealand

Not a conference without cheese scones in Wellington!

On October 12th through 15th, one-third of the membership of TCANZ,  80+ professionals, gathered in Christchurch for our biannual conference. I was one of the conference emcees and contributed to organizing it (not as much as the stellar core crew, especially Kaye Churches).

Sunday night, we began with our lively cocktail party. Two-thirds of the conference attendees came together to chat and network. We talked about our work, sharing software tool tips and war stories, and about our other interests – my own conversations ranged through ecology, literature, and international travel. One communicator, new to the field, said, “I’m amazed at how interesting all these people are!”  In between, we sipped drinks and nibbled impressive canapes. After the hotel staff gently closed the party area (a solid hour after the end of cocktails), many of us reconvened in the hotel restaurant to keep our discussions going.

Keynote speaker Tony Self bestows the Adobe giveaway.
Keynote speaker Tony Self bestows the Adobe giveaway.

We reconvened first thing Monday morning with our first keynote speaker, Tony Self. His theme, “Choosing the right path,” opened our eyes to what technology is doing to our field and to instructional design. Then, we powered through a day packed with multiple other presentations – it was often difficult for delegates to choose. High points included Dave Holmes speaking about change in organizations, Rebecca Officer’s excellent DITA case study, and a fascinating view behind the scenes of Meridian Energy’s wind energy program with Nat Janke-Gillman.

The TCANZ AGM on Monday evening had a record number of attendees. TCANZ concluded our business with a new President, Emma Harding, and several new committee members.  After the AGM, almost all the attendees gathered for the conference dinner and the notorious conference quiz, helmed by the witty trio of Luke Pivac, Tony Self, and Dave Gash.

Next morning, our keynote speaker was as invigorating as a double shot of espresso: Carol Barnum. She woke us all up with her passionate discussion of content strategy, an emerging field that’s a perfect fit for technical communicators. This was followed by a second full day of programming: for me, this day’s highlights included Dave Gash’s valuable Embedded Help presentation, Mike Dickinson of Adzebill teaching us about “infographics that don’t suck,” and Cathy Gillespie illustrating technical communication’s role in the Christchurch rebuild. Amongst attendees, the networking intensified. This was the day when one attendee would buttonhole another about a job lead, or to learn what a certain software package was really like for the users.

For our final day, those of us remaining split up for two different workshops: an in-depth review of UX with Carol Barnum, or an infographics intensive with Daniel Moody. I went to Carol Barnum’s workshop, which was just as fierce, focused, and useful as her presentation. The conference concluded for me with a final lunch and me receiving some much appreciated help from the indefagitable Kaye Churches to resolve a travel issue.

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