Liz Fraley

Life with Guru D: Adopting a DITA mindset and converting others

DITA methodology is often difficult for people to grasp. It does require a complete shift in how you view and author your content. You can’t take a book and shove it over. It doesn’t work like that. You need to deconstruct and then reconstruct in the new architecture. It doesn’t always mean that all of the content you had before is scrapped. Some can be salvaged. But you need to look at it from the DITA viewpoint to pull content in rather than looking at it from the Book Brain and trying to shove it all in.

Additionally, you need to keep constant diligence is paying attention to the tendency to “fudge things” to make it work the way you want. DITA is not a tool – it is an Architecture. Yet time and time again people fall down the trap of “tricking the software” to do things that are not germane.

Over the years I have worked with so many people making this transition and the stories of what they have done to shift their mindset from Book Brain to DITA cult member can save a struggling author. If you are managing a team and trying to help them navigate to success then understanding what Book Brain is, how to spot it in others (as well as yourself), and how to help others make the transition is priceless. It can save you hours if not months of struggle.

For this session I will share entertaining and informative real life stories as anecdotes to aid the learning.


Liz Fraley

How Do I Pick the Right Tool for Me?

So many tools to choose from! So many messages from so many vendors. Everyone saying they are the right one! One size does not fit all and one solution is not right for everyone! How could it?! How do you find the right one for you?

You need to be able to evaluate tools from a balanced, objective point of view. In this session, Liz Fraley will share strategies, benchmarks, and questions that she’s

used (and seen used) over the years, so you will have something in your back pocket to help you choose the tool that’s best for you, your company, and your


People always ask, “Liz, how do I choose?” She’s helped teams choose tools for small companies, big companies, and been on selection committees at giant

global enterprises. There’s no one answer that’s the right answer for everyone. It depends on staff, resources, skills, and even company culture.

 Jody Zolli

The Benefits of Working Embedded on Development Teams

When Information designers are integrated closely with engineering teams, everybody benefits. At Akamai, and elsewhere, technical writers are collaborating more closely with developers to deliver better products and better documentation, improving the user experience.

Agile development can introduce new challenges to the information design process, but in the context of bringing technical writers into the development team and the development work itself, agile can present unique opportunities for technical writers.

Earlier and deeper involvement in development projects enables technical writers to attain a rich understanding of a product’s design, operation, and end-users, and invites them to contribute to the engineering design and development process as they develop highly usable information for the product’s target audience.

Technical writers have so much more to offer than end-user documentation, and it’s been my experience that working more closely with development teams enables writers to contribute on multiple fronts while they are cultivating the in-depth product knowledge necessary for writing high quality product documentation.

Writers working closely with the development team acquire deep insight into developer perspectives, constraints, paradigms, and design decisions. This knowledge can enable the writer to create better documentation, but can also take them beyond what they could have learned from reading requirements and specifications.

When technical writers understand for themselves how a product was designed, and all of the nuances of its operation, the relationship between technical writers and developers can transform, because opportunities are created where the technical writer can contribute to the engineering process itself.

Rick Lippincott

Frenemies: Tech Comm, Tech Support, and Working Together Technical communicators and technical support team members have the same goal: ensuring that the users get the information they need, and that it is correct. But at times, it seems as though the two organizations are working at cross-purposes. This presentation takes a look at the problem, and proposes some answers.

John Garison

Forty Years a Tech Writer: Lessons Learned

There's a lot of talk around these days about how technical communication is dead or dying ... but I don't believe it and you shouldn't either. Our profession IS changing - just as it's been changing since one caveman showed another how to chip flint into a sharp edge. While this presentation follows one individual's career through a changing landscape, the lessons learned are hard-won and valuable as they show how to listen, learn, adapt, survive, and even thrive. I promise you will both learn something and enjoy yourself at the same time ... and hopefully come away with a new sense of where you can go and how you can get there.

Char James-Tanny

Accessibility Matters: Making Your Products Available to Everyone

The World Health Organization currently estimates that globally, 1 billion people have at least one disability. Yet this group has the highest unemployment (over 60%), $8 trillion in disposable income, and is most ignored by mainstream content developers. And it’s a group that anyone can join at any time (temporarily or permanently).

Our job is to make sure that everyone can understand the content we create. And for the most part, we are successful—except when it comes to people with disabilities. (Or people using devices and websites in ways that we didn’t plan on, such as a traveler trying to view a restaurant’s website when hungry.)

During this session, you’ll see examples of what it means to be a person with a disability when using websites, mobile devices, and documents. And you’ll learn some things that you can do now to make your information more accessible, using WCAG 2.0 as a reference.

Cindy Currie

What Type of Leader are YOU?

This mini-workshop explores the topic of what makes a "great leader," with help from workshop participants based on their own experiences. We'll discuss the attributes of great leadership, and examine various approaches to managing common business challenges from the perspective of a great leader. Participants will be encouraged to self-assess what type of leader they are now, and build an action plan for becoming GREAT! Takeaways include a template for a leadership action plan to help participants identify how to become a great leader themselves.

Patty Gale

What Do They Really Think? Surveying Users About Your Help Content

You explore the product. You interview SMEs. You write until your fingers cramp. You polish. You publish. And…then what?

Do users use your beautiful documentation? Do they like it? Do they find it useful?

How do you know? Ask them!

Learn how to conduct a user survey to understand customer satisfaction with your learning content. In this presentation, you’ll hear practical advice that will help answer these questions:

Why should you conduct a survey?

What can you expect to learn? What will you not learn from a survey?

How do you design the survey?

What gotchas should you avoid?

Where do you find users to participate?

How do you conduct the survey?

What do you do with all those results?

How do you create an action plan based on the survey feedback?

How can you share the results with executives and stakeholders in a way that they can digest it?

Who should attend: Technical communicators of all stripes who want to understand what users think of their content, with the goal of improving the content, its findability, and/or usability.

Viqui Dill

From Fred Flintstone to George Jetson: Creating Tension in Training Increases Adoption

The objective of a good training program is adoption and excellent field execution. This presentation is about how to use a combination of traditional training deliverables and old school psychology to gain user buy-in and achieve a successful launch. We’ll talk about how my company uses cartoons and countdowns to ensure that users seek out training and have a stake in adoption and field execution excellence.

Whether we create video, user assistance, classroom training, or documentation, what we really want is a group of folks who use the product to do an excellent job with little or no effort and make no mistakes. Creating good training is less about the deliverable and more about building the right relationship.

Todd DeLuca

Technical Delivery: An expanded role for Technical Communicators

Who doesn’t like getting a package or letter in the mail? In this presentation, Todd will share the experience and show examples of how he expanded the role of his team beyond documentation to help others in the organization share the stories of their work. Based on a feature article in the October 2015 STC intercom magazine, Technical Delivery is an opportunity to bridge the gap between preparing material and making sure it gets into the hands of a busy audience that may not be aware of all the great content you’re producing. Given the success of this initiative (and the increased recognition), it’s clear that there’s value in taking your content a step further and helping ensure that your readers see in on a regular basis.

Todd DeLuca

CliffsNotes for Documentation? Absolutely!

In this presentation, Todd will outline and describe how release documentation is like the Cliffsnotes of technical communication – a tool that people can study and learn from. You can get deeper content with traditional user guides or assistance, but release notes and similar materials hit the highlights and outline the big picture. For busy professionals who don’t have time to read an entire manual (novel), there’s a lot of value in short-format documentation – it’s often the first and only material your colleagues and clients ever read. Learn how to extract and collect this type of important content and package it for the biggest impact with your audiences.

Brett Peruzzi

Lessons Learned From Being a Career Mentor

Being a technical communications career mentor can be as rewarding for the mentor as it is helpful for the mentee. Are you interested in being a mentor but not sure if you'd be good at it? This presentation will share the lessons learned in being a mentor for the first time and offer suggestions on how to deal with common challenges.

John Garison

Making Agile Work for YOU!

Agile, scrums, backlogs, user stories, sprints...What's it all about? What do I need to know? And what's in it for me?

Attend this interactive session and get answers to these questions and more. In his 10+ years of experience with the Agile method, John has learned that no two Agile implementations are the same. Even within the same company, different groups practice Agile in slightly different ways. Regardless of the Agile realities at your organization, you can learn to navigate murky waters, get the information you need, and use the Agile method to iteratively produce better, stronger, more useful documentation to support your customers.

Whether your organization is considering a move to Agile or you're already up to your elbows in backlogs and user stories, you'll learn some new perspectives, and leave with a better understanding of how you can make Agile work for your role in Technical Communication.

Karen Giventer

The Job Search Sandwich - A Complete Strategy for Securing a Job Offer

Karen Giventer presents Part 2 of her Job Search seminar. While last year, Karen spoke about finding job opportunities, this program focuses on securing a job offer once you become a candidate.

The presentation includes concrete, specific tactics for turning job searches into job offers.

The following topics are covered:

- Inquiries and Resumes that work

- Interview techniques

- Turning a rejection into an offer (yes, this really can be done)

- Follow-up with managers

- Attitude, focus, and overcoming disappointment

- Staying motivated

- Q&A

Jeff Hanson
Tutorials for the YouTube Age: Video Editing with Camtasia

Learn how to take the basic building blocks of a video screen capture, a narration track, and video special effects, and combine them into a completed video tutorial using Camtasia. During this session you will learn how to do the following:

  • Use Camtasia to edit a video from beginning to end.
  • Use techniques to synchronize a narration track to the on-screen action.
  • Add special effects and call-outs to the video to enhance the learning experience. 
  • Add closed captioning so the video can be used when sound is not available and/or to support localization efforts.

Attendees can either watch and learn, or follow along using Camtasia to create your own edition of the sample video. The hand-out describes important techniques, shortcuts, and tips for video production.

If you choose the hands-on approach, please arrive at the session with a laptop computer set up as follows:

  • The latest edition of TechSmith® Camtasia® installed – your own licensed copy or the free trial downloaded and installed. Note: To ensure that the 30-day trial is still valid during Interchange, install the trial after March 5.
  • A fully charged battery to last the entire session. Power outlets will not be available for attendees.
  • Your computer’s audio setting turned off. When working on the audio portion of the video, we’ll listen to the audio from Jeff’s computer.
  • A copy of the provided set of files on your computer’s desktop. These files contain the video screen capture, audio, templates, and other items required to complete the video.
Steve Jong
Embedded Assistance: Third Rail or Third Way?

It’s challenging to provide technical documentation in an environment where people say “nobody reads the manual” (or even “nobody looks at the help”) and instead demand “intuitive interfaces.” Smartphones are now the most common web browser, and we face an audience with little patience for reading; we feel squeezed out of existence. But there’s an opportunity for us to go from a supporting, or even superfluous, role to center stage: by providing embedded user assistance.

Steve describes and gives examples of embedded assistance, shows how it’s being used today, discuses the challenges of working close to or even inside the code, and relates the effects of participating throughout the design process (as in an agile environment) as well as working with UX designers (or becoming one yourself).

 Deb Sauer

Put Your Content on Mobile Devices Using Responsive HTML5

The reality: Information is available instantly… on our phone, tablet, and computer. Have a question? Look it up using your phone. Expectations have been set. Our users want to be able to access our information with equal ease. How do we meet this need? Delivering information in responsive HTML5  format allows you to make your content available to your users  on multiple platforms. Using the responsive HTML5 output functionality built into FrameMaker, you can quickly and easily create output that users can access from a phone, tablet, or computer.  Output is easily updateable so you can deliver the latest information without having to wait until the next software release. Responsive HTML5 is frameless, facilitating search engine optimization. And, you can customize the output to reflect your corporate identity.  In this session, we’ll explore creating responsive HTML5 output, improving search engine optimization, and customizing the output. 

Deb Sauer

The Experience Comes First

Companies have several departments that create content…marketing, customer care, documentation, user seems like EVERYONE is communicating with the customer. BUT are they communicating with each other? Not so much. Silos. It’s not a new problem, but it is a growing problem. Customers may hear a different tone or voice, depending on the source. Sometimes the information differs. Which is one correct? How do you know? Why put customers in that place? How can we get it together and communicate accurate information in one unified voice? And what is that voice? We’ll talk about breaking down silos, creating a team, and getting the focus on the right place…doing what is right for the customers.

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