From the Editor’s Desk

Emily Wells

Technical Communicators of Florida and Beyond,

This is it…my first solo editor effort! I’ve been looking forward to my time as editor and communications chair, though not without some trepidation. After all, with great power…

You see, my stepping into the editor’s chair is only the beginning. Your incoming officers and I are thinking of new ways to help you, our members, get the most out of STC and our chapter. And let me just say, we’ve got some awesome ideas that we’ll discuss at our leadership retreat in July (so keep an eye out for the August Memo to Members for more details).

But before we start planning ahead and gearing up for our July leadership retreat, let’s take a minute to step back and celebrate all that we have accomplished this past year. First, after months of preparations, the Summit has come and past. As a chief planner of two Summit events (Pub Crawl and Diner Meetup), I’m ecstatic at the huge success.

For more on the Summit, see this month’s President’s Corner, where Alex Garcia reflects not only on this success but also his time as President.

Florida Chapter members sending their greetings from the Summit.

Dan Voss also reflects on the Summit by sharing about a Florida Chapter tradition, “Washlines,” providing a how-to guide for others as well as some exciting news about coming attractions. More on this in the article below.

Last but not least, Misty Arner presents part 2 of a 4-part series reflecting on another ground-breaking year for our chapter’s student mentoring program.

With these and all our other accomplishments, our chapter has a lot to celebrate. Which brings me to our annual end of the year celebration and awards ceremony this Thursday, June 14. This event is a fun get-together that allows us to reflect and celebrate as a chapter (not to mention one of the best networking opportunities all year). For more information and to RSVP, visit our Meetup page.

I hope to see you at the celebration!

Catch you on the flip side,

Emily Wells
Editor, Memo To Members
newsletter@stc-orlando.org

President’s Corner

Alex Garcia

By: Alex Garcia
President
Florida Chapter, STC

president@stc-orlando.org

Members and Friends of the Florida Chapter STC,

Writer’s note: I write this column on a plane at the tail end of a very long, but very satisfying three weeks: The 2018 STC Summit, a customer meeting in Washington DC, and a very special invitation to the Lockheed Martin Headquarters Conference Center in Bethesda, MD for the Lockheed Martin Pride LGBT Professional Network leadership forum to interface with corporate level Vice Presidents and managers from around the company. Needless to say, I think I am all extroverted out. But, I will look back on these three weeks with fondness. I’ve met some wonderful people, whose contacts are sure to help my career at STC, at Lockheed Martin, and beyond. 

It’s been two years since I took office as President of your Central Florida Chapter STC. The Chapter has seen great change during this time. Most importantly: we are now the Florida Chapter STC. When I took office, we had just started merging with the Suncoast Chapter STC. That July, I walked into the annual leadership retreat with the idea for a statewide chapter model where we maintain the centralized administrative council in Orlando and broadcast our meetings statewide. I envisioned geographically-based local interest groups (LIGs). So far, the Suncoast LIG has started gaining steam. While we have struggled with our virtual meeting technology, it is something that my successor, Bethany Aguad, has pledged to perfect.

Another one of my pressing visions when I took office was the 2018 STC Summit. As host chapter, we would need to show our visitors a warm welcome by setting up at least one evening event and staging a hospitality table. Well, I can honestly say that the Summit was a HUGE success! We hosted TWO evening events (a Pub Crawl on Monday evening and a Diner Crawl on Tuesday evening). Let me tell you about the impressive logistical exercise the Diner Crawl was. 11 restaurants with between 10 and 15 people at each restaurant! Special shout out to Emily Wells, Debra Johnson, and last-minute concierge Tisa Newcombe for a very successful diner crawl.

President Alex Garcia, Vice President Elect Nick Ducharme, STC Immediate Past President Alyssa Fox, and former chapter Vice President Sarah Baca enjoy dinner with Summit attendees at Tapa Toro.

The Summit itself was a humbling experience. Your Florida Chapter STC’s Summit committee received so many words of gratitude for the way we hosted the event. STC Meeting Coordinator Elaine Gilliam even jokingly invited your Chapter to host next year’s Summit in Denver, CO. And I was identified as a rising leader in the Society when I was invited to join the 2018-2019 Community Affairs Committee (CAC) by STC Director Jessie Mallory. I have no doubt that running your Florida Chapter for the past two years has prepared me to help other Chapters and SIGs achieve the same level of excellence. But don’t worry, I am still going to serve on your Chapter’s AdCo as Immediate Past President. I will be here for whatever Bethany and Nick need as we realize your Chapter’s full potential.

YOUR CHAPTER IS IN GOOD HANDS!

I close this, my last column, with my favorite quote from the dearly-departed Anthony Bourdain, who I always called my spirit animal. It is actually the last quote from the last episode of his Travel Channel series No Reservations:

“If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. The extent to which you can walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food, it’s a plus for everybody. Open your mind, get up off the couch, move.” Anthony Bourdain

“Washlines”: a 20-Year STC Florida Tradition

Sharing the Summit: A Colorful Approach to Bringing
Conference Information Back to Your Community


Dan Voss

By: Dan Voss
Fellow, STC Florida Chapter

Editor’s Note: This article is intended as a reference for other STC communities who are eager to bring back what they learned at the Summit and share it with their colleagues. We are including it in the June edition of Memo to Members to set the stage for a new spin on the traditional “Washlines” meeting at the August chapter meeting, where several chapter members who attended the Summit in Orlando last month will share ideas from the sessions they attended.

Bringing back information from the previous spring’s STC international conference to share with chapter members at the August chapter meeting is a longstanding tradition with the STC Florida Chapter (and the heritage Orlando Central Florida and Orlando chapters which preceded it). The original concept was an interactive panel discussion where the audience selected topics based on colorful signs strung along a clothesline across the meeting room: hence the name “Washlines.”

In the beginning … the Giant Hairball!

 

The format was based on a unique and memorable interactive keynote address by the late creative guru Gordon MacKenzie, author of the amazing—and still-in-print—Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace  (see page 3 of the September 2001 edition of Memo to Members), at the 41st annual international conference in Minneapolis/St. Paul in 1994. The presenter strung a rope across the stage bearing huge signs where the audience could call out topics they wanted MacKenzie to address. He responded with an extemporaneous 1- to 5-minute distilled mini-presentation for all requested topics.

Part of the STC Florida tradition has been to bring the “motif” of the conference city back to Orlando. For example, in “Washlines XII: As the Roulette Wheel Turns” after the 53rd annual international conference in Las Vegas in 2006, we set up a “casino” in the meeting room where attendees played roulette, poker, craps, e-slots, and other games of chance (not for money, of course; that would have knocked out our 503(c)b status for sure!). Several of the panelists even got into the Vegas motif with colorful costumes, including the roulette table host in a tux and a panelist sporting a red feather boa (see newsletter event coverage below).

Over the years, the format evolved from an interactive panel discussion to six progression tables (“venues”), identified by color-coded balloons. Each host, generally wearing the color of his/her venue, was prepared to speak on anywhere from 1 to 4 topics from the previous spring’s international conference; the choice was up to each audience around the table. The progression format consisted of three 25-minute rotations with 5 minutes in between to change venue. Each table was “dark” for one of the three rotations to give the venue hosts a chance to visit one other table. We preserved the “Washlines” tradition with a clothesline strung with colorful signs identifying the various topics available at the six venues, but the interactive topic selections varied by table and by rotation.

In more recent years, the trend has been 1 or, at most, 2 topics per table to allow a more detailed summary by the venue host along with time for Q&A’s and interactive discussion on the topic.

The progression format is not difficult to set up. You can use the below rotation matrix for a six-venue progression as a template and just fill in the venue hosts and their topic(s). The matrix can be easily adjusted to range anywhere from 3 to 8 venues topics, although 5 or 6 are usually optimal.

Note the progression approach could easily be expanded to a 4-hour “mini-conference” workshop by adding a few venues, going through four 30-minute rotations with 10 minutes in between and having each venue “on” for two rotations and “dark” for two rotations.

Some tips for preparing for, executing, and following up the progression:

  1. Before the international conference, encourage chapter members who are attending to take good notes at the sessions they attend—especially on topics that are likely to be of greatest interest to chapter members back home–and download the speaker’s posted slides and/or collateral materials from the conference website.
  2. Immediately after the conference, line up the venue hosts (or, in some cases with first-time speakers such as student members, co-hosts) and have them provide the title(s) for the topics they will cover at their tables. It’s important to strike while the conference iron is still hot!
  3. Assign venue (and balloon) colors on a first-come, first-serve basis. Note that this can become quite competitive!
  4. Decide whether or not you wish to “theme” the event based on the host city for the previous spring’s conference. This optional twist adds color to the event, but it also adds preparation in terms of decorations, venue hosts’ attire, etc.

“Washlines XII” panelists Jen Selix (Active Member shirt) and Heather Sterns (red feather boa) helped bring Vegas to Orlando.

  1. Decide whether or not you want to go with the “Washlines” motif. If you do, get each venue host to provide a suitable colorful sign (preferably with a visual element) for his/her topic. Here again, this adds color to the event, but it also adds preparation.
  2. Encourage your venue hosts to provide at least one take-away handout for their table.
  3. Optionally, you can encourage your venue hosts to “compete” for attendees by hawking candy, cookies, even hot hors d’oeuvres, and other “swag” at their tables. This creates a carnival-like atmosphere that nicely counterpoints the exchange of professional information. In one case, following the international conference in Chicago, one of the venues was based on Al Capone, and the venue host came packing a rapid-fire water “tommy gun” that saw considerable action during the evening. Clearly, if you base your “Washlines” meeting on the conference in Orlando, at least one of the venue hosts should be wearing mouse ears. You get the idea!
  4. Assuming you have enough venue hosts for at least 3 tables , the two potential “choke points” for the program coordinator in executing the event are (1) getting the speakers’ topics {using the exact titles and speakers of the conference presentations being summarized) and, if you are using the “Washlines” format, (2) getting the graphics for their signs that go along with their topics. The second is optional, although if you use that approach, you should have signs for all topics. The first is crucial, because you cannot set up the rotation matrix until you have all the venue hosts’ topic titles and the conference speakers who presented on those topics.
  5. The rotation matrix, in turn, becomes key to promoting the event. Printed color copies of the rotation also becomes the program for the event. It is the equivalent of the conference program for two morning sessions or afternoon sessions at the Summit. You can see how easily that could be parlayed into a 4-hour mini-conference workshop with little to no additional preparation on the part of the venue hosts—just a few more venues (see above).
  6. Be sure to get photos at the event for coverage in the next month’s chapter newsletter or other communication forum. This is an excellent way for student members to get a pubs credit for their resumes and portfolios by reporting on topics covered at the venues. If you do this, be sure to pre-assign the writers to venues to avoid duplication and ensure all venues are covered. Also get photos of each venue host in action (including the colored balloon identifying the venue).

For pre-event promotion and post-event coverage of a typical original panel-style

Do you feel lucky?

“Washlines” meeting following the Las Vegas Summit in 2006 (“Washlines XII: As the Roulette Wheel Turns”), see the July/August (pages 1, 4, 6, 10, and 11) and September (pages 1, 2, 6, and 12) 2006 editions of the STC Florida (then Orlando) chapter newsletter, Memo to Members, respectively. For pre-event promotion of a more recent progression-style “Washlines” meeting after the 57th international Summit in Atlanta in 2013, see the August Part I (“What’ll Ya Have? Get Ready for Action … We’re Bringing ‘The Varsity’ for Washlines XIX”) and August Part II (“Special Washlines”) editions of Memo to Members. For post-event coverage, see the September 2013 (“If You Missed the Last Meeting”) edition of Memo to Members.

 ——————————————————————————————————————-

COMING ATTRACTION!

STC Florida Chapter members … watch for the August meeting as incoming Vice President Nick Ducharme puts a new spin on the traditional “Washlines” theme by bringing the Orlando Summit—well, back to Orlando! Details in the August Memo to Members.

The View From Campus

Part 2 of a 4-Part Series

FTC/STC Student Mentoring Program Wraps Up Exciting Year
And Lays Plans for Expanded Virtual Connectivity Next Year

Misty Arner

By: Misty Arner
Co-Manager, STC-FTC Student Mentoring Program
Student Member, STC Florida Chapter

Introduction

As promised in our May edition of Memo to Members, I have another success story from our STC-FTC student mentorship program. As we wrap up the STC 2017-2018 chapter year, STC Fellow and chapter director-at-large Karen Lane and her mentee Tisa Newcombe tell their insightful success story of the program in my interview for this edition of MtM.

Their story shows that you do not have to be a student on campus to benefit from the mentee/mentor program. Those of you who are online students can reap the benefits of this program as well. Tisa Newcombe, who takes exclusively online classes at UCF and has benefited tremendously from her mentor, Karen Lane.

The STC-FTC student mentorship program has always helped with professional development and career advancement. With today’s complex and evolving workplace, Tisa’s and Karen’s situation is one of the reasons that has sparked the ideation of innovative plans to expand virtual connectivity in next year’s mentoring program. As you will read in the interview below, they overcame a considerable geographic challenge to forge a productive and mutually beneficial mentoring partnership that combined periodic face-to-face meetings at a central location and frequent virtual communication (largely by email) on their mentoring projects. In so doing, they are helping to blaze a new trail as the STC Florida Chapter begins to extend our student mentoring program statewide in the coming years.

I hope this article encourages both tech comm students and professional technical communicators to become active members in the Florida Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication (STC) as well as encourage UCF tech comm students (both undergraduate and graduate) to join Future Technical Communicators (FTC) and to participate as mentees in the STC-FTC student mentorship program.

Part 2: Chat with Mentor Karen Lane and Mentee Tisa Newcombe

Karen Lane

Tisa Newcombe

 

Mentor Karen Lane and mentee Tisa Newcombe were both key players as the STC Florida Chapter hosted last month’s STC Summit in Orlando.

 

What do you believe was the single most beneficial aspect of your mentoring partnership?

Tisa:  Karen has been extremely encouraging. She has pushed me to be more active in the STC and provided me with great ways to do so.

Karen:  Mentoring is always an educational experience for mentors, because it gives us an insight into issues that face newer (and not-quite-yet) practitioners. We tend to look at the profession of technical communication through the lens of our own experience, but interacting professionally with students and recent students can give us an awareness of the challenges mentees face when preparing for a career. It is especially true that technical communication, encompassing so many different types of work and approaches, requires students to both generalize in theory and specialize in practice.

Does any particular activity or project in your mentoring partnership stand out as the most successful? Explain.

Tisa:  Writing the article for intercom. It was a great experience and gave me my first opportunity to be published.

Karen:  Not really, no. What stands out for me is Tisa’s eagerness to derive the maximum benefit from our relationship. She is open to suggestions for projects and practices, and she is very clear-headed about where she is going.

What is the most important thing you believe a mentee/mentor can do to derive maximum benefit from a mentoring partnership?

Tisa:  Communication. Being able to communicate and ask for opportunities. I think it is easy to think your mentor will be too busy to help with little projects, so you don’t ask.

Karen:  Get involved with your mentee and be proactive about looking for projects to which both partners can contribute. Also, listen to what the mentee says he or she hopes to gain from the pairing. This information will guide the forward progress of the team.

Did you face any challenges in ensuring a successful mentoring partnership? If so, what were they, and how did you overcome them?

Tisa:  Distance was a challenge. We utilized tools such as Google Drive and email to help bridge the distance. Most of our communication is by email, but we try to meet in person about once every month or every other month at a central location.

Karen:  We had the obvious challenge of geography right from the outset. Tisa and I live on opposite sides of the state, making in-person meetings more difficult. But she has been flexible about travel and so have I. That has helped a lot. We try to meet at a “halfway” spot when possible—Disney area seems to work pretty well. And we communicate via email for most of our information exchanges.

Another challenge was that we are both very busy, me with my work and she with her schoolwork and her job. This situation means that finding time to work together and meet from time to time has required a real commitment from us both.

Do you have any suggestions on how the mentoring program might be improved?

Tisa:  I think the mentoring program has been great. I do not see any needs for improvements at this time.

Karen:  I don’t necessarily think that geography should factor into the pairings of mentors and mentees, although that has been suggested as a future consideration. It’s far more important to have a good fit of goals and personality than to be handicapped by geographic distance. Today it is very easy to communicate virtually in real time if geographic co-location is not possible.

Tell me about the article you coauthored for intercom, “While You’re Here.” How did you divide up the research, writing, editing, and photo gathering for the project?

Karen/Tisa:  We started by brainstorming what kind of article we wanted to write: first we collected several possible topics, then we discussed them and decided which was the most appealing and feasible for us. Then we developed a spreadsheet to collect names of attractions, addresses, distance from the Summit hotel, and a few notes about salient features. We divided up the list to do further research on each, and then we discussed which to include and which to drop. Tisa did a first draft, and Karen edited it for language and also for content. Some of the suggested attractions and museums did not make the cut; others were expanded. Then both of us reviewed the result, selected some images for inclusion, and submitted the completed article.

Describe what you did in terms of job search and placement (resume, portfolio, interviewing, etc.).

Karen/Tisa:  Tisa provided her résumé for Karen’s suggestions and modified accordingly. She is also developing an online portfolio, which Karen is in the process of reviewing. We haven’t had much discussion on interviewing, but Tisa is employed in the field, so she is not actively job seeking. Rather, she is planning ahead to graduate school after she finishes her bachelor’s degree this spring. At that point, Karen can be a sounding board for Tisa when she is on an active job hunt, assuming she wants to work while she is in graduate school. Her plan at the moment is to be a teaching assistant, which may not leave much time for regular employment. We will keep in touch as the situation evolves.

Whether you are a student who attends classes on campus or strictly online, consider joining FTC and STC and learning from seasoned professionals in your field of study by becoming a mentee in the STC-FTC student mentorship program.

If you are a professional practitioner in Florida, please consider joining the STC Florida Chapter. Better still, sign up for the flourishing STC-FTC student mentoring program as we enter our 16th year. You will find, as have Karen and Tisa and many other mentor/mentee pairs, that mentoring is very definitely a two-way street as well as a clear “win-win” situation.

Watch for Parts 3 and 4 of this series in the August and September editions of Memo to Members!