By: Michele L.
Florida Chapter, STC
With an abundance of free online content and social networking options, people no longer must meet face-to-face to exchange information. This can cause a perceived lack of value in face-to-face meetups, which is causing participation in professional associations around the world to decline. Online communities, however, are thriving. Therefore, if organizations are to survive, they must adapt to meet the needs of their members.
As STC faces this challenge, the STC Florida Chapter is searching for new ways to retain members and provide outreach for those of us who live too far away to attend a face-to-face chapter meeting. One experiment the chapter is conducting is to use the power of an online networking site, Meetup, to bring people together in person. Meetup is free to join, and anyone can establish a group for like-minded individuals.
The Tampa Bay Tech Comm Meetup group rotates meetings around the central west coast of Florida. We post a lunch or after work location on the site several weeks in advance and invite anyone to join us. Placing a sign on the table identifies our group to newcomers. There is no agenda or speaker, just an opportunity for attendees to share a meal or beverage with like-minded professionals. This creates a less stressful environment for those who plan the meetings, present at meetings, and clean up afterwards. By keeping the gatherings short and rotating them around the area, anyone interested in technical communication can join.
At a recent lunch in Tampa, we went around the table, introduced ourselves, and talked about our latest work projects as well as the upcoming STC Summit. One attendee was looking for a graphic designer; another wanted to know more about using DITA. A college student talked about her post-college plans.
If our group is successful, Meetups could be held around the state, giving all technical communicators the chance to network in person and stay connected to the statewide chapter without having to travel to Orlando. This would provide a lifeline to smaller communities who can no longer support an STC chapter but crave a local connection.