MEGAComm Thoughts

I can’t believe the endless details that go into coordinating a national conference. There seem to be more each year and just when you think it will get easier, I think it gets even harder. We took on a lot this year – dealing with a new place, adding a whole new community (marketing), and two keynote speakers and an element of fun. Some of the old requirements remained; new ideas were added.

Kfar Maccabia was conveniently located, but a bit of a disappointment in many ways – it leaked a bit in the tent; personally, I found the food too spicy; and too few bathrooms to suit our many attendees. Doors were broken and some people were disturbed by sounds coming from the next presentations – we had no way of knowing this from our visits to the place and apologize for these shortcomings. We still need to adjust the break ratio – some people complained that a half hour was too long, but 15 minutes is too short. There were other things we have to review but I don’t want to focus on the negative because the positive comments were clear and overwhelming.

And the people, the sessions…it was amazing.

I loved seeing Jeff Pulver explain his view of today’s communications realities. I have been living with this for a few years, starting with my blog, moving to become active in Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. I haven’t honestly mastered this FourSquare, so I can’t blame someone who, like me, wonders why it is important to tell the world where I am at any given moment. And while I liked collecting badges and being mayor of a bunch of places, this grew less interesting after a time. How did I “get” Jeff to come? People asked me and the answer is so simple, I asked him on Twitter.

I was so honored to introduce Danny Ayalon, Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel and smiled when I overheard someone ask to name another country in which the Deputy Foreign Minister would come to speak before a bunch of technical and marketing writers. He spoke of Israel and the unique contributions we bring to Israel as English-speaking immigrants. He told us he had a job for us – it was our task to react, report, and respond to those who write negatively about Israel. This is an important part of my non-technical writing life and so I listened with great interest. How did I “get” Danny Ayalon to come? People asked me and the answer is so simple, I asked him on Facebook.

What are my exhausted thoughts after such a day? Here are a few, in random order:

  • We as a community need to become more involved, to engage more, using available tools such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and blogging.
  • We as a community need to share our knowledge intelligently, in such a way that we make it clear we remain the experts, the ones with the experience to handle documentation tasks here in Israel, and from abroad.
  • We as a community are people. It is wonderful to see old friends and catch up – year after year, sometimes the only time we see each other is at these conferences but the warmth, the friendship, the knowledge that we date back a long way is there. I have known some of you for 15 years or more. Look how far we have come, I wanted to say several times. Look what we have done in all these years. We have raised our children, changed jobs, some have gotten married (not me, thankfully), many have become grandparents (working on that one). There were so many smiles yesterday, so much laughing and talking, and yes, learning. We are stronger as a community for days like this.
  • One of the main messages I got was that we were challenged yesterday, as we have been in previous years. Our industry is a changing one. The SME with the knowledge and the user with a desire to learn are talking to each other. Our safe middle ground isn’t nearly as safe as it was before. We have to define and redefine ourselves to maintain our relevancy.

I thought about this last point on the drive home, sitting exhausted and not wanting to talk too much. Our Technical Writing Course (next one starting February 27th – this Sunday) has been adapted regularly over the years we have been offering it. We have added sections to address this issue of communication between our information suppliers and our end-users. I believe these topics are helping to prepare tomorrow’s technical writers to face the challenges we heard about yesterday.

But I also think that we as a community, those of us who are not now entering the field, need to adapt as well. Global communication is changing. Blogs are a reality, Twitter today’s news source. Facebook is about instant sharing of news (more personal than professional); and LinkedIn is an invaluable source of communication on the professional level.

I read the feedback sheets last night, too tired to concentrate and yet very interested to learn the impressions of others about something for which we had worked so hard. All of those involved in organizing next year’s conference will read them as well and we will take them to heart for the excellent and well-thought out opinions they offer. The conference will be better next year for the feedback we received yesterday!

We will adapt because if a message came out of yesterday’s conference, with all the sessions about what the future will bring, it is about adapting. Information Mapping, Simplified Technical English, Agile Documentation, Single-Sourcing – all of these are about adapting what we do to be better, more efficient.

I want to again thank the incredible people who helped make yesterday so wonderful – to our keynote speakers – thank you for honoring us with your thoughts, opinions, and your very presence (and Jeff, I’m sorry again!).

To the wonderful people who attended MEGAComm – it was so much fun to see you all. To the presenters – thank you for your time, your knowledge, your willingness to share.

To the WritePoint staff who again worked beyond measure, thank you so much – I truly love you guys and it is a daily source of wonder that I am honored to work with such talented and amazing people.

And to those who did not come this year for whatever reason – I hope you will consider joining us next year. This has truly developed into an amazing yearly event in which we gather as a community.

I was so happy to see companies sending whole documentation and marketing teams. Like the keynote speakers who came from far and near, fought Tel Aviv traffic and the rain, the fact that companies paid to send people to this event is a recognition of the importance of taking this day to enrich, to learn, to share.

A final thought – we live in a most amazing country. From the north, from the south, from Jerusalem, from Gush Dan and its surroundings, people came and so many times, I saw people staring out at the rain. It poured at times, it leaked at times and it was glorious.

May we all continue to be blessed to live in this land, to be a part of this community.