Re: FWD: STC: Response to comments about Annual Conference Program

Subject: Re: FWD: STC: Response to comments about Annual Conference Program
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 16 Apr 2001 10:23:21 -0700 (PDT)

> Unlike industry-sponsored conferences, the STC annual conference is a
> volunteer effort. We issue a Call for Proposals and build the program
> from the responses we receive. We do not compensate our speakers, other
> than offering a speaker's rate for the conference registration.

Those call for proposals only go out to STC people. Many writers, myself
in particular, left STC for a vast array of reasons. I left because:

1. The meetings are almost ALWAYS a sales presentation. I don't mind
learning about new tools from time to time, but its ridiculous that I PAY
to attend a meeting where I am hounded to buy some consultant's services.

2. You have to pay for just about everything. STC nickels and dimes you to
death. Each SIG costs money, each meeting costs often seems
like STC is more interested in getting money from its members then helping
them become better writers.

3. The annual conferences contains minimal to no technical content. Most
of the presentations are a sales pitch. The panel discussions are often
laughable displays of non-issues and self-importance. According to others,
the few technical presentations given are grouped with completely
unrelated issues and sparsely attended.

4. The open hostility toward technical information and technology. Look
through the "Strategic Plan for STC for 2000-2005." It is nearly all
bureaucracy enhancements. Where in there does it include anything about
making writers more technically competent? How can a society devoted to
>>>TECHNICAL<<< communication include NOTHING about helping its members
become more technically skilled? Most of the plans are meaningless cliches
like: "Improve the infrastructure for leadership support." What the heck
does that mean? It means, wasting a lot of time in meetings talking about
insignificant issues of management when you should be out there writing
docs and figuring out to how to explain complex ideas to readers.

5. The utterly useless emphasis on certification. Certification will only
allow STC members a new tool to discriminate against "non-members". There
is absolutely no way to "certify" writers in a fair and impartial manner.
Each industry, company, and market has different needs, expectations, and

> We welcome presentations on technical topics. We know that our members
> are looking for these, and we would readily embrace a more technical
> focus to our conference. Please consider coming to the conference and
> helping us develop it to be the sort of conference you'd get something
> out of by sharing what YOU have learned with others.

Helping STC develop presentations means devoting a lot of time. Time most
busy people simply do not have. Why on earth would I work hard to develop
a seminar for STC when:

A) The conference is a income center for STC. STC made a 110K profit last
year (they call it "excess income over expenses," but that's just a fancy
word for profit). According to the 2000 STC Annual Report, the 2000
conference earned approximately $1.2M and cost STC only $650K. STC made a
$550K PROFIT on the conference...AND STILL CHARGES SPEAKERS! That is
appalling. Furthermore, why should I pay the salaries of STC executives
when they won't even let me into a conference, where I am speaking, for
free. I lose money when I attend least STC could not add
insult to injury and charge me for the glorious honor of attending their
profitable conference.

B) Because STC charges to present, the overall quality of the information
presented decreases. It is not a real honor to present. Basically, anybody
who can write a semi-coherent proposal gets to present.

C) Most of the attendees have minimal to no buying power in their
respective firms. Thus, speaking at STC is a virtual dead-end for
technically-minded writers who want to communicate new ideas to

What really makes me laugh is the current conference tag-line: The Future
of Technical Communications. Apparently the future is all management
strategies and one-off work. I guess writers in the future just won't have
any time to actually WRITE anything. They'll be to busy making sure they
have a proper infrastructure for leadership support and other bureaucratic

I am not on a mission to change STC. Most of my clients recognize that
skill and capability is much more important than membership in what is
essentially a social club.

My message is merely that it is time for an alternative conference. STC
just doesn't offer the right kind of atmosphere technically-minded writers
want. I don't know if an TECHWR-L conference is a panacea, but its worth
trying to see if we can do something a little more interesting and useful.

Until STC changes their organization and philosophies, I will not be a
member and I surely won't encourage others to join. I find that TECHWR-L
offers a much more useful and interesting forum to network with other
writers and discuss relevant technical communications topics.

Andrew Plato

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