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Evelyn Barker reports: <<The software company where I work hosts an annual
conference for its clients to introduce the latest product changes, provide
specialized training, etc. I've been asked to give a presentation on
Technical Communications. This
is not a how-to class nor do they want to know how we do our jobs. I'm
having difficulty coming up with content that would justify their
Wouldn't this be a wonderful opportunity to get some direct feedback on what
you're writing and how you're writing it? Don't ask for a grade--that's
meaningless. Instead, ask them what kind of things you're doing right, and
more importantly, what kinds of things you're doing wrong. I'd recommend
having a handful of "this was a problem and this is how we solved it,
keeping your needs in mind" topics ready so you can give a bit of a talk if
everyone sits there like bumps on a log and has no complaints or
recommendations, but that shouldn't be the case.
Another possibility might be something we've done in our own training
sessions: give them a 15-minute course in using the online help system, and
have a few computers set up so they can try it out on their own. Last but
not least, don't neglect the opportunity to do some quick and dirty--but
highly effective--audience analysis: There are undoubtedly things you don't
know or have only imagined about the users of your product (their work
environment, the problems they face in using the software, etc.). Ask them
the kinds of questions whose answers can directly shape the work you'll be
doing to solve their problems.
--Geoff Hart, geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada
580 boul. St-Jean
Pointe-Claire, Que., H9R 3J9 Canada
"Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the
earth's surface relative to other matter; second, telling other people to do
so. The first is unpleasant and ill-paid; the second is pleasant and highly
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