Trade Shows and Tech Writers

Subject: Trade Shows and Tech Writers
From: "THOMAS A. JOHNSON" <am312 -at- TRAVERSE -dot- LIB -dot- MI -dot- US>
Date: Mon, 8 Jul 1996 16:26:00 -0400

Has anyone out there gleaned a tremendous amount of information about
technical communication at a trade show? I'm not talking about shows
focusing on our needs as writers, but trade shows that market the
products we write about. For instance, my employer is going to have a
booth at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS) in
Chicago this September. I'm being encouraged to go, but the last time I
went, I did more oohing and ahhing at the lasers, presses and other
gizmos than learning anything about how to do my job better.

Do any of you send along samples of technical documents when your
companies showcase their products in trade shows? I tried asking to see
manuals at a couple of booths and all I got were blank looks. One vendor
wasn't interested in talking with me at all when I found out I worked for
a competitor. Where is the line between cooperating as technical writers
and not giving away a competitive edge if you have a first-rate manual or
process for documenting a product. I'm the only writer for our company
and I feel like I'm in a vacuum. It seems like I should be able to get
some good ideas by going to a trade show. Our engineers absorb tons of
ideas by looking at other equipment on display. That almost sounds like
plagiarism or espionage, but it isn't any different than one auto company
scoping out their competitor's new models.

So, should I send manuals with our machine? Should I go to the show or
stay home and use it as leverage to attend the STC conference in
Toronto. I know my wife would rather go to Toronto than Chicago. Do any
of you send manuals with your products? And, are there any of you who
are working for industrial equipment manufacturers who could possibly do
something along the lines of a "manual exchange?" I'm thinking of
something like, you send in a dozen manuals and you get a dozen in
exchange to peruse for ideas, techniques or whatever. If there is any
interest in that, I'd be willing to coordinate it.

Thomas Johnson (The Lone Writer in northern Michigan)

am312 -at- traverse -dot- lib -dot- mi -dot- us

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