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You are in a large lecture hall full of people in your profession.
Included in the audience are students, educators, professionals.
You cannot make out their faces, but they could reasonably
include your employers or potential employers, your coworkers,
and the ever-present violently obsessive technical writing
Most of the audience members sit quietly as one member at a time
gets up, walks to the podium, and shares information or advice or
asks questions. Some of it is rich and detailed, some cursory but
helpful, some trivial but relevant in a roundabout way. Somewhere
in this stream of information, someone expresses an opinion or
gives a piece of advice that you feel obligated to respond to.
You get out of your seat and walk to the front of the room,
everyone's eyes upon you. ...
(Listowner's note: At this point, the paths may diverge.
Some of the following unfortunate cases have been played
out over the past few years.)
A) You approach the podium, clear your throat, and say "Me,
too." You are greeted with a combination of quizzical,
patronizing smirks and incredulous silence.
B) You relate that really good joke about Microsoft and operating
systems that you overheard at the restaurant last night. Some
laugh. Some wonder why you just now heard it. Many wonder why
you'd use their chance to discuss technical communication to
tell a old joke.
C) You take your turn at the microphone to clarify a point. One
of the previous speakers had mentioned, in the context of
developing and using context-sensitive, interactive help files,
that they used MS Word v3.0. Obviously, that's incorrect, therefore
you clarify that they MUST have used a different version because
that one didn't even exist. Not only that, but the incompetence
of anyone who could make such a mistake is certainly astounding.
It only takes you about 10 minutes to impress upon everyone that
you know far better than the speaker what versions of Word exist.
(You don't make any points about the issue at hand, but your
audience has already made their assumptions about your knowledge
in that area.)
D) "Does anyone know how much the cheapest Internet service provider
in Kansas costs?"
E) You replay the entire videotape of the MS Word v3.0 speaker,
including the introduction, the walk to the podium, and the walk
back to a seat. The quality isn't all that hot, but it's important
to make sure everyone knows the context in which you speak. 12
minutes later, you point out that there is in fact a version of
MS Word v3.0 and you had used it once, briefly, but didn't like
it much and would always choose Frame. Furthermore, anyone who
uses any version of Word is a certifiable idiot and if your company
or clients require Word, you should quit and find a real company.
You return to your seat satisfied about your demonstrated TW
proficiency and wonder about the copy of "How to Win Friends and
Influence People" that ended up on your chair. (Thanks to Jim Barton
for the initial suggestion and Arlen Walker for the quibble.)
F) You take your chance at the podium to publicly mock the
pronunciation and diction of the three speakers before you, not to
mention their poor spelling on overheads. As you return to your
seat, someone passes you a note pointing out that one of the three
is hard of hearing, one is not a native speaker of English, and
that many people in the world don't see a problem with spelling
"defense" as "defence". Whoops! Oh, well, you think, they'll get
G) How about... you walk up to the podium and say "I'm glad you all
finally stopped talking about that subject, because you were wasting
everyone's time. I'm so relieved we're not discussing it any more."
(Thanks to Tracy Boyington for this one.)
As you walk back to your seat, you try to make out the faces around you.
(Thanks to Lisa Higgins for this scenario)
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Eric J. Ray ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com