STC Chapter Presidents: Wrapup

Subject: STC Chapter Presidents: Wrapup
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Sat, 28 Feb 1998 15:15:36 -0500

Thanks to all who answered my posted query about "vanishing" STC chapter

As I expected, there is a wide variation in experiences. Some chapters seem
to keep their presidents involved, sometimes with clever plans like making
a "President Emeritus" or some other "retirement" position where the past
president's experience can be used without putting pressure on an
already-scorched individual.

But I did have a significantly large number of respondents who reported
presidential fadeaway. The reasons vary in detail, but they appear to group
under 1) burnout, especially in chapters where the president can't or won't
offload responsibilities, 2) unforeseen eventualities such as moving away,
and 3) career movement. Career movement seems to be a particularly hefty
reason for departure. Most us in this business drift in from somewhere else
and it's hardly surprising that many would drift out as readily. In our
chapter, turnover is high even among the active members. I was talking with
a former president of our chapter from four or five years back, listing
attendees at a recent meeting, and found that out of 30 or so she knew only
a half-dozen.

One respondent (Garret Romaine) observed that while STC is an excellent
organization for working folks, it isn't always as helpful for managers.
Individuals who willingly take on presidential tasks tend to be manager
types anyway, and they are often tagged as management material within their
own companies, which takes them away to meetings, flights, late hours, or
even just plain career drift. Garret also opined, and I agree, being a
chapter president is a wondrously satisfying thing. You can help others'
careers in ways you can't do anywhere else.

On the other hand, Mark Levinson wrote that some presidents may fade into
the woodwork because of frustration at not having gotten more help, or of
embarrassment at not accomplishing more during the year. I haven't seen
this in our chapter, but I'd have to think that it could happen.

Burnout is probably the close second most popular reason for disappearance.
It appears that in many chapters the president has a heavy burden of
setting up meetings, handling crises, and other heavy lifting. Having been
a president myself, I know that the members can be critical of you at times
(until they become president...funny how that happens). In our chapter I've
kept my burnout to a minimum by having members "volunteer" to coordinate
the meetings, including getting the speaker and defining the topic. We
follow up to make sure nothing is forgotten, but the burden is on the
coordinator. We've had a string of fabulous meetings because of this.

Deborah Silver notes that chapter presidents have more responsibilities
than they've ever possessed before, thanks to websites, more special
committees, and increasing costs for meeting sites and publishing chapter
newsletters and other materials. All of this contributes to the burnout.

Another factor that may affect the situation is how close the STC crowd
feels to each other personally. It would seem that some chapters are more
socially-oriented than others, and this may serve to bind the president
more closely to the chapter even after his or her term is up.

Oddly, Michael Uhl said that in his chapter, it's the _vice presidents_
that disappear. I won't even try to figure that one out.

Finally, Larry Kunz suggested that past presidents be urged to look at
Society-level positions, director/sponsor or something similar. This would
probably satisfy those past presidents who believe that they have no worlds
left to conquer.

Thanks again to everyone who responded. I don't plan to disappear from my
chapter, but I have to admit that in the past year our company's workload
has increased tremendously and the thought of taking on yet another
responsible volunteer position gives me some reservations. Still, I keep
remembering that it was STC people who first got my feet planted on this
road, and I'm still grateful to many of them who aren't even around
anymore. I'll probably still want to help others the same way, if only in a
more placid position.

Tim Altom
Vice President, Simply Written, Inc.
317.899.5882 (voice) 317.899.5987 (fax)
Creators of the Clustar Method (TM)
An out-of-the-box methodology for fast task-based documentation
that's easy to port to paper, WinHelp, Acrobat, SGML, and other media.

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