At the next STC Summit, May 3-6 in Atlanta, Georgia, the STC will record and distribute every one of the 120+ sessions, making them available to all conference registrants for free and to others at a cost. Because this is the first time the STC has attempted to record the Summit, I asked Lloyd Tucker, STC's Director of Education and Membership, if he could share some details about the upcoming recording.
Why did the STC decide to record all the sessions this year?
STC has been considering some type of conference recording for the last two years. We have been watching several associations and companies to see how their programs unfolded. We knew that the technology (remember those old cassette tapes?) had improved considerably, but needed to find a company that could provide more than just recording capabilities. The company we are working with has been “capturing” sessions for large conferences and companies like Microsoft for several years.
Capturing sessions is one part of a new conference management program. You may have noticed that the call for proposals for the 2009 conference was new and web-based. The program will also help us manage speakers, rooms, scheduling and all the things that have to get done during a large conference. Another exciting part of the conference management program will be the capability for those registered to use a personal planner in selecting sessions and events to maximize their time at the conference. That planner will aid in the planning for the proper size room, and allow us to directly contact registrants who intend to attend a particular session in case of changes and much more.
Probably the biggest reason for recording the sessions is to be able to expand the exposure to the great content of the sessions by giving individuals the capability to “attend” the conference sessions that they could not physically attend onsite. An attendee can only go to about 12 sessions during the conference even though 120+ are presented. Being able to “attend” the sessions after the fact greatly enhances the value of a conference registration and provides the attendee with a huge volume of educational materials to review.
Won't the cost be astronomical?
While it is certainly not cheap, the cost is not astronomical. We will be able to include the “recordings” in the price of a conference onsite registration. We also plan to resell the conference package to those who did not attend in person. This price, while not set yet, will likely approximate the cost of a single registration. We expect this income to greatly offset the cost of the original recording.
Technically, how will you pull this off?
The good news is speakers will no longer be required to bring their own laptop. STC will provide laptops and speakers will only need to bring their presentation on a thumb drive. We can make exceptions and use a speaker's laptop if they have unique applications, or the like, that they need to use.
The laptops will be loaded with a program that will record and synchronize the speaker's visuals and audio as it is presented. The program does a screen capture of any visual that goes through the projector. So, not only will a PowerPoint slide be captured, but speakers that use the internet or an application will have that captured too. As it happens, our vendor works with Microsoft to use the same process to capture software training sessions as the presenter moves from screen to screen.
What were the conditions that led to this decision -- e.g., why now? For example, are people perceiving less and less value from their STC membership?
The TechComm Summit is the crown jewel of STC's continuing education programs. We are constantly looking for ways to improve content and delivery methods to satisfy our members. One of the comments made most often on evaluation forms is disappointment from not being able to attend all the sessions that are applicable. Even companies that send multiple attendees have expressed that frustration. We're eager to see if this new capability of capturing the sessions will satisfy those who wish they could have been in all sessions.
Are people perceiving less value from STC membership? We realize that the key to a healthy association is continuous improvement in value and services. There have been several new benefits added to the list this year (exclusive discounts on software, access to the Aberdeen Group research library of best practices, an expanded Salary Survey, and more). This recording capability is but one of the new member benefits that the staff has in development.
What portable media device will best be suited to playing this content?
Of course the primary method of “attending” the sessions will be over the web. However, the system will allow download of PowerPoint slides in a PDF format, as well as the ability to download the audio file for your iPod or MP3 player.
Did you get any resistance to the idea of recording the Summit?
Thus far we have had no resistance. The call for proposals gave the submitters advance notice that this would be happening. All accepted speakers will be contacted with the details of the agreement.
What do you think the results will be?
Well, so far the response has been great. I have had several potential attendees call about the 2009 conference. When told about the ability to “attend” the rest of the sessions, they were extremely excited. I think that the opportunity to get tenfold the education than previously available would be exciting for everyone.
The recordings will be on the STC website several weeks after the conference. So, just as the memory of what you learned at the conference is beginning to fade, you can “re-attend” the sessions most important to you and view the PowerPoint presentation as well. And, of course, you'll also be able to “attend” all those sessions that you couldn't the first time around.
We're still looking for a good name for this product or service. I'd love to hear some ideas from members on what to call it…”Conference-at-a-click”?...”Summit Remix”?...”Summit 2009 Online”?
Get new posts delivered straight to your inbox.
I'm a technical writer based in the San Francisco Bay area of California. Topics I write about on this blog include technical writing, authoring and publishing tools, API documentation, tech comm trends, visual communication, technical writing career advice, information architecture and findability, developer documentation, and more. If you're a professional or aspiring technical writer, be sure to subscribe to email updates using the form above. You can learn more about me here.