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Thinking About an STC Proposal to Submit

by Tom Johnson on Sep 17, 2008 •
categories: technical-writingscreencastingvideo

Did you see the STC's call for proposals for the next annual conference in Atlanta? Last year I presented on podcasting. The 55 people who commented on my session rated it higher than average (the rating was around 4.6 as opposed to the 4.3 average). I think my presentation was good, but most people wanted me to connect it more to technical communication. They wanted to see how technical material could be presented as a podcast, I believe. 

I admit that was a hole in my presentation. I'm still not entirely clear how to pull that one off. Podcasts are mostly vehicles for conceptual information, and help material often consists of nitty-gritty how to content.

At work I do create voice-based video tutorials that users watch, but not a half hour of pure how-to audio (though I do keep meaning to create one on WordPress). At any rate, I really appreciated the feedback. It's a direction I'm moving to but haven't quite reached yet.

This year I'm thinking of submitting a proposal about Voice in video tutorials. I've watched countless video tutorials where the voice sounded as if someone used a Fisher Price microphone, or where the tone was monotone and boring, or simply unengaging. I want to present on ways to make the voice in your video tutorials sound fresh and spontaneous, natural, friendly. Like someone was sitting right there next to you. Talking to you.

I'd also like to present some comparative research on voice-based tutorials versus caption-based tutorials (e.g., for example, which is better and why).

Creating a video tutorial also requires some knowledge of audio -- which file format to use, the bit rate, the hertz, and so on, as well as how to clean it up, enrich the sound, add in music and other effects.

I think the video tutorial lives or dies based on the voice. If you're warm and engaging, people keep listening. If you sound nasal, stiff, and staticky, the tutorial plummets.

What do you think? Would this be an interesting topic? Has someone presented on this before? Do you know of any resources that would be helpful to me?

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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer based in the San Francisco Bay area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.

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