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Presenting at the Atlanta Currents Conference (Overlooked)

From Overlooked to Center Stage

by Tom Johnson on Apr 11, 2010 •
categories: technical-writing

I'll be in Atlanta next weekend giving a talk (the keynote, actually) at the STC Atlanta Currents conference. You can read more details about the conference here.

My presentation is titled "From Overlooked to Center Stage." Here's the description:

The rate of online information continues to increase dramatically. Both professionals and amateurs in every field are publishing content on blogs, forums, websites, intranets, podcasts, and more. An attitude of do-it-yourself is increasingly common, as is the feeling that anyone can write. In a world where writing skills are becoming less valued, how can technical writers avoid being overlooked and instead move closer to center stage? Diversifying your skills, wearing multiple hats, and becoming experts in a complementary field (such as multimedia, web development, testing, usability) can help. Writers can also rise above ordinary content by developing the most compelling aspect of communication: story.

Exactly what does this mean? I'm trying to stretch my mind around two main concepts: moving beyond the writing role, and moving deeper into the writing role.  It's a topic that has occupied my mind for a while. First, we limit ourselves by restricting our role to just writing documentation. If all we do is write, we'll eventually be replaced, outsourced, or overlooked. We can do more than write. We shouldn't confine ourselves to this limitation.

Ultimately, though, our role usually involves writing. That's often the technical writer's flagship deliverable. But when it comes to writing, we do a poor job. We write dry material that makes readers yawn. We may write clearly and grammatically, but we overlook the larger structure of story. Story informs technical communication genre just like any other communication genre.

I only have an hour, and in preparing this presentation, I see that I may not get past the topic of multiple roles. However, I'm trying to structure the entire presentation as one big story, so hopefully what I don't explicitly say about story will come through in an even stronger way through the presentation format.

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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer / API doc specialist based in the Seattle 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.