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State of the Chapter 01/16/2013

Posted by Yvonne Wade Sanchez in 2013 Issues.
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By Cindy Pao, President, STC Houston

STC Houston came into 2013 looking strong, so let’s take a look at how we did that.

Programs
The chapter provided six program meetings in 2012:

  • Help 2.0: Welcome to the New World of Socially-Enabled Help by Scott Abel
  • Targeted Documentation by Alyssa Fox
  • The Economics of Information by Sarah O’Keefe
  • Career Paths for Those with Technical Writing Skills (multiple speakers)
  • Helpful User Experiences: Building Mobile Apps that Reduce the Need for Help by Kelsey Ruger
  • Editing Workshop by Linda Oestreich

When you add “Planning Computer Simulations for Delivering Information Through Video” by Matt Sullivan in October and our leadership workshop by Linda Oestreich in November, I’d say the educational offerings in 2012 were pretty robust.

Networking
Did you seize the opportunity to get out and network with other technical communicators? There were networking lunches in the Galleria and downtown areas, after-hours networking events, and Lone Writer SIG gatherings throughout the year.

Finances
STC Houston remains financially strong. We submitted our 2013 budget on time, and it was approved by the Society’s budget-approval committee. This means that, with the partial pass-through funding from the Society, we will receive $1560 to add to our coffers. The chapter subsidized the 50th anniversary celebration in November, and also made a donation to STC as part of STC’s Industry Leaders program. Our donation to the Society shows, once again, that STC Houston is one of the top chapters!

Membership
In October of 2012, the chapter had 107 members, and eight more members signed up before the end of the year, bringing the total to 115. As of today, all eight new members have renewed their STC and STC Houston membership, plus we have gained an additional 12 members, putting STC Houston at 127 members!
During 2013, I plan to hold a new-member luncheon, so stay tuned for more information.

Awards
STC Houston was named a Community of Excellence for the activities we completed in 2011. We’re currently finishing up our Chapter Achievement Award application for 2012, and I expect big things for us at the TechComm Summit in May.
On an individual level, Stephanie Donovan was awarded the Distinguished Chapter Service Award.

Community Affairs Committee Survey
In late 2012, the Outreach Team of the Community Affairs Committee (CAC) used a survey to collect feedback from STC communities. 60 community leaders responded to the survey. The information collected included the general health of the community, the kinds of problems faced by STC communities, if council and management positions are filled in the communities, and what kinds of activities the communities are holding.
As your STC Houston president, I took the survey; as a member of the CAC, I also got to see the results. I would like to address one of the items, participation.
Community leaders see participation in community activities as being down; I see this, too. As your chapter leader, I want to understand why. I have these questions:

  • Why are fewer and fewer people attending the program meetings?
  • Are the topics at the program meetings interesting to you?
  • Will the topics at the program meetings help your career?
  • What kind of educational offerings (programs) could the chapter offer that you would attend?
  • In what way would you be able and willing to get involved with the chapter to further your career?

While the admin council strives to plan and execute activities that provide value, it seems that we’re missing something. We need to know what that is, as well as your ideas for solutions, so that we can change the trend.

Feedback
Let’s get the conversation going to improve our chapter. Leave a comment to this article with your comments, questions, and ideas.
The members of STC Houston are, and always have been, among the best technical communicators in the Society. Help us show not-yet-members why STC Houston is the logical choice for them and their careers!

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Comments»

1. Yvonne Wade Sanchez - 01/16/2013

107 members? That’s shocking. When I was the membership manager, I recall the numbers being 3x that amount.

Q1: Why do we continue to meet at the Red Cross building when people have complained since we moved there that it’s not an ideal location? There are numerous things I could include in my discussion about the location, but I’m just going to go with word association: Red Cross=Disaster Relief, Blood/Food/Clothing Donations, Indigent/Homeless People. Notice how none of the words I associate with the Red Cross makes me think of technical writing, a professional organizations, networking with other professionals.

Q2: Yes the topics are interesting, but why would I fight traffic, give up an evening with my family, and pay to listen to someone share information I can get for free online? In the past, I thought of meetings more as a social event at which I could mingle with other writers. I wouldn’t focus as much on the program topics as I would on improving the overall experience for the attendees.

Q3: Yes, but see my comments above.

Q4: Can you obtain data from STC.org to identify the most popular and highly rated courses? It would be great if you did the research for me, not vice versa. With STC connections to writers all over the world, why aren’t you identifying/recommending training that will keep me up-to-date on upcoming trends and innovations.

Q5: I love volunteering for activities that provide me with an opportunity to learn new skills or that allow me to exercise a skill set that is not being fully utilized in my day-to-day work life.

I’m honestly trying to help. I hope you don’t feel I’m being negative:)

2. Paul - 01/22/2013

Yvonne, I’d like to share more information to help answer some of your questions, and to provide another perspective.

Membership is down in most associations across the US. There are several studies that try to explore why this is true.

As for meeting at the Red Cross, I actually haven’t personally heard complaints about the location, especially by those who have attended a meeting there. The Red Cross provides outstanding meeting rooms, and as a fellow 501(c)(3) organization they share our goal of serving our communities. Many associations these days are meeting in public libraries, bars, and restaurants. By meeting at the Red Cross, we keep our meeting costs low and can bring in excellent speakers from across the US.

You raise interesting questions about how we should deliver programs. STC has found a cost-effective way to provide webinar services to all its chapters starting this year. So, people like yourself who choose not to travel could still get the valuable content from the program meetings. Since Houston is so large, we have found that no matter where we meet for programs, someone needs to travel a great distance, or deal with traffic issues. With our networking lunches and evening gatherings spread out across the city in multiple locations, and now cost-effective webinars, we hope to meet the needs of more of our members.

STC consistently identifies the key educational areas and targets them at the annual STC Summit (this year in Atlanta, May 5-8). STC Houston program managers have used the STC Summit program list to invite the top-ranked speakers and to bring them to Houston to talk about the areas we need to know about. For example, 2012 brought Sarah O’Keefe, Scott Abel, Matt Sullivan, and Linda Oestreich to Houston. Wow, what a powerhouse line up…talking about all the latest trends in the industry. These speakers talk at conferences around the world about the same topics they brought to Houston.

I believe Cindy is asking the STC Houston community directly to see if there is something our community would specifically like to learn about. I hope with the ability to offer webinars, and with the extensive library of online programming available through STC, you will choose to rejoin the Society and take advantage of all the educational opportunities that are available. Thank you for all you do for the STC Houston chapter.

3. Yvonne Wade Sanchez - 01/22/2013

Paul, those are great justifications for why you are doing things the way you are and some great news regarding things that are up and coming, but my understanding was that Cindy was asking for suggestions from the community regarding how to improve the current chapter.

Here is her exact comment: “Let’s get the conversation going to improve our chapter. Leave a comment to this article with your comments, questions, and ideas.”

When I poll technical communicators who do not attend or participate in STC Houston activities, I, understandably, get a different response from those you poll at the events. If you are looking to appease the small group of individuals who currently participate, then change is not necessary. If you are looking to engage the next generation of writers or writers who are not currently engaged, you might want to stop justifying and start listening. That last statement was not meant to sting. I honestly have a deep appreciation and warm place in my heart for this organization and for those who volunteer and serve the local techcom community. I’m not saying these things as a naysayer or even as an outsider. I’ve participated actively in the local organization for years. I’m still volunteering even though I’ve changed careers and I am no longer a due-paying member. I’ve donated hundreds of hours, recruited a number of volunteers, represented STC Houston at a number of events, etc., etc., etc.

The feedback I’m sharing is my opinion flavored with the feedback I’ve received over the years from numerous writers with whom I interact, but who have chosen not to participate in STC Houston events or activities.

4. Paul - 01/22/2013

Yvonne, I’m sorry you view my comments as justifications. I just wanted to share additional information with you that you may not be aware of. I also applaud Cindy for opening this discussion and I look forward to hearing everyone’s ideas for how STC can better serve the technical communication community.

5. Yvonne Wade Sanchez - 01/22/2013

Here’s an interesting article on the topic of membership decline: How to Arrest a Membership Decline | http://membershipmarketing.blogspot.com/2007/07/how-to-arrest-membership-decline.html

6. Dateline Houston - 01/31/2013

[…] State of the Chapter […]


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