Conference Session Descriptions

This page lists the Spectrum 2020 presentations alphabetically by the last name of the speaker.

Phylise Banner, Learning Environment Modeling (LEM)

Creating a vision that is shared among designers, subject matter experts, clients, and leaders is one of the fundamental challenges that content professionals must overcome. In the learning design space, many project stakeholders lack the background knowledge, experiences, or “language” to relate their vision in ways that instructional designers can effectively implement. This session will introduce Learning Environment Modeling (LEM) — a unique visual language created to enhance communication and foster collaboration between instructional design professionals and diverse stakeholders. During the session, you will learn how to visually communicate the correlation of specific design elements to learning results and use Learning Environment Modeling (LEM) to collaborate effectively with blended learning project teams. We will explore ways to facilitate more effective communication throughout the design process, and how to use a learning environment design system and tools to remove or reduce ego-centric behaviors and attitudes during the design process.

Allison Bondi, Getting Started with DITA

Large enterprises around the globe trust DITA as the standard for their documentation for several reasons: reuse, cost-effective translation, dynamic multi-channel publishing, and more. But it’s not just large organizations that can utilize DITA. This talk will show how teams of all sizes can get started with DITA, even without a large budget. Learn how your team can implement DITA and start writing, managing, reviewing, and publishing content, all from the same structured content system. DITA can be daunting, but it’s easier than ever to get started. Attendees will learn how to:

  • Develop a basic DITA implementation plan that’s appropriate for their organization’s size and considerations
  • Convert legacy Word files to DITA with the click of a button
  • Publish to PDF and static HTML sites fast and easily, without any extra tools
  • Scale their DITA implementation to meet new requirements or accomplish new goals

Alisa Bonsignore, Sustainability is Everyone’s Business

European companies have long led the charge towards integrating sustainability into daily business practices. Now, as climate change and social pressures intensify, U.S. companies are starting to bow to public pressure to disclose what they’re doing when it comes to sustainable business and climate resilience. In this talk, we’ll discuss how to seamlessly integrate necessary information into all communications channels – from supply chain policies to help desk support. No matter where your organization is in its sustainability journey, there’s a story to tell. Take a leadership role in this growing communications channel to position yourself and your organization for the future, because sustainability is everyone’s business.

Alisa Bonsignore, Won’t You Please, Please Help Me: Finding Paths to Leadership

While there once seemed to be one professional path — paying your dues and moving up the corporate ladder — today there are many non-traditional paths to leadership. In this talk, we’ll look at some examples of people who have taken a different route to find personal and professional success, and how they can help you find the right way to grow your own career.

Velizar Demirev, From Word Processing to Structured Content

MS Word is the default authoring tool for many organizations. Legacy file format concerns, pilot program costs, and the number of alternatives make any move a scary one. But sometimes what seemed like a great solution in the beginning is starting to cost you big time. MS Word is easy to use, but it lacks the foundational requirements for most technical documentation teams: structured reuse, low cost content maintenance, simultaneous collaboration, and ease of SME reviews.

But what’s next? In this presentation, Velizar will show alternatives, and they might not be as distant as once feared. Attendees will learn about:

  • How to evaluate other systems
  • The benefits of structured content
  • How to train your team for a new tool
  • What to consider when formulating a content and reuse strategy
  • How structured content can expand your publish capabilities
  • Whether or not structured content is the right move for their organization

Liz Fraley, Yes you can have it all! Technical accuracy and marketing pizzazz!

Traditionally, stylized DITA output has been clunky and code-editor driven. But it doesn’t have to be that way. See how one tool is taking features from other user experiences and bringing them in to a world that has been neglected. You can create styling libraries like you create content libraries. Change it once and change it everywhere. Design faster. Implement faster. Save yourself time and bring value to your company. In this presentation, we will cover the basic principles from the canons of page design. We’ll talk about “ugly” complaints, so you know which are tool-related, which are cost-related, and which are truly hard problems.

John Freiberger, Beyond “OK Boomer”: A Look at Generations and Technology

From the Silent Generation to Gen Z, we have diverse backgrounds and approach technology differently. What do these differences mean to us as technical communicators when creating content for our audiences? What do they mean to us as workplace colleagues and as users of technology? Are there similarities across the generations? This presentation will look at generational history, technology usage and trends, and the impact of current events.

MaryKay Grueneberg, Working with Developers, not against them: How I went from: “What do you do?” to “We can’t release this without you”

In this presentation, I will share my experience as a user assistance developer (technical writer/editor) embedded in a software development team. We literally started out with them asking “What do you do?” as they had never worked with a writer before. And, after all, “anyone can write”, right? It was clear that I not only had to explain to them what a user assistance developer does, but what I could bring to the table. Tech Comm professionals do a whole lot more than just write user manuals and it was my job to show them all the possibilities. I will share tips and advice that I used to not only win over the Development team, but to prove my worth, my ROI, and my place within the team. So, join me as I share how I went from “What do you do?” to “We can’t release without you.”

Rob Hanna, Intelligent Microcontent: At the Point of Content Convergence

Content distilled down to appropriate chunks of information in the form of intelligent microcontent takes on a new life when made available to the enterprise for consumption and reintegration across different
business functions in the enterprise. The silos all but disappear when content is rendered to microcontent that is classed, focused, structured, and contextualized. This microcontent then can flow freely across product, marketing, training, and support documentation. Attend to learn more about this transformational opportunity.

Attendees will learn:

  • Microcontent principles that make content available beyond technical publications to the entire enterprise
    the Enterprise Content Metamodel used to classify content and establish connections and context
  • Microcontent structures for the rest of the enterprise
  • SME contributions through intelligent microcontent, and
  • Microcontent technology used to make content available as a service to the enterprise.

(Title slide in the recording is “Reimagining your omnichannel content strategy for exponential growth.”)


Rob Hanna, Microcontent and the 5 Moments of Need

Microcontent is an extraordinary point of convergence between all types of business content including product, marketing, support, and learning. At the microcontent level, the context of business function fades allowing microcontent to move more fluidly between functions. This is particularly evident in the development of performance support and microlearning. Intelligent microcontent is designed to scale from traditional book-based publishing down to voice-enabled responses using the same source of content. This strategy translates into new ways of designing learning materials that scale down from classroom instruction to just-in-time microlearning covering the spectrum of the 5 moments of need.

Participants will learn the

  • story of microcontent and information 4.0
  • 4 principles of intelligent microcontent
  • 5 moments of need, and
  • collaborative authoring and publishing practices to support the learning needs of the organization.

Carolyn Klinger, Accessible Documents for Everyone and How to Prove Your Success

Each technical communicator has a role to play in making their own electronic documents as accessible as they can be. If assistive technology such as screen readers can’t read those documents, technical communicators can’t reach a potentially large segment of their audience.

Using the accessibility checkers that are built into Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat, technical communicators can test if their electronic documents are accessible. We can easily add these checks to our workflow. The very popular Adobe Portable Document Format, or PDF, poses additional challenges to the conscientious technical communicator. As Joe Clark said in 2005 on, “PDF files on the web are sometimes annoying and very often unnecessary. But when they aren’t either of those things, we need to make them accessible for the same reasons we make other web content accessible.”

This presentation by Carolyn Klinger, a Certified Adobe PDF Accessibility Trainer

  • Reviews best practices for accessibility in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.
  • Shows the best way to convert these documents to PDF.
  • Premieres Carolyn’s latest instructional content on PDF tagging, covering how to properly tag tables, lists, and forms.

Throughout the presentation you will learn different stopping points in your journey to completely accessible content. Many of us are constrained from doing as much as we’d like, and it’s okay to make things “good enough.” Two exercises with solutions are included for you to practice concepts covered in the advanced tagging section.

Matt Reiner, Show Me the Money: Build Powerful Business Cases for Your Documentation Projects

We all have that documentation project we’d like to take on. The one that would be a game changer for the company. We just need time and resources. But how can we make it happen? In this talk, we’ll explore how to use our technical communication skills to track down important information within our company and organize it into a powerful business case. You’ll leave with the techniques you need to build a solid argument for why your content project is a great investment for your customers, teammates, and the business. You’ll learn the justification and strategy needed to:

  • Communicate the value of better documentation to leadership
  • Illustrate how better content translates to business results
  • Request the resources needed to make your plan a reality

Wendy Barnhart Ross, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Tech Comm and More

In order to recruit and train the best talent and to bring a diverse set of ideas and perspectives to the work we do, companies and professional organizations need to take steps to create inclusive spaces for employees, members, and volunteers. Even if you aren’t a manager, you make a difference in how your coworkers feel about your company and ability to work effectively. In this presentation, we’ll define the terms diversity, equity, and inclusion, and why it’s so important for you to understand the terms. We’ll also discuss unconscious bias, and I’ll provide a terminology cheat sheet. This presentation is intended to educate and raise awareness. Please come with an open mind and willingness to consider areas where you can grow, but do not fear criticism or blame. Pre-read the DEI article on the Rochester Chapter website if you have time!

Judith Shenouda, Showcasing a Variety of Genres: Technical Communication Is More Than Manuals

Gone are the days when technical communication is simply writing manuals. The genres go beyond manuals, guides, and online Help. When working for employers or clients, or promoting one’s own services, technical communicators are capable of creating so many more genres. Judy will show off some products the Shenouda team has created, including print books, an ebook, word clouds, an infographic, and a timeline. She will share her team’s involvement creating short and sweet promotional videos that have found a home on a YouTube channel. In this session, we’ll explore the many possible genres that you, too, can create.

Gretchen Stahlman, Promoting Yourself via Videos

It’s a fact: People love videos. They are far more likely to view a short video than read even a single page of text, such as a website or brochure. We have used both generalized and specific task videos to promote our business and land new clients. And, if you’re an employee, you can use video to promote your own work. We’ll discuss deciding on the content of your videos and finding the best length and style so your videos are entertaining as well as informative. We’ll walk through the process we use to develop a video and provide an overview of the tools we used, including some tips we learned the hard way. Finally, we’ll talk about how to distribute your videos so they get seen by the right eyes.

Kirk St. Amant, User-Experience Design in Health and Medical Contexts: From Cognitive Theory to Workplace Practice

This presentation examines the cognitive dynamics affecting usability in health and medical settings based on an audience’s cultural background.  It also explores how addressing such dynamics can enhance the design of materials used in health and medical contexts for different audiences – from patients to physicians.  The presentation will review how such factors can affect usability and design in different health and medical contexts around the world. In covering these topics, the presentation will discuss strategies for researching the cognitive factors affecting the usability expectations of different cultures in order to design effective materials for them.

Dale Waldt, Turning InDesign Articles into Rich Semantic Web Content

Many magazine and newsletter articles are prepared for print delivery in Adobe InDesign. While there is some XML support built into InDesign, these features are often not used in preparing the content. It can be difficult, even, to export raw text files accurately, much less in structured XML output. This talk will describe a process used to quickly extract and capture legacy content and enrich it to a rich semantic form of DocBook articles robust enough for delivery to a portal with metadata, concept tagging, and other key features that drive Web functionality. The process utilizes mostly automated processes, inexpensive and easy-to-use tools, and can easily be extended for ongoing production capture of published content as part of the normal production workflow.

Ben Woelk, Introverts and Leadership: Succeeding as a Quiet Leader

Many introverts struggle to succeed in the workplace when asked to “think on their feet” or to make decisions without an array of facts in hand. Some introverts may look for leadership opportunities, but feel stymied when trying to figure out how to move up. Although not every introvert may assume a formal leadership position, every introvert has the ability to become an influencer. The presentation discusses how to identify our strengths and become influencers when we don’t have positional authority. We’ll discuss strategies that work for us and how to make sure we’re not passed over  for leadership opportunities. The open and honest discussions with leaders in the Hope for the Introvert podcast have revealed practical solutions to many of the challenges introverted leaders face. This presentations shares proven strategies for success, leveraging our introvert strengths to excel in the workplace.