This article originally appeared in the November/December 2015 edition of Intercom Magazine. It is published here, with permission.
Conference program committees (whether for an association conference like the STC Summit or for other industry conferences) face an interesting challenge: choosing sessions in which our audience will be interested months (if not years) in advance of the conference itself. And considering that attendees first have to ask for permission and funds to attend, the challenge then becomes: In what topics will the audience be interested that are also relevant enough to their employer’s corporate goals so their bosses will pay for them to attend?
This second challenge reminds me of a lesson I learned in a screenplay writing class I took when I first moved to Los Angeles. You have two audiences when writing a screenplay. Eventually people must be interested enough to pay to see the film, but first you need a producer interested enough to buy the rights to your script and get it produced.
The same principle applies to building a business case to “sell” your purchase request to management, whether attending a three-day conference or buying an enterprise- wide content management system that will take three years to define and implement.
The third (and hardest) challenge to face when planning a conference program is to keep in mind that there is much in your industry that you don’t know, to keep your eyes and ears open for new ways to do things, for new ideas and new information—some of which may challenge data that “everyone knows is true.” I’ll bet you that STC Summit Conference Chair Todd Deluca and STC Director of Education and Meetings Molly Jin are making similar discoveries while producing the 2016 STC Annual Summit—what you (the attendee) needs to know, and why you should attend.
In addition to producing a conference, I’m also a recruiter who specializes in content professionals (technical writers, content strategists, etc.) As a recruiter, I see what skills companies want in the candidates they are hiring (and how many they are hiring), so that also gives me an insight into industry trends. This article summarizes my discoveries in both jobs over the past year.
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