First-timer at STC Summit 2019 in Denver, Colorado

Catherine Heath | May 9, 2019

This is the first time I’ve been to STC Summit. This year the conference took place in Denver, Colorado, very near the headquarters of KnowledgeOwl. For this reason, we decided to check it out.

What is STC Summit

The conference takes place over a period of four days – from Sunday to Wednesday – and involves a workshop day, two days of presentations, and one half day of plenary speeches. It’s hosted by the Society of Technical Communication which has head offices in Fairfax, Virginia.

The Society of Technical Communication is:

“The world’s largest and oldest professional association dedicated to the advancement of the field of technical communication.”

They host a yearly conference, run local STC chapters, and offer educational materials including training courses and certifications, webinars, and magazines. They also offer access to professional data such as average technical writer salaries and current job vacancies, and a mentorship program.

Members of the STC range from:

  • Students
  • Academics
  • Practitioners
  • Managers

STC exists to promote the field of technical communication and help professionals invest in their continuous development. It has its roots in academia and establishing tech comm as an important profession within the industry.

Other professionals often don’t properly understand what technical communicators do, and consequently tech comm can be undervalued. In order to tackle this problem, speakers at the conference recommended that we visualize our work in a more accessible way. 

We need to improve understanding of our field in general, as well as find research that supports tech comm best practices.

My experience of STC

Founded in 1953 by technical writers who were also engineers, this history is reflected in the conference. Generally the content of the conference relates to technical communication, while also specializing in the area of content and content strategy in particular. 

Since the focus was on technical communication in general, that meant there were many sessions about non-writing focused topics. For example, some of the visual disciplines within tech comm, and standards within technical communication. There were a couple of talks relating to API documentation, which is an area not yet particularly explored by many technical communicators.

You can also attend the expo hall, where you can find out about many of the top tools currently being used in tech comm, and attend sessions that are live demos.

Aside from the jet lag from flying across the world from the UK to the US, STC Summit was a great experience. One of the best parts was getting to meet everyone from the local STC chapter, Rocky Mountain.

Rocky Mountain Chapter hosted groups from the conference to attend the Dine Around, which involved trips out to various local restaurants. They also took groups of attendees to hike in the Rocky mountain foothills (despite the uncharacteristically wet weather). A baseball game was planned, but unfortunately got rained off. 

STC hike

Get involved in STC

I wonder how newcomers can get more involved in the STC. The answer probably lies in the local chapters. You can obviously attend conferences like the STC summit, but most people are looking to build their networks throughout the year.

Overall, STC is doing great things to promote the future of tech comm and support the many professionals who work in this field. They are also launching a new training program for technical communication Practitioners, to build on their Foundation program.

We will be publishing several posts in the next week sharing some of the talks we attended at the conference. 

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About the author
Catherine Heath
Catherine Heath

Community builder at KnowledgeOwl. Blogs. Copy. Documentation. Freelance content writer for creative and ethical companies. Contributing to open source and teaching technical tools.

Catherine blogs on her personal websites Away With Words and Awkward Writer. She runs the Write the Docs Northwest meetup group. 


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