The annual TCUK conference wrapped up last week, with a diverse mix of technical communication professionals descending on the Chesford Grange Hotel in Kenilworth. Five of the 3di team attended seminars and workshops presented by industry experts, took part in the ISTC awards ceremony, and met and networked with other delegates.

This year’s theme was ‘10’, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the TCUK conference. While there was a little retrospection, with some looking at the how technical communications has changed over the last ten years, most presentations were firmly looking towards the future, discussing how the industry can and will change in the next decade, and how technical authors can be prepared for this.

Here is a quick rundown of the highlights of the event, so if you weren’t able to make it this year, you don’t have to feel like you missed out!

The Exhibitors  

At this year’s conference there were stands from many industry names, including 3di, software solutions provider MadCap software, technical author recruitment company Edissero and XML documentation specialists Syncro Soft SRL.

The relaxed atmosphere of the event meant that authors could visit stands during the breaks in between presentations and chat about the latest developments in the industry, or to ask for advice on problems they were facing with their own projects, or simply to enquire about the services that exhibitors offer.

As an exhibitor, we were able to chat with many authors about the projects they were working on, new tools they were using and the emerging challenges they faced. Personally, as someone who is still relatively new to the industry, this was one of the best aspects of the conference, as it felt like getting a snapshot of the concerns and challenges technical authors face.

The Presentations

This year’s TCUK conference had two streams, with delegates flitting between both Kenilworth rooms for presentations and workshops from a wide range of industry experts. There was a diverse mix of topics, to which 3di contributed four sessions.  Across the 3di team, we were able to attend nearly all of the presentations, learning how other people have solved challenges, and getting inspired to try new things.

What my colleagues have found over the years is that at each TCUK conference has some key themes that seem to generate the most interest and debate. It seemed to us that this year those themes were ‘docs as code’ and ‘micro-content’.  We are already deploying these approaches for some of our customer projects and will be adding case studies and blog posts about them in the weeks and months ahead.

TCUK arranged for many of the presentations to be recorded, so you can listen to them after the event. While all the presentations were useful, here are a few recommendations to get you started:

  • Jen Lambourne – ‘Ones and zeros: An introduction to managing documentation like code’
  • George Lewis – ‘10 steps to streamlining your localization: How we halved the production time for a 28-language documentation suite’
  • Charlotte Claussen When correct and complete is not enough – how to give users reassurance
  • Chris Burden – ‘A picture is worth a thousand words – so here’s 10 useful things to know about pictures’
  • Mike Hamilton – ‘Micro-content, Chatbots, and Machine Learning – What do they mean for technical authoring?’
  • Liz Gregory – ‘Sign says 10 miles to Bognor’

You can find the full list of the available presentations here

Gala Dinner and TCUK Awards

As well as the serious side of presentations and networking, TCUK also gives delegates a chance to enjoy a Gala dinner and celebrate some of the fantastic achievements within the technical communications industry, with a short award ceremony.

For the last couple of years, 3di MD Paul Ballard has been the volunteer team leader for the UK Technical Communication Awards, on behalf of the ISTC council. Although 3di has been a multi-award winner previously, we are not entering whilst Paul is involved in the judging!

The purpose of the UK Technical Communication Awards is to recognise the value of clear, concise and effective information products. Whether online or printed, the impact of highly effective documentation is felt by industry, commerce, academia and most of all, users. Individuals and teams that develop excellent information products deserve to have their efforts recognised. You can see the full list of this year’s winners here.

After the awards ceremony, there was a brief quiz which rounded off the evening nicely. However, I had the dubious honour of being on the lowest scoring table of the night (I won’t embarrass my table-mates here, but suffice to say our lack of a geography expert let us down!). Despite this, it was an enjoyable evening.

In Summary

This year’s conference offered delegates and sponsors a great opportunity to engage with the wider technical communications community, as well as to attend workshops by respected industry experts and talk to some of the major service providers within the industry. The fact that authors traveled from as far afield as Russia and Australia, demonstrates the value TCUK offers to those within the technical communication industry.

For someone like myself, who is still fairly new to technical communications, TCUK offered a great opportunity to meet members of the community, to learn more about a variety of topics such as integrating graphics, XML based authoring, and industry standards, as well as to talk to other services providers with the industry.

If you missed out on this year’s event, make sure you sign up for TCUK 2020!