SpeedCon 2018 Event Recap by Catherine Sprankle, Treasurer, STC Carolina Chapter

The Master’s of Technical Communication program at NC State University held its eighth annual SpeedCon on Saturday, April 8. Described as “An Unconference on Communication”, SpeedCon is a fast-paced, informal event aimed at bringing students and local tech comm professionals together to share knowledge and experience.

This year’s event began with a mini-symposium celebrating the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the MSTC program at NC State. Retired Professor of Rhetoric and Technical Communication Dr. Carolyn Miller remembered the establishment of the program in the mid-1980s, and even displayed the memo she wrote explaining why the program was needed. “I don’t know why I keep all these documents,” she joked. “I guess it was for an event like this one.” Other presentations in this session included Dr. David Covington reflecting on how the technology used by technical communicators has changed in the past 30 years, and Dr. Susan Katz describing the establishment of the internship program and the key role it plays in helping students transition to employment.

Image Courtesy: NC State Tech Comm Program and SpeedCon 2018 media team

After a networking lunch, participants developed their own program by choosing from among nine 75-minute workshop sessions or three sessions of four to five 15 minute SpeedTalks each. SpeedTalks provided brief overviews of topics such as medical writing, developing personas for usability testing, card sorting for web design, and making a living as a technical writer in the gig economy. Workshop sessions provided opportunities for more in-depth instruction in topics such as visualization, usability testing, grant writing, and tools like Camtasia, Tableau, WordPress, and GitHub.

This was my first SpeedCon, and I was pleasantly surprised at how useful and enjoyable the event was. As a graduate of NC State, it gave me a chance to reconnect with my graduate professors and meet the new faculty coming in to take their places as they pass into retirement. I got a chance to give a SpeedTalk about a subject I enjoy (toxicology research in the Triangle and the work my group is doing to reduce animal use for chemical safety testing) and a workshop talk about one of my areas of expertise (accessibility and Section 508). I made a contact that will be useful to someone I know who is job hunting, and a couple of others that might end up being Carolina Chapter program speakers this fall. I learned about accelerated joint degree programs NC State has with several universities in China, and how Cisco is integrating tech comm with marketing, user support and other groups to create consistent brand communication. I shared a delicious lunch with some new friends and went home with a door prize and a thank-you gift. It turned out to be a great way to spend a rainy Saturday, and I’m planning to attend next year!