From home offices, kitchen tables, and guest rooms, around one hundred registered attendees joined SpeedCon, the annual conference hosted by NC State University’s Technical Communication Association (TCA). In compliance with current safety guidelines, the conference was held online via Zoom. Although this virtual SpeedCon lacked the catered lunch usually provided at the in-person conference, the online format made it possible for attendees to join from around the country and around the world.

SpeedCon offered a total of seventeen sessions throughout the day, including SpeedTalks, workshops, and a Q&A panel. This year’s theme was Identity and the Future, and speakers covered such diverse topics as artificial intelligence, creating videos, editing, fiction writing, and user experience research.

After TCA President Summer Walls delivered opening remarks welcoming students, researchers, and practitioners to the very first virtual SpeedCon, attendees adjourned to different virtual “rooms” for two hours of thought-provoking talks and workshops. After a lunch break, attendees reconvened in the afternoon for a packed schedule of more engaging presentations.    

Presenters from a variety of backgrounds spoke on a whole spectrum of topics.


Speakers from academia presented their current research projects. 

  • Huiling Ding shared her research on building ethical AI for job seekers, while her team of graduate students conducted a workshop on succeeding in AI-assisted recruiting and screening for job seekers.
  • Allegra W. Smith discussed her research on how residents of a retirement community are adapting medical writing principles to create customized health documentation.
  • Kari Doyle presented her Master’s capstone project about improving chatbot design with machine learning.

Tools and Methods

Many presenters shared tools, tips, and insights to help technical communicators with particular kinds of projects.

  • Jason Swarts taught participants about coding verbal data to support systematic, quantitative and qualitative analysis.
  • Sreeranjani Pattabiraman showed attendees how to apply Darwin Information Type Architecture (DITA) principles to video content production.
  • Erin Friday discussed how to create quality management plans for projects.
  • Laura Hinson talked about how editors can ensure quality content in a continuous delivery approach.
  • Anni Bond discussed the unique issues involved in documenting the end-of-life of a product.
  • Art Berger’s SpeedTalk showed how to use speed writing principles to jumpstart projects and meet deadlines.

Related Fields

Some presentations focused on fields closely related to technical communication.

  • Sarah Ishida’s SpeedTalk talked about the commonalities between technical communication and fiction.
  • Walter Turner led a workshop about system design.
  • Laura Sweltz led a workshop on how to approach UX research.

Advice for Success

Other sessions provided recommendations and advice for the success in the workplace.

  • Raghuram Pandurangan conducted a workshop on communication within documentation teams and with stakeholders.
  • A panel of young professionals from IBM with diverse backgrounds shared their experiences and offered insights on collaboration with and expectations for technical writers.
  • Casey Van Camp encouraged attendees to never stop learning by adopting a goal and growth mindset.

The full program for SpeedCon 2020 is available on the SpeedCon website. Video recordings and presentation slides for many of the sessions will also be available. And you can check out the latest tweets from the conference in the Twitter panel.

The TCA thanks everyone who presented at or attended SpeedCon 2020. Your participation helped make this year’s conference a success. We hope you will join us next year for the tenth anniversary of SpeedCon!

Kristin Robinett

Kristin Robinett

Kristin Robinett is a soon-to-be graduate of the M.S. in Technical Communication program at NC State University, where she also serves as treasurer of the Technical Communication Association. She appreciates the opportunity to learn and make connections as a current mentee in the STC Carolina Mentoring Program.