Monday, March 02, 2009

The 2009 Techsoret Technical Writing Conference

Last Thursday I attended the Techshoret conference on Technical Writing in Israel. In addition to the opening and closing remarks, there were four tracks with four lectures in each track. There were a little more than 100 attendees and around 8 exhibitors.

My boss, Miriam Lottner of Tech-Tav, was one of the exhibitors and one of the first speakers in one of the tracks. I figured her lecture would be good and I would be able to hear about it later, so I tried another lecture instead. Whenever I got bored in one track, I skipped over to another. In all, I got the gist of 8 of the lectures.

They were generally poor quality. The topics were somewhat interesting but either the presentations or the presenter were poor. You got the feeling that Techshoret had scrounged for, rather than been glutted with a surplus of, speakers to fill track time.

In one case, the presenter simply read, line by line, the powerpoint presentation. I could read faster than she could speak, and it was physically painful to watch. In another, the presentation was good but at an incredible low level. A quarter of the way through his allotted time, he was still going point by point as to how and why one could use the Internet for marketing. The internet is good for networking and spreading your message, by the way.

In another, the presenter presented a very simplistic idea, and couldn't convey to the audience why he was presenting this nor what the point was, and the presenter couldn't understand why no one understood. Very frustrating. One lecture presented a DITA case study, which wasn't too bad, but much of the time was spent finding the menu items on which to click rather than solidly covering the material. In another otherwise good lecture, the lecturer gave some good analogies, but spent far too long on them before returning to his main topic; at least at the end of it I came away with new and interesting information, the only lecture about which I can say that.

I caught the tail end of Miriam's lecture which was good, as expected. Throughout the day people came to her telling her how good it was. It has since spawned online discussion, a new blog, a new Facebook group, and a new meeting to address her topic. Considering the lectures that I went to instead, I'm very sorry to have missed it. Hopefully I can catch the online version.

Suggestions: Better not to have a conference, or a scaled down one with fewer tracks, than to fill up slots with speakers who can't present. Presenters, please learn how to present. Please pick interesting points, clearly label them as "very basic", "advanced", or "entirely new", and concentrate on those points only. Don't ever put more than 6 words on any power point slide. And don't ever repeat more than one of these words in your presentation.
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