Posted by: communicationcloud | April 28, 2011

Technical Communication UK 2011: here we go again…

Once again I’m in charge of marketing the Technical Communication UK conference, and once again early indications are that it’s going to be a good event… though one with a new customer experience challenge built in.

Launching a new annual conference

The Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators (ISTC) launched Technical Communication UK in 2009 with a new vision for an annual conference that aims to cover the wide range of topics that interest technical communicators, whether they’re ISTC members or not. That first year was really exciting, as we took the message about our new brand out to potential speakers, sponsors, exhibitors and delegates.

With the ISTC associated with its previous, more inward-looking conference, we still had some legacy image to shake off, and our best way to do this was to get topics and speakers who we knew would be of interest to the breadth of technical communication professionals. We used our own networks and made direct approaches to get speakers interested, and as the programme came together I ran a marketing campaign that relied primarily on social media to spread the message. Word got out, people came, we smashed through targets for attendees and sponsorship, and everyone had a great time and learned lots. Phew!

In 2010 we did the same again. Putting the programme together was easier as more people came forward in response to our call for papers, persuading delegates and sponsors to attend was easier – based on both the programme and the reputation we established in our first year – and even running the event itself was easier (in spite of increased levels of attendance).

Technical Communication 2011

So it’s now 2011 and we’re in the early stages of preparing for this year’s event. I can relax, right? Everyone knows about the conference now so marketing it is easy. Not at all…
This year the challenge is different entirely. It’s true that early indications suggest it may be easier to get speakers, sponsors, exhibitors and delegates. Our call for papers solicited an unprecedented number of presentation and workshop proposals, all high quality and across a range of fascinating topics. (So good, in fact, that I wish I could share them … but you’ll have to wait for the programme team to do the tricky job of making selections first – watch this space for confirmed speakers). This almost certainly means it will be easier to attract sponsors, exhibitors and delegates – which is great news.

The weight of history

However, there’s a big difference between this year and previous years: with 2 years of successful conference behind us, we now have history. We’re not new and interesting any more; we’ve been around for a while and people have formed ideas of what to expect from us. The conference has established a brand that goes beyond just delivering an interesting programme, and the challenge this year will be deliver on our reputation by living up to expectations. Feedback from our previous 2 events gives us a good idea of what it is that makes the conference work, and that’s what we’ll be drawing on to make this year’s event happen.

Delivering a “conference experience” that exceeds expectations

To draw the parallel with my professional work in Customer Experience, we’re focusing on the fuzzy, touchy-feely stuff as much as the deliverables –   the “conference experience” factor. We’re doing this because we want to be to enjoy the conference and find it useful … and maybe come back next year; we also want them to tell their colleagues too. Like all customer experience challenges, customer expectation is one of the key starting points – and meeting expectations involves getting all our touchpoints and communication channels focused. No mean feat amongst a geographically distributed team composed mainly of volunteers.

What will Technical Communication 2011 be like?

I don’t know what this year’s event will be like, but we’ll be doing everything we can to ensure that when attendees leave it they take away the same positive feelings as they have in previous 2 years. That’s what this conference is about, and that’s what makes it satisfying to spend my free time on making it happen.

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Responses

  1. I attended (and spoke at) TCUK10 – which made me look forward to TCUK11 the day after the one in 2010 ended. So I’m part of the history and have expectations because of the history.

    But because I’ve come to trust the hard-working, diligent people who put on TCUK, I know that this year’s version will be good. It will be different because the programme will offer different sessions, and new people will attend, and last year’s attendees will have changed, and this year’s techcomm environment is different.

    To me, the relationships to organisers, speakers and attendees (and how they change) are much more important than living up to last year’s experience. I know other people will draw those comparisons. But in my book, you’ll put on a great conference if you focus on the “now”!

    • Thanks for your confidence in us, Kai. Looking forward to seeing you there again this year.

  2. I’d agree with Kai, I think – the relationships and interactions I’ve taken away from TCUK ’09 & ’10 have been a really important part of the conference’s value.

    I don’t think that’s accidental – something about the atmosphere of the conference makes is highly social, before, during, and afterwards. Maybe it’s that the programme and brand attracts people with a lot to share, or maybe it’s that it gives people a lot to talk about. I’m not sure; but I’ve definitely taken away stronger relationships and contacts from TCUK than any other conference I’ve attended.

    I also absolutely love the way TCUK isn’t afraid to go off piste with one or two of its programme selections.

    • Thanks Roger. We do love to take some of the programe off piste:)


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