STC Summit 2023 (best ever?)

Tricia (on right) with Jamye Sagan (on left)

Enjoy reading the answers provided by Tricia Spayer who attended and presented at the conference in Atlanta earlier this year.

What was your favorite part about the conference?

This was my first in-person Summit since before the pandemic, so seeing many friends whom I have not seen in a long time was like a huge, warm hug.

But the highlight of my conference was the moment I received my Fellow award. According to, “Becoming an STC Fellow is a lifelong journey of achievement, an honor bestowed by the Society upon Associate Fellows who have continued to make exemplary contributions to the arts and science of technical communication, and for sustained and significant service to STC. These contributions involve significant achievements that advance the profession and its recognition.”

During my moment crossing the stage to accept my award, the hotel audio team played “Summon the Heroes” by John Williams, a theme written for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. This was the perfect theme for me because I love watching the Olympics, and we were in Atlanta (where I lived for a couple of years prior to the 1996 Olympics).

What was your greatest take-away from the conference?

This year’s conference theme was the “How-To” Conference: Learn Well through Show and Tell. I loved this theme, because attendees would take away practical information that they could use immediately after the conference.

To me, this is much more enjoyable than theoretical sessions that might have valuable information, but attendees have no clue how to apply those concepts.

What was your presentation about? 

Mind Mapping! This is a skill I have been using regularly for at least six years. It is a skill that takes a little time to become used to, but the benefits make it worthwhile learning. It is also something that you need to use regularly for it to become a habit.

Through Mind Mapping, you can capture thoughts in your mind and organize them meaningfully. This technique mimics the neural pathways in your brain. Certain words or topics might trigger other ideas that you may have missed if you tried organizing your information sequentially, or through an outline.

Mind Mapping is a great tool for technical communicators because we already use chunking to break down a lot of information. By creating a Mind Map to organize your content, you can see your information all in one big picture. It also allows you to make sure that your topics are in the correct categories. It can also help you notice when something is missing.

I enjoyed facilitating this session, since I consider it a fun activity in which I can use markers or colored pencils. Any time I can play with color and draw pictures, it is a wonderful time. Note that you do not need to be an artist to do Mind Mapping. The maps you create are usually only meant to be seen by you.

This was the first year that STC experimented with two-part workshop sessions. That is, these workshops intended for facilitators to lecture for the first 45 minutes to allow the audience to learn about the skill. Then we took a break. Then the audience returned for another 45 minutes to practice what they learned.

This was a fun way to present, because there was a lot of material to cover in a brief time. The Mind Mapping topic was perfect for this session type because the audience members needed to practice their newly learned skill immediately.

How did this conference compare to other years when you attended?

This was my 15th Summit. Something about it struck me as the best Summit yet! The quality of the presentations, the energy, and the connections all made this Summit most enjoyable.

What else about the conference would you be willing to share with our readers?

For those who have not been to a Summit, I want to express the importance of continuous learning. Our opening session keynote speaker, Andrew Lawless, reminded us that only a small number (such as 2.6%) of people attend professional conferences.

Those who attend conferences remain at the forefront of our profession. We are the pioneers, the most involved, and the ones who advance our profession. This is how we can achieve more than our peers.

However, the biggest benefit I find attending Summit is that “these people GET me!” I feel right at home when attending Summit. This is my tribe. It is important to connect with people who get you. They will help renew your energy, renew your interest in your profession, and renew your ideas that you may have forgotten about.