I’ve never attended a pre or post-conference workshop before. I really don’t know why. I guess I always assumed that since these events weren’t part of the ‘official’ conference program, that they weren’t worthwhile. After attending Adobe Day, at LavaCon 2013, I have a whole new appreciation for the kind of value that these events can provide.
The event took place at the Portland Hilton and Executive Tower (Portland, Oregon) on the Sunday before the official LavaCon 2013conference began.
Adobe Day was a half-day event, and it was free to attend (whether or not you were attending LavaCon). Usually when you hear that something is “free to attend,” you assume that there’ll be some sort of sales pitch. Surprise! There was no sales pitch at all at the event, just fascinating speakers, entertaining debate, good food, and plenty of meet ‘n greet (however, I did get a follow-up phone call from someone at Adobe a couple of days after the conference).
Thought leadership and networking
Adobe refers to it as a ‘thought leadership and networking event’. I’d say this is a pretty accurate description of Adobe Day. There are several names that the majority of technical communicators will recognize immediately, and most of these were there as part of the ‘guest experts’, including:
- Bernard Aschwanden
- Fabiano Cid
- Joe Gollner
- Joe Welinske
- Maxwell Hoffmann
- Matt Sullivan
- Neil Perlin
- Scott Abel
- Thomas Aldous
- Val Swisher
As far as networking goes, I got to meet several people, including some of the ‘guest experts’, a definitely cool bonus!
The Speakers Share Perspectives
Scott Abel (also known as The Content Wrangler), kicked things off with the keynote address and a really great presentation titled “5 Revolutionary Technologies Technical Communicators Can’t Afford To Ignore”. These five technologies being:
- Automated translation
- Automated transcription
- Terminology management
- Adaptive content
- Component management
Joe Gollner (aka “The Content Philosopher) provided some food for thought with an interesting presentation titled “The Changing Role of the Technical Communicator within the Integrated Product Lifecycle”. The most important points that I took away from this presentation were:
- Your content must be adaptive if you are to be successful.
- Structured content and technologies (e.g., XML) must be factored into business strategies.
- As knowledge workers and technical communicators, we must adapt to the new expectations of our roles (i.e., specializing in multiple fields – technical and functional).
Val Swisher followed the networking break with her presentation, titled “It Starts with the Source – Source English Terminology in a Multi-Channel, Global World”. Among the most memorable and important thoughts she offered:
- You must have consistent terminology to successfully implement structured authoring and content re-use strategies. (i.e., this is where it all starts).
- How do we deliver translations faster, better, and cheaper? Use fewer words, re-use words, re-use sentences.
- Even if you don’t translate or localize your content, assume that someone else will (e.g., Google translate).
Matt Sullivan followed up with a presentation/demo titled “Multichannel Output of Structured Documents-Producing Rich Media Output from your DITA/XML”.
This presentation was a live demonstration of some of the ways that you can use structured documentation (XML/DITA) within Adobe FrameMaker to create electronic deliverables (e.g., mobile, help) and adding rich media to your content.
Fast-paced and Freewheeling: the Panel Speaks
The final item on the schedule was a panel discussion where all nine ‘guest experts’ took to the stage for a discussion (moderated by Scott Abel) relating to “Preparing Your Content for Multi-lingual, Multi-Channel Global Delivery – Challenges and Opportunities”.
The key takeaways from this lively discussion:
- Content must be ‘global ready’ (structured, readable, understandable, and consumable)
- Some of the biggest challenges preventing us from reaching global audiences are:
- Rapidly changing standards (e.g., mobile).
- Not enough of us are thinking strategically (e.g., we need to understand our strategic direction).
- Know your audience and deliver what they want (e.g., yes, PDFs, and videos, and ebooks, and more)
- Silos in organizations
- Create content that is optimized for human and machine translation.
- Create a consistent tone and voice that will translate well across cultures (this might not be possible, but we need to start somewhere).
- Make maximum use of automation to deliver content through multiple channels (have one single source – replicate it and reuse it).
- Take advantage of opportunities created through multi-channel delivery (e.g., the move to mobile devices allows for exposure to new markets and new user experiences).
- Avoid the common mistakes of moving to multi-channel global content delivery (e.g., don’t think everyone accessing your content is like you, don’t over invest in one part of the solution, make sure to test your content, and follow up with your users).