LavaCon Session Summary: Lightning Talks – Multiple Speakers

The lightning talk session comprised six speakers who had ten minutes to present a topic of interest that is important in the field technical communication. Similar to the lightning talks at the STC Annual Summit in 2011, the LavaCon Lightning Talks took place without the strict ten-minute time period, twenty slide limit, or automatic advancing of slides.

The speaker order was randomly selected: Richard Hamilton, Alan Houser, Ben Woelk, Robert Armstrong, Brenda Huettner, and Hilary Hart.

Richard Hamilton covered XML and Wikis. During his lightning talk, he spoke about the differences between formal and informal communication. He defined formal communication as information learned from documentation manuals and informal communication as knowledge learned by other means (such as word of mouth or online websites). Hamilton mentioned that the profession has difficulty handling informal communication. He suggested that XML structure used for manuals is similar to Wiki markup, and how a Wiki can easily allow for user-generated production, reuse, and re-purpose of topic-oriented structured content. Hamilton concluded that technical communicators should be able to use a Wiki to write structured content and allow for anybody to contribute documentation.

Twitter: @richardhamilton and @xmlpress


Alan Houser then spoke about why it is the most exciting time to be a technical communicator. He explained how technology is speeding up the way information is being distributed around the world. He stated, “technology is ubiquitous, magical, and transformative.” Technology is breaking down the physical and geographical barriers for people who may have been isolated from the world to connect in many ways. Houser also dispelled myths that people hardly read any more, in fact he remarked on the trend that reading has tripled since 1982. He says that we are entering into a new age of communication and creativity because  information is becoming social and community oriented. Houser concluded that technical communicators should appreciate the field they belong in.

Twitter: @arh


In the next lightning talk, Ben Woelk  detailed the top ten practices to shockproof social media. He showed us how to keep identity and personal information safe in the realm of social networking sites. He advised that users create strong passwords, keep programs up-to-date, use security software, recognize phishing scams, and perform vanity searches on their names. Woelk also suggested that users should practice digital self-defense, keep ahead of privacy policy changes, and be aware of computer issues that may compromise personal information. With his simple and often common sense advice, people can safely and confidently defend themselves from online attacks.

Twitter: @benwoelk


Robert Armstrong spoke about The Art of the Demo. In his lightning talk, he explained that the demo should convey the passion and message for the client and should be free of issues, glitches, and problems. Armstrong shared his insight on how to successfully present a demo. He recommended that presenters should prepare and test the software for any type of scenario, clean out the computer beforehand such as clearing the desktop icons, maintain neutral backgrounds, and remove any notification pop-ups. In addition, he advised that presenters give an overview of the software without showing the issues that have yet to be resolved. In conclusion, he suggested that the demo should be presented as positive story.

Twitter: @ninety7


Brenda Huettner spoke about the way NASA approaches social media. She remarked on how exciting it is that the space agency is utilizing Twitter to reach out to fans. NASA goes a step further and interacts with their followers with Tweetups. They invite guests from Twitter to attend their rocket launches. Huettner believes that NASA’s approach is a rather unique way to communicate on Twitter by utilizing a one-way system as a two-way social system.

Twitter: @bphuettner


Lastly, the President of the Society for Technical Communication, Hilary Hart, spoke about the Society for Technical Communication Certification Program. She detailed how certification benefits of the profession. She explained how the program was developed and how it will improve the profession as a whole by defining the skills that cross all disciplines of technical communication.

Twitter: @hillaryatUTexas
STC Certification:


All of these lightning talks offered fresh perspectives on the profession, and should make for great continuing discussions in the field of technical communication.

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