Getting ahead as a lone author, my TCUK presentation

I’ve just held my first presentation at a technical writing conference: On September 22, I spoke about “Getting ahead as a lone author” at the ISTC’s conference “Technical Communication UK” near Oxford.

If you’ve been following this blog, you will recognize the theme: I’ve covered several angles of this topic throughout the year. My presentation was basically a condensed version of many of the ideas on this blog, neatly wrapped into 5 best practices, and with the opportunity to ask questions or to comment.

I was glad to have the first slot after the opening keynote, so I could get my presentation out of the way: As much as I was looking forward to it, it did interfere with my attention and general enjoyment, as I kept thinking about whether it was too long or not appropriate in some way.

The opening keynote then set a very comfortable tone: The topic was serious, yet delivered with an ironic sense of humor. “Yeah,” I thought, “I can follow this…”

I counted 23 people in my audience – not a lot in a conference of 180, but it suited me just fine. While my pacing was brisk, I think, it was still easy to follow and engaging.

I finished after 30 minutes to leave 10 minutes for questions and answers. After all, I can’t claim to have any more experience or any better answers than any other lone author. Most of the questions asked for clarifications or further explanations and showed that many lone authors have similar concerns.

As I’ve found out from the comments, one of the weaknesses of the presentation was that I didn’t make all of my assumptions clear. For example, someone helpfully pointed out that authors in a (well-defined) agile programming environment don’t have many of the problems of authors in a waterfall project model as I described it.

On the whole, it was a very valuable experience: I now know I can hold a presentation and get a point across to a room full of fellow tech writers. And I hope to do it again someday.

I had some help on the way: I thank Linda Urban for first suggesting that I could do this. And Karen Mardahl for keeping me pointed in the right direction when I was getting nervous the evening before.

If you have something you are passionate about in your job, I can only encourage you to “get it out”. Write an article, start a blog or hold a presentation at a conference. Chances are it will mean something to your colleagues, either because they are concerned with the same topic or infected by your enthusiasm. And don’t be afraid to seek out help, none of us has been born an author or a presenter, and you’ll find many people willing to help you along.


  • My presentation slides: You can see and download my slides which have been enriched to link to blog posts and web sites with more resources.
  • How to hold a presentation: There are a lot of web pages about this, these two have helped me to prepare and to make me confident that I didn’t forget anything.

If you have any feedback on the presentation, whether you attended it or not, I’d be happy to hear it!