TCUK12 summary, likes & dislikes

This was my third consecutive year at TCUK, and I was surprised and glad to see how much I enjoyed it in different and new ways than before.

I mainly enjoyed seeing acquaintances and friends again who made me feel like I was part of the family. I was glad to help the conference organisers in a small way by facilitating two sessions. And it was great to hang out with the international tech comm “jet set”, whether they’re from England (hi, Alison, David, Elaine, Felicity, John, Jonathan, Robert and Sue) or from farther afield (hi, Charlotte, Diego, Janet, Karen, Leah, Maxwell, Morten and Ray).

I also felt more relaxed and less nervous, because my own session was a panel discussion which can only stand limited preparation. By contrast, my presentations in previous years were prone to overrehearsing… 🙂

The panel itself went quite well, even if Robert Hempsall had to bow out at the last minute. Karen Mardahl, Ray Gallon and I discussed how internationalization, specifically different language skills, different cultures and different technology affect accessibility. Thanks to our audience who contributed their own experience, it was a lively discussion and the 40 minutes went by very fast.

Likes

  • Nice size. TCUK is small enough to have a very cozy, almost intimate feeling about it, yet large enough to be dynamic and diverse.
  • Professional, constructive vibe. Whether they’re newbies or experienced, many delegates get involved and contribute their experiences and opinions in the sessions during Q&A and outside, in the foyers, over lunch or at the bar. I see a lot of communal participation and engagement and very little sit-back, entertain-me consumerism.
  • Diversity and quality. I’ve been amazed once again at the wide variety of topics and the generally high quality of the programme:
    • The 3 keynote lectures by Leah Guren, Scott Abel and Karen Mardahl were excellent: Relevant, inspiring and entertaining each one of them! Their general upbeat tone pervaded the entire conference.
    • The 6 workshops on Tuesday (as far as I’ve seen and heard) were hands-on, very practical and applicable. Participants contributed interesting, sometimes provocative perspectives which added insights and reflection to the practical exercises.
    • The 30 sessions on Wednesday and Thursday (again, as far as I’ve seen and heard) were for the most part well-presented and an interesting mix of conceptual, high-level discussions and roll-up-your-sleeves practical advice.

Dislikes

  • Sessions are too short.  At 40 minutes total, they often have 30 minutes or so for the actual presentation and some time for Q&A. I prefer presentations of 45 minutes plus Q&A afterwards, which can run for 5 to 15 minutes.
  • Food. Personally, I didn’t care much for the food at the hotel, but that is a matter of taste, as always. Other delegates liked it just fine.
  • No time to explore. Glancing at Northumberland from the plane, I regretted making such a tight schedule that I saw nothing outside the hotel and the airport. It looks like a beautiful area well worth exploring.

In-depth session reports

For more details about some of the sessions I have attended, see my previous posts:

– If you’ve attended TCUK12, feel free to add your impressions in a comment below. If not, you can still add a comment or ask a question… 🙂

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7 Responses

  1. Great write-ups, Kai. It’s like revisiting the conference. I like one phrase you have here: very little sit-back, entertain-me consumerism. Well put. That does define TCUK very nicely. See you at next year’s conference, or perhaps before. 😀

    • Thanks, Karen. I guess it also has to do with the size of the conference whether delegates engage or consume: If it’s large, you might get more of the not -so-engaged crowd – or it might just be intimidating for some people who feel more at home at a smaller affair. And if it’s small, you probably have a higher ratio of the engaged crowd who are the first to show up.

  2. I agree on session length, some of them felt quite hurried (others felt too long at 30 mins mind you!).

    And yes, the food was all very heavy and not much choice either, would’ve expected better!

    Great to see you and like Karen says, the big bonus of TCUK is the people who attend, lively, engaging and always happy (sometimes a little TOO happy) to offer an opinion.

    • Thanks, Gordon. The STC Summit programming committee asks for more thorough information in their call for proposals, incl. an outline of how the presentation will proceed, what are the major learning points and what should attendees be able to take home with them and apply right away, to ensure delegates get some sense of momentum from sessions.

      The drawback of this is that the call for proposals is almost 8 months before the conference, and the wealth of information makes it much more time-consuming for the committee to select speakers.

      And to be sure, it only weeds out sessions with poor or thin content – but it doesn’t help with bad or nervous speakers.

      As it is, I really appreciate that TCUK gives newbie speakers a chance, hence encouraging fresh perspectives and drawing more engaged practitioners into the family. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today, speaking at STC Summit and tekom if it wasn’t for TCUK10 who offered me the first chance to speak!

  3. Thanks for the review, Kai! It sounds like TCUK was a great conference.

    I would love to see more audience participation during sessions at other tech comm conferences. The speaker is responsible for part of that audience engagement, although there will always be some attendees who will never participate.

    In March, I presented at a women’s leadership conference with a lot of great participation. I purposefully created opportunities for everyone to contribute, with a volunteer writing everyone’s answers for all to see. I also put a little extra pressure by telling them we had to prove my husband wrong because he thought I wouldn’t get any participation! (This strategy might only work well at a women’s conference.)

    • Thanks, Jamie! To me, the responsibility for audience participation is just about the most fickle, least predictable aspect of giving a presentation. Or in any similar situation, such as TA’ing in college…

      I am immensely grateful for the wonderful discussion my session sparked at Chicago’s STC Summit, see https://kaiweber.wordpress.com/2012/05/26/what-i-learned-from-my-pattern-recognition-talk-at-stc12/ But honestly? I’m still not quite sure how we got there… Maybe it’s about showing how much you care about the subject, as opposed to how much you know?

      And certainly, there’ll always be quiet attendees who will enjoy the presentation and get just as much out of it.

      I like your appeal to the audience’s pride to get them going – but I think it’s a delicate strategy best used carefully…

  4. I’ll agree with the food based comments!

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