The 2014 TechCommNZ Conference: Communicating Change


From October 12th to 15th, one-quarter of the membership of TechCommNZ gathered in Christchurch for our biennial conference. Hard-working committee members and volunteers got ready to welcome 80+ technical communicators to Christchurch. It was, quite literally, a sell-out!

The Cocktail Party

Sunday night, we began with our lively cocktail party. Two-thirds of the conference attendees came together to chat and network. We talked about our work, sharing software tool tips and war stories, and about our other interests - my own conversations ranged through ecology, literature, and international travel. One communicator, new to the field, said, "I'm amazed at how interesting all these people are!" In between, we sipped drinks and nibbled impressive canap├ęs. After the hotel staff gently closed the party area (a solid hour after the end of cocktails), many of us moved to the hotel restaurant to keep our discussions going.

Day One

We reconvened first thing Monday morning with our flight safety video introducing the conference, followed by our first keynote speaker, Tony Self. His theme, "Choosing the right path," opened our eyes to what technology is doing to our field and to instructional design. Then, we powered through a day packed with multiple other presentations - it was often difficult for delegates to choose. High points included Dave Holmes speaking about change in organisations, Rebecca Officer's excellent DITA case study, and a fascinating view behind the scenes of Meridian Energy's wind energy program with Nat Janke-Gillman.

AGM, Dinner, and Quiz

The TechCommNZ AGM on Monday evening had a record number of attendees. We concluded our business with a new President, Emma Harding, and several new committee members, including Grant Mackenzie in Auckland and Claire Nicholson and Rob Grover in Christchurch. After the AGM, almost all the attendees gathered for the conference dinner and the notorious conference quiz, helmed by Luke Pivac, Tony Self, and Dave Gash. TechCommNZ presented Simon Morton, of the radio show This Way Up, with an Honorary Fellowship in honour of his work showing New Zealand how enthralling it can be to communicate about learning, science, and how-to information. Rydges Latimer outdid themselves with the catering, and the quiz didn't wrap up until after 11.

Day Two

Next morning, our keynote speaker was as invigorating as a double shot of espresso: Carol Barnum. She woke us all up with her passionate discussion of content strategy, an emerging field that's a perfect fit for technical communicators. This was followed by a second full day of programming: this day's highlights included Dave Gash's valuable Embedded Help presentation, Mike Dickinson of Adzebill teaching us about "infographics that don't suck," and Cathy Gillespie illustrating technical communication's role in the Christchurch rebuild. Amongst attendees, the networking intensified. This was the day when one attendee would buttonhole another about a job lead, or to learn what a certain software package was really like for the users.

Workshops on Day Three

For our final day, those of us remaining split up for two different workshops: an in-depth review of UX with Carol Barnum, or an infographics intensive with Daniel Moody. TechCommNZ staff took some time to preview your conference feedback. We noted that while 95% of our attendees had a positive experience, one or two were very negative. We are still accepting conference feedback via our survey X until X date.

A Big Thanks to our Sponsors and Volunteers

TechCommNZ and the conference attendees would like to thank our sponsors for their valuable support and conference software prizes:

  • Platinum Sponsors: Adobe
  • Gold Sponsor: Author-it
  • Silver Sponsors: CPIT, Madcap Software, Streamliners, PrintMax,and TechSmith
  • Bronze Sponsors: Ace Video Services, NZTC International, Tactics, and Write

We also need to thank our exceptional conference volunteers, who worked so hard to make this TCANZ's best conference ever:

  • Kaye Churches
  • Steve Moss
  • Roy McKone
  • Jo Mills
  • Heather Wickham
  • Chris Dorsey
  • Sarah MacLean
  • Claire Nicholson
  • Peter Nock and Emily Cotlier, conference emcees
  • Luke Pivac and Rob Grover, conference tech support

The TechCommNZ committee and conference volunteers hope you enjoyed your TechCommNZ conference flight.

Emily Cotlier