16 May 2013

Learning by sharing

Two hands holding a ball covered in words relating to learning

I’m in! I’ve received my ‘proposal accepted’ email from the organisers of TCUK (Technical Communication UK – the annual conference for anyone in my field in the UK) and I will be delivering a session on ‘Managing as a freelance technical communicator’.

I'm really looking forward to it, and have between now and mid-September to work out exactly what my message is, how I'm going to deliver it, and how I'm going to learn from the other people in the room.

Wait a minute... learn from the other people in the room? What’s going on – aren’t I the one supposed to be sharing knowledge? Well, this will be the fourth time I’ve presented at this conference (and its predecessor) – and each time I’m sure I’ve learnt at least as much from the experience as those who attended the sessions.

The first session (in 2008) was co-presented with Alison Reeves (of Write to Win). We did a 3-hour (yes, 3-hour) workshop on advanced techniques in Microsoft Word. Alison came to see me before the conference so we could work out who was doing what, and when. I lost count of the times one or the other of us would say, “How did you do that? Do it again... slowly.” We'd both been using Word for years – but we learnt a lot from each other that day.

Last year my session was on CPD (Continuous Professional Development, which some of you may know as CPE or Continuous Professional Education). I incorporated an exercise where people in the room discussed various activities and decided whether – and under what circumstances – they were valid CPD activities. Watching people discussing the options, coming to conclusions, arguing, changing their minds and challenging others opened my eyes to a much wider range of possibilities than the already-wide range I’d had in mind.

It's not just restricted to conferences – I teach writing skills, and am a tutor with the Open University, and it’s rare for me not to experience a fresh perspective at some point during a session.

TCUK is a fantastic learning experience even when I’m not presenting (which is the main reason I go – see 'Why you should attend TCUK 2013 - a personal perspective'). It’s also a great opportunity to catch up with others in my profession... the life of a freelance technical communicator can be somewhat isolating, even now there are two of us. If you are involved in technical communication, we’d love to see you in Bristol!