In July, Dr. Michael Fritz and his tcworld team invited exhibitors and contributors at the tekom annual conference – the technical documentation industry convention – to a joint workshop. Around 20 representatives from the ranks of manufacturers and service providers took up the invitation and came to Stuttgart with one goal in mind: to identify trends in the TechDoc sector and develop new topic areas for future tekom events.
The format of the workshop was similar to that of a UN conference: an informal gathering where the group first discussed and determined the topics and then worked on them together. Every attendee gave a brief presentation of the topic that was closest to his or her heart. We then compiled, reviewed, evaluated, and prioritized the topics. The result was three main topics that we discussed more in depth over the course of the day.
#1 Social media & co.
One of the three main topics identified early on was that of “formats,” and with it the specific issue of finding alternative forms for communicating content. These formats need to meaningfully complement existing formats such as newsletters, trade journals, and talks – before, during, and after each of the tekom events. In the age of social media and digitalization, it soon became clear that we could intensify our approaches here too. For this reason, alongside classic ideas, format suggestions such as our own topical YouTube channels or targeted blog work made it onto the short list.
#2 Marketing in the TechDoc industry
Often neglected but increasingly important for us was also the topic of technical documentation marketing, as well as the corresponding possibilities for providing training at tekom events, because marketers in our industry are primarily involved in B2B marketing. Unfortunately, our products are usually a lot less instantly appealing than the latest fashion collection from H&M, the latest electric car by BMW, or the latest vegan restaurant in Berlin. In addition to this, the content we have to communicate is especially technical, isn’t immediately understandable, and therefore requires a lot of explaining. None of this makes our job any easier. And the challenges mount when we see where our industry is heading: toward new markets and target groups. This is one more reason to keep educating marketing specialists and to support them during their endeavors to make the best out of technical documentation and implement marketing activities in a more targeted way. Some of the ideas generated included specialist focus events for marketers in the TechDoc industry, interactive workshops, collaborations, and best practice examples… Does that sound exciting? I think so too!
#3 The transformation from document to information…
… or: What does the future of technical documentation look like? How can technical documentation content be processed and used in other business areas? What will technical writers have to be capable of in the future? And what effect will this have on the rest of the industry? The answers: eDoc as the initial impulse for future development, topic orientation as a must, classification as a necessary tool, technical editing as the most important department in the company, the service provider as the link between all business areas, an increased need for training, and making all content available (online and offline, everywhere and any time). This discussion was by far my favorite topic, as it a) was aimed at current developments that have to do with Industry 4.0, digitalization, and the upheavals in our sector, and because b) we are already able to provide a number of approaches toward rising to emerging challenges with our #Multi-Level-documentation strategy.
It was an exciting day with a lot of ideas for change. Regardless of whether and how our suggestions will now actually be implemented, the event was a complete success from our perspective. This workshop not only created a platform for organizers, exhibitors, competitors, and partners to exchange ideas, but also gave us the opportunity to actively shape our future together. And this makes a lot of sense, because we all have the same goal: to promote the event, to tap into new target groups, and to actively shape the transformation ahead.
To a successful future together!