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Seeking Value in Conference Registrations

As a follow-on for an article about return on investment for membership fees, I decided to research the costs associated with regional and national conferences for STC and see how they compare with other conferences that might interest technical communicators.

Evaluating conference costs

There are several reasons for attending a conference. You want to get ideas and inspiration for technical publication projects. You may want to present to your peers to get feedback and to tout your processes and express pride in your work. The networking aspects to a conference are very important for job searching or hiring, and getting together with previous co-workers and colleagues is a large part of the enjoyment of a conference. For some, traveling to conference sites is an enticement. For others, travel is not a motivating factor and in fact, the closer the conference to home, the better. All these factors also sway your decision on how much to pay for both registration and travel and lodging. You want the benefits to outweigh the costs. This table shows some of the registration costs – your mileage will vary, literally, for lodging and travel costs associated with conferences. I suppose that’s where a regional conference opportunity affords less travel for some than others, and that cost savings is also an advantage beyond registration savings.

Association name

Dates and Locations

Registration cost for annual conference

Who attends

American Society for Training and Development (ASTD)

May 7-10, 2006
Dallas, TX

US$1,125, with a corporate team rate of $750

Human performance specialists, classroom trainers, writers of training materials, training application developers

Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Communications Society (IEEE) Infocom

April 23-29, 2006
Barcelona, Spain

US$930

People interested in communications science such as network engineering, wireless communications, but not necessarily in written or other communications, more engineering-oriented

International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI)

April 8-11, 2006
Dallas, TX

US$899

Typical attendees include performance technologists, training directors, human resources managers, instructional technologists, human factors practitioners, and organizational consultants

Association of Computing Machinery Special Interest Group for Documentation (ACM SIGDOC)

October 18-20, 2006
Myrtle Beach, SC

US$375, early registration

Writers with computer focus only, software engineers.

Note that a Bachelor’s degree is a requirement of membership.

Society for Technical Communication (STC)

May 7-10, 2006

Las Vegas, NV

US$620

Technical writers, educators, researchers, Web designers, technical publications managers from all fields and specialties

All the other conferences that aren’t listed

It seems like spring is the time of year for professional conferences. Perhaps I should have written this article in the fall/winter when you can still get decent registration discounts.

I know I’m missing many of the tools-based conferences from this list, such as the FrameMaker Chautauqua (coming to Austin next year!), Writers User Assistance, Adobe’s conferences for PDF tools, the DITA Conference recently held, and so on. Generally, do you agree there is a different feel for a professional conference than a tool-based conference?

Perhaps my next research task should be looking at the tools-based conferences that make sense for the technical publications profession. I’m sure there’s a wide range of interests, though. For example, I attended South by Southwest (www.sxsw.com) this year since I’m a corporate blogger for my employer at talk.bmc.com, which is a distinct specialty not common for other technical writers (although I’d encourage you to explore blogging, it’s great writing practice.)