I attended the IA Summit in Phoenix last month. I was kind of nervous about it, because I didn’t know whether I’d know anyone or not. Though there is TONS of cross-over between the theories, processes, and goals of strict IA (or UX or whatever initials you want to use) and the more traditional area of technical communication, there isn’t always cross-over in membership. I’ve attended some 18 STC annual events, where I feel fairly confident that I will always find a friend (or two or 200) to hang out with. For the IA Summit, however, I was not so sure.
But it was only a few hours drive from home, and I needed to be at another meeting near there anyway. To top it all off, DAN ROAM was scheduled to speak! I’ve been a fan of his since I first read “Back of the Napkin” and really wanted to see him in person. So I decided to head on up! Pre-conference info was good, and the organization (in this case, ASIS&T) had set up a Crowdvine site. Through this, attendees could post questions or comments, arrange side field trips, or just see what was happening as preparations progressed. One speaker (Whitney Hess) even used it to poll the potential audience while creating her presentation!
Like at STC events, I did hear some grumbling. Some of it was even the EXACT SAME grumbling in both places: “we need a better name to call ourselves”, “how can we prove ROI and get more $$?” “the group is too big/small/focused/chaotic/passive”. Some didn’t like the implementation of the Crowdvine; others complained there were too many sessions in each time block (um, there were only 4!); and there were some people who were quite offended by the opening keynote.
But there were lots of positive things too! The sessions I attended (especially Dan Roam’s) were very good, and either showed me a new way of looking at things or showed me entirely new things. For example, I had never heard of “body storming” before – it’s a very physical type of brain storming. And I really enjoyed the sessions that focused on visual things like sketching and presentation skills. You can see the whole program at the IA Summit site.
There was also a space dedicated to whatever might come up last minute. Sometimes it was overflow/repeat of a popular session. Sometimes it was a discussion that started elsewhere and needed to continue. I sat in on the “how to improve this conference for next year” session. It was actually quite positive, with lots of concrete suggestions and even a couple of volunteers who stepped forward to help! One final thing I found very interesting (and fun): Saturday was “game night”. The organizers provided a room with several large tables, and attendees brought along games like “Apples to Apples” and “Fluxx”. I happened to have my Bananagrams with me, so we played some of that too! It was a lot of fun.
Will *I* go to IA Summit12? Hard to say right now. Like everyone else, a lot has to do with funding, and since the next event is in Colorado and will require more expensive travel arrangements, I’ll need to see where I am at that time. But if I do go, I won’t worry about finding friends, because the IA Summit attendees, like STC members, feel like “my” kind of people!