"What, Me Judge?"
By Charlie Burzalow
"What, mea judge?" For many technical communicators, that is the first reaction when a colleague suggests participating in the STC competitions. It was my reaction when an STC friend and long-time judge broached the idea. But, I took a chance last year, and now I'm hooked.
Judging is a tremendous experience. Like stepping off a lifeboat on to a tropical island, you encounter a rich landscape of unexpected benefits. Is there a new technology that you've been aching to try? It's here. Want to have a little fun with your skills? Got that, too. Need to shake off the cobwebs and expand your horizons? Be our guest.
Never judged before? No problem. The STC Competitions team has developed a user-friendly environment. Come to the orientation session. The senior judges walk you through judging day, the process of evaluation, reaching consensus, and recording results. You receive a packet to take home and peruse at your leisure. It has sample forms, and lays out the criteria and goals of the competition.
Judging day is the best part. Come early, and kick back with coffee and doughnuts. It's a great time to do a little networking. The senior judges outline the process once more, and then the group splits into small teams to review the entries. Each team has a senior judge to provide guidance, but before long, everyone gets into the act. Judges try out each entry, draft comments and suggestions, and almost as an afterthought, assign a score. There is a break for lunch and a little more networking. In the afternoon, you judge more entries, then get together as a group to review results and determine which entries advance to the international competition. You are home in time for supper.
What did you gain from your day? You demonstrated your skills in a congenial atmosphere of skilled professionals. You contributed your insight and experience to fellow technical communicators. You experienced the best and latest products of your colleagues.
There are three competitions, held in the autumn: hard-copy (Technical Publications), electronic (Online Communication), and arttechnical, of course (Technical Art). Each experience is a little different. You might try them all. As it turns out, putting on the competitions is quite a big deal. The organizing committees are fun, and have room for you as well. Information is available at http://stc-boston.org/competitions/index.shtml. Enjoy.
Charlie Burzalow is a senior technical writer, an STC member, and a new judge. He lives in northern Massachusetts.