Bling, baby, bling: The business suits get put away for an evening as STC puts on its gala awards banquet. Not being much of a banquet kind of person, I had managed to avoid this for the umpteen years that I have been attending the conference. But this year, a good friend was to be installed as an Associate Fellow, as were many of my colleagues with whom I have worked (and respected) for years. In addition, my new position on the BoD (Board of Directors) mandated that I attend the event.
I was seriously outclassed.
Gowns and even a few tuxes were the order of the day. It was truly a glittering event—probably about as close as a technical professional society is going to get to the Academy Awards! While for an outsider it may seem very silly, it is in fact quite important to recognize achievement in the field, and to show appreciation for those who have invested so generously of their time and energy.
After the formal banquet and awards ceremony, many people moved to a lounge area upstairs for and extended party. The Rough Drafts, STC’s homegrown band, gave lie to the myth of the introverted TC. I stayed for a bit, chatted with a few peopled, and even met a few loyal followers (members who have attended many of my webinars). “You’re about 60% of the reason that I’m still an STC member,” enthused one guy. Aw, shucks!
User experience on the hoof: During the day on Tuesday, I’m lucky enough to have two sublime in-the-field usability experiences. The first occurs in the Hyatt’s Regency Club, where the complimentary breakfast featured on of the most bizarre automatic coffee machines I’ve ever seen. The woman responsible for the room walks me through the process, and I immediately glom onto her naturally ability as a trainer. I start talking to her, and discover that she was not specifically instructed as to how to convey this information, but that she did it based on her own common sense and intuition. Without ever having studied instructional design (I seriously doubt that this woman had ever even heard of it), she had put her finger on some of the key theory behind developing a good user training experience.
Later, I find myself in front of a terminal in a store. “Do you want to help us with our customer survey?” asks the department store employee. I am curious about the interface, so I sit down and blast through the screens quickly, paying attention to navigation, visual cues, and how intuitive the controls are. I then ask how most people manage with the system. “Well, almost everyone figures it out really quickly,” says the woman running the survey station, “but every once in a while, there is someone who really needs help. But I figure that those people would have trouble no matter what you do.” You go, girl. True Bell Curve design.
Both experiences are extremely interesting and give me addition insights in how to do things right. (Lord knows we see enough examples of what not to do!)
Playing hooky: My user experience insights come about as I play hooky from the conference morning session. I have a date with a friend, and we go for a massage. I just get a chair massage, but it is one of the best I’ve ever had. We glide out of there feeling loose, aligned, and refreshed–a feeling that lasts until we step out into the freezing wind. True to form, Minneapolis has given us a 45 degree temperature drop, from 90 F to about 45 F in about 12 hours. Yikes!
Time to fly: It is almost time to head to the airport for the next leg of this road trip.