Sep 242014

Russ Unger

Russ Unger

OK here’s the problem. You’re a writer. And you have an idea for a conference presentation. But standing up in front of a crowd isn’t your medium and you’re not quite sure quite to go about it. The solution? Go to camp.

Speaker Camp Boston. At this daylong boot camp, you can explore potential presentation topics and come away with a proposal, a speaker bio, and a plan for your talk.

Russ Unger, an Experience Design Director at GE Capital in Chicago and the co-author of two books, has been leading these workshops in Chicago and Atlanta and said he’s excited to add Boston to the schedule. “When I started doing public speaking in 2009, there was nobody to tell me how to do it. As a community, we’re just not great at coaching people on how to get better and do better as presenters. I have learned some important strategies that I can share with people, so I started to organize these speaker camps. I want to encourage more diversity and new voices at technical conferences.”

His speaker camps help people learn and improve presentation skills. Unger explained, “In the morning, we go through activities on how to brainstorm your idea, write an abstract, and write your bio. Attendees also learn some practical tips and tricks of presenting. Then in the afternoon we break into small groups, where coaches critique individual 5-minute presentations, providing valuable and actionable feedback.” Unger keeps attendance down, to about 30 people, so there is time for each attendee to present to the group and benefit from direct feedback.

“It’s for anybody who wants to take the first stab at presenting at a conference, or somebody who has just started doing it and could use a little help and feedback to improve. It’s an opportunity to get a lot of things you normally can’t find: a captive audience of 20 people just like you, people who care and are scared, too. People find this to be a little intimidating, but we have a lot of fun, and people go away feeling pretty good about it. It is a really relaxed environment. You walk away feeling a little more confident and ready to take the next step,” he said.

How does that fit into STC New England? A venue for your presentation is Interchange, the annual conference of STC New England, coming up in the Spring of 2015. Emily Alfson, immediate STCNE past president and co-chair for Interchange 2015 with Rick Lippincott, is excited about the coming event: “The conference is growing each year, and we are always looking for new, exciting speakers to present to our local community on a variety of topics related to technical communication.”

The Interchange co-chairs will be making a call for proposals soon. Have you been involved with an interesting project at work? Are you pushing the boundaries of technical communication? Have you learned how to use new technologies and tools? Could others benefit from your experience?

Alfson and Lippincott said that all tech writers should consider topics that you might be able present at Interchange or at an STC New England monthly meeting. Alfson said, “We often hear from our members that they would like to present to our group, but some feel that they don’t have the expertise or the public speaking skills to do so; Speaker Camp Boston is an opportunity to hone those skills and gain the confidence needed to give a knockout presentation!”

Speaker Camp Boston takes place at MadPow (179 Lincoln St, Boston) on Saturday, October 11. The fee is $50. To register, go to

For information about Interchange 2015, watch your email inbox and the STC New England website.