Whether you’re a technical writer with years of experience or a newcomer to the field, conferences and professional development events can do a lot to help you advance your career and connect you to your peers working in the same industry.
This article will give you a good overview of the most important conferences on a technical writer’s calendar and suggest the best events for your professional development, so let’s dive right in!
API the Docs
The API economy has been seeing accelerated growth for a few years now. And it’s not only developers who can find exciting opportunities in this burgeoning industry, it’s technical writers too.
Writers who can document the complexities of APIs are highly sought after, because they need a deep understanding of software development, in addition to extraordinary writing talent.
Whether you’re just getting into the field or want to deepen your understanding of API technology and how it’s documented, API the Docs is the perfect place for you.
This conference started out as a live event but it transformed into a virtual conference in 2020 and has been going strong ever since.
Best of all, access to the virtual talks is completely free of charge so there’s nothing stopping you from checking it out, even if APIs are not your primary field of interest.
The talks at this conference are focused on the specific challenges of documenting APIs, writing for a predominantly developer audience, and automation tools and documentation platforms that make a technical writer’s life easier.
API the Docs is definitely an exciting event that’s laser-focused on developer-centric writing, so if you want a good perspective on this side of technical writing, this might be a great opportunity to get it.
Unlike our last conference recommendation, API the Docs, Confab is an event with a broader scope that has a little something for everyone working in the content management field.
While the main focus of the conference is content strategy, anyone creating, designing, or managing content can learn a lot from the experts and authors sharing their knowledge on ways to make online content better and more user-friendly.
The speaker lineup for the conference is always quite impressive, featuring book authors and scholars, as well as experts from some of the world’s top companies coming in to share their wisdom and show attendees what content strategy looks like in the big leagues.
Here are just some of the companies that have participated in the event so far:
The conference is loaded with fascinating workshops and talks on subjects such as neurodiversity and inclusivity in content design, or modern tools for tracking content results, meaning it’s the perfect opportunity to hone your existing skills and stay at the top of your game.
The next conference is scheduled for the beginning of May next year in Minneapolis, so if you’re interested in learning more about content strategy, you can join the mailing list right away and start following the updates.
ConVEx is another event that brings together professionals working in content. Its main theme in 2022 was examining the roles of technical writing, marketing, user experience, and other fields in formulating a single content strategy.
This was the first in-person edition of the conference after two pandemic, virtual-only events so it’s safe to assure that ConVEx will continue its successful format in the future as well.
As conferences go, this one has a packed schedule with talks and networking sessions back to back for the entire three days of the event. Writing about her experiences at the conference, Leigh White from IXIASOFT sums up how lively the conference really is:
Each of the three days featured two presentation sessions divided into six tracks followed by a Candid Conversation session for each track, followed by two more presentation sessions and another Candid Conversation session for each track.
The conference is lauded for its educational as well as networking opportunities, so it’s going to be very exciting to see what their next iteration will bring.
LavaCon is another content conference, but this one is more focused on technology and how it can help organizations create and distribute content more effectively.
This conference usually boasts a star-studded lineup of keynote speakers. This year’s edition is no different, with experts from Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Netflix, and Adobe, among others, coming together to share industry tips and best practices.
The conference will be held in New Orleans in October and will focus on content creation and sharing across the enterprise. That means it’s going to be extremely valuable to marketers, but also to technical writers interested in using documentation to boost business growth.
Registration at LavaCon starts at $2,150 but participation is definitely worth the investment, not just because of the celebrity speakers but also because the organizers always go out of their way to provide a fun experience with relaxed networking opportunities.
So if you want a window into the future of the industry, as well as a chance to rub elbows with the top experts in documentation and content, this is the event for you.
Technical Communication Summit
After the above series of content strategy conferences, here’s an event aimed strictly at professionals working in the technical communications industry.
This summit is organized by The Society for Technical Communication, the world’s largest organization for technical communicators, so you know it’s an important event.
There are two elements to the summit. The first is called The Education. It comprises a series of talks that are organized according to topic, with sessions that cater to participants of various experience levels, meaning you’ll find a session tailored to your current needs and interests.
The other element is The Expo Hall. This is where companies come together to showcase their exciting new products designed to help technical communicators work.
The Expo Hall is the prime event for exhibitors, who stand to grow the audience for their products and visitors, who can shop around for technology and tools, while networking with colleagues from all over the world.
As we said, this is the leading conference for technical writers and content creators, so make sure you’ve saved the date. The next edition of the summit is set for August 2022, which is just around the corner.
Technical Communication UK
Technical Communication UK (TCUK) is another unskippable event in the technical communicator’s calendar. The TCUK takes place, as the name suggests, in the UK so it’s a great choice for European technical writers, illustrators, and publishers who aren’t able to attend events in the US.
The conference is all about sharing ideas and good practices to make technical communication even more effective. Participants flock to the event for its networking opportunities and top-tier speakers.
The institution behind this conference is The Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators (ISTC). Communicator, the organization’s official publication, has prepared some very interesting topics for summer 2022, such as developer portals, API documentation, and the Agile Manifesto applied to technical writing.
If this is an indication of what this year’s conference will bring, we’re in for a very interesting and forward-thinking event.
This event always has a common theme. Past participants, such as Charlotte Branth Claussen, say that this focus helps visitors get multiple perspectives on a single topic central to the industry:
It gives you the opportunity to explore different angles on a common theme and, indirectly, on technical writing in general. With a common theme, different approaches tend to become clearer.
All the more reason to visit TCUK in September, the conference’s usual calendar slot.
Speaking of Europe, the tcworld Conference in November definitely deserves your attention. This yearly event in Stuttgart includes more than a hundred expert presentations on contemporary happenings in technical communication.
As is the case with a lot of the other events on this list, tcworld is coming back as an in-person conference after a couple of virtual years. And it’s really coming back with a bang.
The next conference will look at the role of cutting-edge technology, like virtual reality, in technical communication with events discussing software documentation and user experience.
Tcworld also includes a fair where services providers and technology developers from the field of technical communication unveil their newest products.
The fair is an excellent place to get access to the newest translation tools, documentation platforms, design software, and everything else you need in order to excel in the field as a technical writer or content creator.
Tcworld has a long history of success, with more than 35 yearly events behind it. It’s also one of the largest technical communication conferences in the world, with more than 4,000 participants visiting it every year to hear talks, hold meetings, and upgrade their tech stack.
UX Writer Conference
If user experience is central to your work as a technical writer, you should definitely check out the UX Writer Conference.
This one is a completely virtual event, but that doesn’t take anything away from the educational content and networking character it provides for visitors.
As founder Joe Welinske explains:
It will include breakout sessions, one-on-one networking, and unconference activities, all within a single, secure, password-protected space.
As such, the registration fee for the UX Writer Conference is lower than many of the other events on this list and comes to an affordable $295. You can register at this link.
The format of the conference is particularly interesting. The event is hosted on a custom platform where attendees can listen to their chosen talks or hang around in the reception area.
Source: Joe Welinske on YouTube
The platform also matches individual participants for meetings or one-on-one introductions, making this virtual conference as close to a live event as possible.
Joe Welinske calls himself a wordsmith and tech geek. If you’d describe your own work in a similar way, you’ll find many kindred spirits at this conference, so don't miss out.
Write the Docs
We saved the best for last. Write the Docs is an event focused on professionals working in documentation and technical writing.
The 2022 edition saw more than 600 participants, which means that this event is becoming increasingly popular among audiences interested in documentation.
Although the theme of the conference is quite narrow, its contents are valuable to a whole array of experts such as:
- Tech writers
- User support
- Programmers and developers
- Developer advocates
The conference itself is prefaced by an interesting event called Writing Day. You can think of it as a type of sprint (modeled after open-source conferences) for technical writers. The participants work together on a given writing project and exchange knowledge and make connections along the way.
Pair that with some interesting talks and a job fair where tech writers of all backgrounds can find their next job, and you have an exciting event packed with knowledge and career-building opportunities.
This is another very affordable conference with tickets starting at $125 and a special price for students and unemployed visitors ($25), so there’s really no excuse not to book a spot at the next edition of Write the Docs.
Technical writing is a profession that’s always evolving and developing. There are always new skills to learn and new tools to try out. And the best way for you to keep track of what’s going on in the world of technical communication is to participate in conferences and events organized by and for communication professionals.
In this article, we brought you a selection of the best documentation, content, and technical communication conferences in the world. You don’t have to visit them all, but a couple or just one that fits your career path should enable you to stay ahead of the curve and keep achieving success in the field.