Conference notes

Notetaking (Photo is courtesy of geekcalendar’s photostream,, Creative Commons)

Are you thinking of attending a professional conference? Are you weighing the cons with the pros? Sure, this will cost you money—likely out of your own pocket—and  time. While you’re away, that looming project deadline will not disappear. Neither will that family event. Yet, you’d like a change of scenery. You could benefit from a renewed sense of purpose. You know it’s time to recharge! You decide Yes! You will go.

A while ago, I committed to doing a presentation at an out-of-town conference of technical communicators and made my travel arrangements. Early last week, I got my act together, finalizing my presentation, taking care of responsibilities on the business and home front, and preparing myself for a few days away.

Upon Friday’s arrival in Knoxville, Tennessee, I was taking in new sights—the converging rivers, rolling green hills, and falling, red, autumn leaves—and new sounds, including the respectful “Miss Judy” or “Ma’m” of the student volunteers who transported me between the conference and the hotel. Throughout my stay, I enjoyed Southern warmth and hospitality and an abundance of food, food, food with desserts, desserts, desserts—delicious indulgences!

Beside the ambiance, the sessions I attended proved to be valuable, relevant, and inspirational. I especially enjoyed Dr. Mark Littmann’s approach to Science Writing That Thrills the Public. Participants critiqued several examples of science writing, ranging from the dry to the poetic. And he shared how we, too, can write with accuracy and respect for our readers, involving them as witnesses to an unfolding story. Dr. Russel Hirst shared how to Write as You Would Be Written to. One of the key take-aways for me is that like so much else in our world, moderation rules. Writing has a sweet place in which there are enough words—not more, not fewer—to convey your message and make your point. Fred O’Hara’s talk, So Why Don’t We “Get” Global Change? showed how to explain global warming—or any complex topic—to the public. I hope that those who attended my session, Creating a Successful Work and Life, learned from the example of success and wellness that I provided—the transformation from Robert Rushing to Robert Renewed.

I returned home with new titles to share with my book club, new techniques to apply to my own writing, and a better understanding of the effect of the sun, the rotation of the earth, and the warming oceans on climate. Fortunately, my connecting flight left LaGuardia just hours before raging, superstorming Sandy flooded the area and wrought so much destruction and heartache. There is much to ponder from a few days away at a conference.

Have you benefited from time away? Care to share your notes?


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