This article was originally printed in the August
2003 issue (Vol 10, No. 1)
About the Author
Kathy Bine (email@example.com)
documents software solutions for ICF Consulting in Fairfax, Virginia.
STC Usability SIG Newsletter
Attending an STC Conference on a Shoestring Budget
by Kathy Bine, Washington DC chapter
Let’s face it, companies are reducing their training budgets. During
these austere times, the technical writer must get more creative than ever
to participate in the annual conference. An informal survey of attendees
at the 50th Annual Conference in Dallas showed that many people paid their
own way to the conference. There are numerous ways to reduce the cost to
attend the conference.
The most important tactic: start early. If you want to go to a
conference, tell your boss as soon as possible, and explain how the
knowledge you gain will change his or her life. Explain how you plan to
shop early for tickets and hotels, and even propose a presentation which,
if accepted, will further reduce expenses! Present her or him with a list
of the expenses if you made no effort to cut costs, and the expenses you
anticipate after all your cost-cutting. If your manager is still
uncertain, consider offering to pay for the airplane ticket if the company
pays for the hotel and registration.
Here are ideas for cost-effective transportation, lodging,
registration, and meals, and desperate measures if you cannot attend at
- Shop for your plane ticket early. Start looking for bargains in
November or December. Be sure to compare the cost of arriving Saturday
and staying Saturday night versus arriving Sunday—it’s nearly
always cheaper to arrive on Saturday, even when you consider the
additional night in the hotel. Web sites to check include Expedia,
Orbitz, and Travelocity. Students and faculty at educational
institutions can check Student Universe (www.studentuniverse.com/orbitz)
- Ask friends and family members to bring you to the airport. Travel
to the airport with members of your STC chapter so that you can split
the cost of cab fare. Use the World Wide Web to determine whether
public transportation can get you from the airport to the hotel. Check
days of the week and times of day to verify that public transportation
is available. Just be sure to set aside some money in case your ride
- Avoid renting a car. Car rental fees, parking fees, gasoline, and
parking tickets add up very quickly. How badly did you want to get
lost, anyway? Public transportation, cabs, and your feet can take you
all over town, and you’ll learn more about the place.
- Shop for a budget hotel. Staying at the conference hotel is
wonderful but expensive (average $160 a night, excluding taxes and
fees). You may find a bed and breakfast near the conference for half
that cost, and save on food costs! Ask your friends and colleagues,
even the host chapter to recommend a less expensive hotel. Once you
find that hotel, reserve a room immediately. Web sites to check
include Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity. Students and faculty at
educational institutions can check Student Universe (www.studentuniverse.com/orbitz)
- Share the cost of a hotel room with a friend from your chapter.
- Propose a presentation to give at the conference. Besides the
opportunity for you to share you knowledge and skills with your peers,
speakers receive a discount on the registration fee. August is the
deadline for submitting presentation proposals.
- Register a day or two before the early registration period ends.
This gets you the best price, and you keep your cash in hand longer.
- Pick your day to go. This is a tough solution, because presentation
descriptions are often unavailable until a few weeks before the
conference and you may find that Tuesday’s sessions are just as
compelling as Monday’s. If you are looking to save on the
registration costs, though, this is an option.
- Attend all the free events. These include the regional reception on
Sunday evening, the general reception on Sunday, and the international
reception on Monday evening. The vendor exhibition is usually good for
a cup of coffee and a snack.
- Bring breakfasts and snacks. The conference no longer includes
continental breakfast. A box of granola, energy bars, and bananas are
nourishing and inexpensive.
- Pick conference lunches and dinners to attend. I enjoyed the SIG
luncheon and the networking luncheon because of the opportunity to
meet with renowned members of our profession. The Awards Banquet is a
chance to network. This year it was $40, though, which is about what I
paid for a night out with the Lone Writers at Dick’s Last Resort,
even including the cab rides there and back. This year’s conference
location had limited off-site dining options (other hotels and a Denny’s).
Another option is to just bring more granola bars.
If All Else Fails
- Arrange for an attendee to buy and ship to you the Proceedings on
CD-ROM ($20 plus about $0.80 postage).
- Write to the presenters whose sessions appear interesting and ask
them for their materials (free!).
- Check out the conference web site and download information from the
Uploaded Session Materials (www.stc.org/50thConf/sesMaterials.asp).
These often represent the handouts that speakers provided and are not
included in the Proceedings (free!).
The 51st annual conference will be held May 9-12, 2004 in Baltimore,
Maryland, near the Inner Harbor. There are a number of hotels and
restaurants in the area. The closest airport is BWI, which is known
locally as the best value of the three airports in the area (Dulles
International and Reagan National being the others). For more information
about the 51st conference, go to www.stc.org/51stConf/index.asp.