Category Archives: Conference

Lightning talks: snappy, illuminating and gone in a flash

Last week, in our Tips for fearless lightning talkers, Susan Milligan looked at how to prepare and get the most out of presenting a lightning talk at conference. This week we hear from speakers and audience members about what they thought of the experience.

 

Hazel Reid

Hazel ReidI get lightning talks and elevator speeches muddled up. Both are fast, to the point, explanatory and self-revealing. Well, that’s the point, isn’t it? To tell us something about yourself that we didn’t know in as short a space of time as possible.

However, these two types of presentation are quite different. Everyone giving a lightning talk is restricted to the same length of time for their address and, certainly for the talks I went to, they are accompanied by PowerPoint slides. Whether that’s to help the listeners or the talker, I’m not sure. Elevator speeches, on the other hand, can vary in length – are you going up (or down) ten imaginary floors or just two? – and they need to answer the who I am, what I do and why kind of questions to give the listener a snapshot of the speaker. They’re useful for networking.

Lightning talks are ‘snappy, illuminating and gone in a flash (the clue’s in the name)’. They are also seen as an opportunity ‘for novice public speakers to have a go in front of a friendly crowd’. I’m quoting here from the ‘bumf’ from the SfEP 2015 conference, which is the last, and I think, only time I’ve heard them. I don’t remember ‘snappy’ or ‘flashy’, but illuminating, yes, definitely. Of the two lightning talkers who stand out in my memory, both were SfEP members and I knew each of them to speak to.

One, I’m mentioning no names, spoke about a former career as a sub-editor on a busy daily paper, an interesting and oblique slant on editing compared with ‘our’ version of the practice. That talk was good fun: there was humour and warmth, and perhaps a tinge (but only a tinge) of regret for the busy lifestyle and close companionship of a sub-editor’s day, now left behind.

The other speaker? Well, I confess that from here, two years later, I can’t remember anything about the content of the speech – which is not meant as the criticism it sounds like – 2015 was a bad time for me and my thoughts were often not where they should have been at any given moment. But I do have a clear memory of feelings. There was laughter, yes, and a ready wit, with those wonderful snappy, dry-humour sound bites that I wish I could master. (See, there you are, it was snappy after all.) There was also a feeling of surprise, a dawning realisation of something I had not previously been aware of, and then a strong sympathy or empathy that this person who I knew as witty, confident, clever, was actually, underneath it all, vulnerable.

So, lightning talks: as a listener, a good way to find out what makes someone tick, which can be fun, which can be sad, and which, I would think, must take a chunk of courage for someone to undertake, standing there in front of everyone. Exposed, as it were. For the listener, it’s entertaining, informative and sometimes surprising. For the speaker? Well, that’s something altogether different, I would think; wouldn’t you?

Sara Donaldson

Sara Donaldson Two years ago I attended my first ever SfEP conference. And two years ago I was asked to give a lightning talk at my first ever SfEP conference. Was I mad? Yes. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Would I do it again? Hell yes.

Now, let’s be honest here. I was petrified. I hadn’t given a talk for years. The last time I really stood up in front of an audience was when I taught a night-class, and that was uncomfortable every single time. But when Lucy asked me to give a lightning talk I said yes because it was only five minutes, and how bad can that be, right? Famous last words.

I didn’t really know what to expect, but I sorted myself out, dug out PowerPoint, made slides and wrote up a slightly tongue-in-cheek talk about superpowers. It was the only way to go as I felt I had no right to stand up in front of a bunch of editors and talk to them about my limited editorial experience.

What's your superpower?

When the time came, Kat and I sat together waiting as if for the call to the scaffold. It was her first time too. I can’t speak for her, but I was a nervous wreck. There was a room full of people. All looking at the speaker. All of them. Looking.

But you know what, when I stood up there, despite sounding like Minnie Mouse on helium, I think it went ok. People laughed (when they were supposed to). They paid attention. And no one walked out. I was in a room full of professionals and no one heckled, I didn’t pass out and the tech mostly worked.

I won’t say it was fun. It wasn’t at the time; it was an adrenaline rush, which is something completely different. But it was a worthwhile experience, and as a newbie it actually got people approaching me afterwards. People said they enjoyed my talk, they liked my blog … they actually knew who I was!

From first walking into the room and realising just how many people were in there (I honestly thought there would only be about ten people in the audience) to walking back to my seat afterwards, it was terrifying. But that’s a natural response for a slightly socially awkward, imposter-syndrome-suffering newbie. When I had time to reflect, I realised just how much I’d actually enjoyed it and how useful it was for my professional progression. I’ve done it now, I can do it again and it will be less scary.

What surprised me was just how diverse everyone’s talks were. When you are new you don’t know what to expect, but with everyone only having five minutes, the talks crammed in an awful lot of information. It wasn’t boring in the slightest, or preachy, or heavy. Everyone gave an interesting, informative talk without having to pad it out to reach the time limit, and the audience seemed to enjoy the variety.

What did I learn that was unexpected? I learnt that I can actually do this. Despite being out of practice, feeling that I didn’t know anything interesting, and being literally scared stiff, I learnt that anyone can get up there and give a short talk. Editors are a lovely bunch who are supportive and attentive, and even the conference organisers and main speakers get nervous.

If you are asked to give a lightning talk, for heaven’s sake say yes. If you say no you’ll never realise just what you can do, and a few minutes of the adrenaline rush is so worth it. Don’t let the fear take hold.

For those wondering whether to go and see the lightning talks, I’d say give it a whirl. The diversity of talks is stimulating, never dull and often informative. You’re bound to learn something new and it’s a great way to be introduced to new things and new speakers, without committing a whole hour to one subject.

Katherine Trail

Katherine Trail Five minutes sounds like a long time to talk uninterrupted, with a whole roomful of eyes fixed upon you (and not just any old eyes, the beady eyes of editors and proofreaders at that). I was surprised, therefore, when I timed my lightning talk, telling my partner to interrupt me at the five-minute mark. I was rudely interrupted just as I was getting into the flow of things.

‘What?’ I snapped.

‘Time’s up,’ he said, gesturing at his stopwatch.

As I looked down at the whole side of A4 I hadn’t got to yet, I realised then that preparing a lightning talk was not a case of trying to fill five minutes, but rather of trying not to exceed five minutes.

When I was first approached about doing a lightning talk, I signed up with the airy confidence of someone who is signing up for something months in advance and hasn’t really thought about the implications. As it grew nearer, I became uncomfortably aware that soon, very soon, I would be standing at the front of a room attempting to keep the attention of a rather intimidating number of colleagues. As an editor, I’m no stranger to hacking and slashing things, but as we all know, it’s difficult when it’s your own work. Preparing for my lightning talk forced me to be utterly ruthless – and I actually think it was a nice little challenge in editing too. I slashed and cut and binned and tweaked until I was within the five-minute mark with a few seconds spare. I chose to use a PowerPoint presentation to give my talk some visual context (and only slightly because the thought of everyone looking only at me for five whole minutes gave me palpitations) and tried to make the tone informative but entertaining.

Of course, I needn’t have been anxious. As with everything I have done regarding the SfEP, the people were gracious, welcoming and enthusiastic. And what a superb icebreaker when the speaker before me unknowingly used a rather amusing mistake I’d let through in my former life as a newspaper chief-sub as an example of sentences with a double meaning! For the rest of the weekend, I was amazed at the number of people who went out of their way to find me and tell me how much they had enjoyed my talk (which was about my career in newspapers and the challenges of editing a large daily paper). I was also amazed by the diversity of topics discussed by the other speakers, and the different approaches and methods each speaker chose to deliver their lightning talk. One thing was consistent with all of them, though – they spoke with a passion which was infectious and genuine.

For me, doing a lightning talk was a fantastic challenge, speaking both as an editor and just in terms of character building. I won’t deny I was nervous, but the sense of accomplishment after more than made up for any nerves. I can’t wait to hear what this year’s speakers have in store for us!

Julia Sandford-Cooke

Julia Sandford-Cooke There’s always a conference session that I wish I hadn’t missed, and the first lightning talks was one. I forget why I missed it – I’m sure the session I did attend was excellent (as, of course, all SfEP conference sessions are) and maybe I thought I’d seen it all before. I’d first watched lightning talks at a writers’ conference and was struck by this miraculous resurrection of ‘death by PowerPoint’ – each slide was a photo or very short text, bringing the emphasis back to the content and making more of an impact than a string of bullet points ever could. But how would editors handle the challenge?

Well, I found out the following year when, somehow, I found myself giving such a talk and discovered it’s where the cool kids hang out. Stylishly compered by Lucy Ridout and Robin Black, it was the highlight of my weekend – after all, who could resist short, enthusiastic talks about subjects as diverse and of as much interest to editorial professionals as Barbara Pym novels, the ubiquity of Aristotle and life as a newspaper sub?

My own talk covered my disastrous attempt to learn British Sign Language (spoiler: I failed the exam). I don’t remember being nervous as it was so much fun –  more fun than learning sign language, anyway. Here’s a tip for prospective speakers: it’s amazing how fast time goes so I set each slide on a timer to avoid the talk overrunning.

Would I do it again? Certainly one day, although I’m already committed to running another session this year. But I am already looking forward to the latest crop of lightning talks, so do join me in the audience, eagerly soaking up our colleagues’ wit, skills and knowledge.


Sounds like fun?  If you’re interested in doing a talk, please email your proposed title and a one-line summary to editor@lucyridout.co.uk by 28 June. This year we’re looking for talks around the conference theme Context is key: Why the answer to most questions is ‘It depends’. Or perhaps you just want to watch? That’s ok too. See you there?

Tips for fearless lightning talkers

By popular demand, lightning talks are making a comeback to conference in September. At a lightning-talk session each person speaks for five minutes, and five minutes only – there will be a timer! The talks tend to present surprisingly personal revelations and excellent advice, along with a few hilarious and blush-inducing ‘confessions’. They are received with warmth and appreciation, and a lot of laughter. What’s not to like?

In our next blog post we will be looking at how it feels to be a lightning talker and what it’s like to be in the audience [spoiler: it’s great fun]. But first, Susan Milligan offers her insight and some tips for fearless lightning talkers.

Lightning talks are snappy five-minute presentations meant to enlighten and entertain

Lightning talks are snappy five-minute presentations meant to enlighten and entertain

Why be a lightning talker?

So you’re thinking about answering the call to give a lightning talk at conference. What an excellent idea – you will make a contribution, share your knowledge or one of your passions, and rise to a challenge – and you only have to keep your audience’s attention for five minutes.

Such was my thinking when I agreed to give a lightning talk at a recent conference. And so it came about that I found myself watching with detached interest a pair of shaking hands – apparently joined to my arms and holding my postcard notes but otherwise curiously remote from my person.

I not only survived the experience – I actually quite enjoyed it. Trying out new and scary things is good for your confidence. Getting your message across within a strictly limited format is a very interesting exercise and teaches you more about concise and effective language than any number of workshops.

So here are my five tips for fearless lightning talkers:

  • Write out in advance what you are going to say. How many words do you think you can speak in five minutes? A lot less than you can read. I was surprised to find that around 850 words was my limit, unless I wanted to do an impression of an express train. Even if you are not going to read out your talk – and you’re really not – this will give you a sobering insight into how much you’re going to have to leave out.
  • Practise your talk until you are familiar with it, and time yourself so that you know you can do it in five minutes. Do this before you leave home. Don’t assume you will find time to do it in your room after you arrive – time at conferences has a habit of vanishing faster than the ice in a warm G&T.
  • Supply yourself with notes in a format that will keep you discreetly on track. I used postcards onto which I had glued the paragraphs of my talk, and I used colours for cues to change slide. Postcards are good as they don’t flap about like a sheet of paper (see trembling hands above). Don’t just rely on your memory, which on the day may leave you in the lurch and go off to a different session, and don’t rely on your slides to prompt you as this will give your brain an unnecessary extra task.
  • Speaking of slides, get in as many pictures as you can. Audiences react more to an image than to words on a screen. You can be inventive and not necessarily too literal.
  • Stand up straight, take a deep breath, look your audience in the eye and smile warmly at them. You’ve already got them on your side and you haven’t opened your mouth yet. (Except to smile.) Keep looking at them and smiling as you give your talk. You will give the impression that you are enjoying it and this will suggest itself to the audience as the natural thing for them to do too.

What, is that it over already? That really wasn’t too difficult. Now you can sit back and enjoy the rest of the talks. And the feeling that you really have achieved something today.

Susan MilliganSusan Milligan joined the SfEP in 2000. She works mainly for educational and academic publishers, academic institutions and administrative bodies. She enjoys involvement in the SfEP Glasgow group, which she helped to start up, and is a mentor in proofreading for the SfEP.

Has Susan inspired you?

If you’re interested in doing a talk, please email your proposed title and a one-line summary to editor@lucyridout.co.uk by 22 June.

Five reasons I’m a fan of the Judith Butcher Award

Nominations are now being sought for this year’s Judith Butcher Award (JBA), but what’s it all about? OK – cards on the table: I was the proud recipient of the JBA in 2013 for my work on social media. Perhaps that means I’m slightly biased. But it also means that I can give you a very personal take on this annual celebration of exceptional contributions to the community that is the SfEP.

Official recognition

I was proud to have my efforts officially recognised, epecially as it meant that my name would appear in the same sentence as Judith Butcher’s!

I joined the SfEP in 1997, but it was only when I became a marketing and PR volunteer in 2009 that I really started to appreciate just how much valuable work goes on behind the scenes, and how much the Society’s volunteers contribute to the running of the organisation. When I became a director in 2010, I relied on the help of such individuals, particularly when our social media activities started to expand and we needed a team of people to keep the show running.

The fact that I’d seen how much work went on behind the SfEP scenes made me all the more pleased to have this official recognition.

Nominated by peers

One aspect of the award that makes it very special is that nominations come from one’s colleagues within the Society.

Although many of the people who are involved in running the SfEP do so out of sight of most of their fellow members, I’m sure we can all think of individuals who’ve contributed, perhaps on the forums, on a particular project, in our local group or in a more public sphere.

I can tell you that having one’s efforts noticed and appreciated by colleagues is a very lovely feeling indeed, and I’d encourage everyone to think hard to see if they can call to mind someone who’s impressed them and ought to be recognised.

Social media

In the past, not all members saw the value in the SfEP being involved in social media, so I was really pleased that my JBA was awarded ‘for significantly raising the national and international profile of the SfEP, and the work of editors and proofreaders in general’ through my voluntary work on social media.

I believe social media has played a significant role in promoting the SfEP, and it was heartening that the JBA recognised this.

Team effort

When I was awarded the JBA, I felt that it was a reflection of the efforts of all those who had contributed behind the scenes to these activities. Although I couldn’t share the award with all those who had helped, it did make me appreciate their support, dedication and commitment. I really couldn’t have done it without them.

Book token

And now I have a confession to make: for many years I didn’t actually have my own copy of Butcher’s Copy-editing. I know, right? So when I won the JBA I decided to use the book token prize to buy myself a copy. It just seemed like the right thing to do (and it is an invaluable resource).

So please do get your thinking cap on and consider nominating someone who has:

  • made a clearly identifiable and valuable difference to the way the SfEP is run, and/or
  • carried through a specific project that has been of particular value to the SfEP and/or its members.

See the full rules here, but note that this year the timetable will differ from the one described on our website. Please email nominations to jba@sfep.org.uk by 12 noon on Friday 5 May 2017.

 

Helen Stevens has been a freelance proofreader, editor and copywriter for over 20 years, and now specialises in academic and non-fiction editing. She enjoys playing Scrabble and walking, though not at the same time. Saltaire Editorial Services

 

 

 

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP

Finding our community spirit for the new year

We all know that the SfEP exists to uphold editorial excellence. It does this through a membership structure that encourages all members to develop and hone their skills, and by running a strong programme of training and mentoring to support this. But the Society also exists for and through its members, a network of individuals from all sorts of backgrounds and doing many kinds of editorial work – our community of editorial professionals.

So, what makes us a community?

As community director, I’d say it involves sharing certain values and responsibilities. Our values include striving to be the best proofreaders and editors we can be. Our responsibilities (alongside delivering skilled and professional services to our clients, of course) include helping each other live up to those values, supporting those new to our profession and sharing experience among ourselves to enable us all to be successful.

But how do we provide that mutual support in a profession where many of us work at home or in relative isolation, and with members all over the world, including some in remote locations? Well, the SfEP has a number of activities and resources that help foster a sense of community. Some involve meeting face to face, while others use the internet to shrink the distance between us.

Meeting in person: local groups

The SfEP has 38 local groups throughout the United Kingdom, all organised by volunteer coordinators. Groups hold regular meetings, usually in an informal setting, and often, I’ve noticed, involving food and drink. What each group does varies, but all the events provide opportunities to pass on knowledge and to network.

Kathrin Luddecke encapsulates the essence of our local groups in her recent post about the Oxford group:

“While [training] was excellent and really helped me develop best practice… it was the friendly exchanges with others in the local group, the chance to swap experiences, ask questions and share frustrations… that made all the difference to me wanting to keep going. There’s nothing quite like mutual support!”

Those who don’t yet belong to the Society can attend up to three local meetings. A number of people have commented that being able to ‘try before you buy’ like this helped them decide whether editing was right for them.

Read more blog posts about what people get out of their local groups.

And for those who are remotely located, either within the UK or abroad, there’s always our Skype club, which ‘e-meets’ every month.

Meeting en masse: the conference

Our annual  conference provides many stimulating and educational sessions, as well as plenty of opportunities for networking. However nervous people may feel about attending a big event like this, they always seem to go away with a smile on their face, having made new friends, and fired up with enthusiasm to put into practice everything they have learned.

The theme of this year’s conference is Context is key: Why the answer to most questions is ‘It depends’. You’ll be hearing much more about this before booking opens in March, so I won’t steal our conference director’s thunder. In the meantime, we have a number of blog posts that give a flavour of how people feel about attending conference.

The forums: an online watercooler

For times when we can’t meet face to face, the forums are a vital part of the SfEP community. Run by our internet director and his web content editors, and assisted in the day-to-day management by a team of voluntary moderators, the forums are a bit like an online watercooler, where members from all over the world talk about all things editorial, and some things non-editorial.

It’s here where the community spirit is perhaps most evident, with members sharing their experience and expertise on all things from getting started in proofreading and editing to advanced Word wrangling, to that knotty punctuation or grammar question. New members are always given a warm welcome, and more experienced members are generous with their advice and support.

Extending our community: blog and social media

Blog

This, our blog, is where we reach out beyond our community to show our face to the outside world. Tracey Roberts, another volunteer, coordinates it all and we aim to provide a range of interesting and entertaining content relevant to professional editors and proofreaders and anyone who uses editors and proofreaders. And – in exciting news – this has recently been recognised as we heard last week that the SfEP blog has made it through to the final eight of the UK Blog Awards 2017. The winners will be announced on Friday 21 April 2017, so keep your fingers crossed for us!

We are already putting together some great ideas for posts over the coming months, including tips on building your business for the new year, and editing and writing fiction, to coincide with National Storytelling Week at the beginning of February.

But what would you like to see here? Do let us know what types of posts you enjoy and find most useful, or if there’s a subject you’d like to see discussed here.

Social media

As you may know, the SfEP has been increasing its social media presence. This helps raise our profile and allows us to attract more members, enabling us to grow and extend what we can do for our community. Thanks to our splendid team of social media volunteers, every day we keep people informed about what the SfEP is doing as well as posting stimulating content related to editing, publishing and freelancing more generally. And we are increasingly engaging directly with members and non-members, spreading the word… and the love.

You can now follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+.

And finally… huge thanks to all our community volunteers!

You may have noticed a theme running through everything I’ve talked about here, and that is the huge contribution that is made by our volunteers. Without them, many of the SfEP’s community activities simply could not take place. So I’d like to end by saying a big thank you to every single person who puts their time and energy into making the SfEP what it is – a welcoming, supportive community of editorial professionals.

Eleanor Parkinson, one of our newer members, summed up the essence of the SfEP community spirit in a recent post on our Newbies forum:

“I don’t believe I have ever come across a professional organisation that provides as much practical, real-life help to people trying to get started in that industry.” 

Sue Browning Sue Browning, SfEP community director

 

 

 

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP

The new girl and the SfEP conference, Part 2

By Karen White

(You can read Part 1 here.)

I survived! Actually, I did more than survive – I thrived!

On the day I got back to my desk after my first SfEP conference I spent a lot of time tweeting and Facebook messaging people I had met in person over the weekend, sending follow-up emails, and connecting with people on LinkedIn. I looked over all the notes I took, watched some of the live videos I missed, and reduced my coffee consumption to two cups all day.

I have to confess to having felt a bit nervous last week as all the chat ramped up about nail polish, tiaras and navigating Birmingham’s roadworks, but as it turned out, I needn’t have fretted at all. I did take a wrong turning off the Ring Road, and had to ask for directions to the registration desk (Who did I ask? Only Louise Harnby herself!), but once I’d registered and had the Cult Pens goody bag in my hand, all was well and it was straight into the AGM. Then it was straight from the AGM to the first-timers’ drinks, to dinner, then the quiz, then back to the bar. All the time chatting to people whose names I recognised from the Forums, Facebook groups and Twitter, as well as plenty of people I hadn’t crossed paths with before. And they were all really friendly and welcoming, and all had interesting angles on editing and proofreading work that were mostly very different to mine: maths, menus, fiction, legal, Shakespeare, Welsh. Plenty to ponder as I made my way back to my room (with its king-size bed, fluffy white towels and separate desk area), and the conference itself hadn’t even started yet!

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Sunday was the first full day. After a substantial breakfast and the Whitcombe Lecture given by Susan Greenberg (My favourite quote from Susan’s research, asking editors about their work was: “You have to tell people they’ve got to do a shitload more work, and try to make it sound interesting.” (Constance Hale, freelance book editor)), I was off to a session on developing my editorial and professional career. Chris McNab’s message in this session was all about thinking where you want to be in the future, and working out the skills you need to get there. Getting there may involve stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new. This was a message that was repeated in Sue Richardson’s session on moving from freelancer to entrepreneur, and again in the Speed shake-up session on ways to revitalise an established career. I had selected sessions that were on a similar theme because this is the stage I’m at in my career, and the conference has coincided with a quieter than usual patch on the work front, so I’ve come away with plenty to mull over.

The live session I went to on Sunday afternoon was the great fees debate. Always a hot topic, and always interesting to hear others’ thoughts. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to whether we should accept lower rates sometimes, but it’s reassuring to hear that the idea of showing solidarity in the face of unacceptably low fees is popular. This is a topic being discussed a lot at the moment in my community of ELT (English Language Teaching) freelancers, and I know it’s not going to go away any time soon.

On from sessions to the TweetUp, which is such a great idea when you usually only communicate in 140 characters. I’d had conversations with so many SfEP-ers on Twitter before the conference, and it was lovely to be able to get to know the people behind the tweets a bit more. I think I contributed quite well to the #sfep16 hashtag, which is a great way to follow the conference if you’re not there in person, or to follow sessions that you weren’t in.

Drinks reception, tiaras, rapping, gala dinner, award presentation, Lynne Murphy and Antiamericanisms. I have honestly never been to such an entertaining and varied conference before. Nor have I been to one in such a well-appointed venue.

Was Monday really only the second day? I did a quick Live video with John Espirian for my business Facebook page, then headed off to the first session, which was Laura Poole’s look at being an effective freelancer. Entertaining, and full of sound advice. I will never book a 9am doctor’s appointment again, when I could be using the most productive part of my day for working. Appointments are for late afternoons from now on. More useful tips followed in Sophie Playle’s session on making the most of your website. This is something I’m definitely not doing at the moment, so my to-do list just got a bit longer. Then David Crystal’s closing lecture on the impact of the internet on ‘text’ came all too soon.

I didn’t come home with a raffle prize, but what I have brought back are a lot of things to think about for my business, a determination to check and contribute to the Forums more frequently, a lot of new friends and contacts, the knowledge that there is a great supportive community out there, and a resolution to attend another SfEP conference. Oh, and a speeding ticket as a result of my eagerness to get there on Saturday!

Karen WhiteKaren White is a freelance project manager, editor and trainer specialising in ELT publishing. She runs a Facebook page where ELT editors can chat and share information, and blogs about editorial issues at White Ink Limited. If you’re a Twitter user, you can find her @KarenWhiteInk.

 

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator.

Proofread by SfEP Entry-Level Member Sarah Dronfield.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP

Social media round-up: SfEP 2016 conference

Anyone following the SfEP on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn will have seen a number of great blogs written by attendees of the 2016 conference. In case you missed them, a selection are summarised below.

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The 27th annual SfEP conference by Katherine Trail
It’s been a couple of days since I returned from my second SfEP (Society for Editors and Proofreaders) conference, and I’ve just about regained the power of speech, although I can’t guarantee this blog will make 100% sense (but when do they ever?!) …

Kat has also produced a great video blog on The value of conferences

#SfEP2016: reflections on the 2016 Society for Editors and Proofreaders conference by Hazel Bird
I spent the weekend just gone in Birmingham at the 2016 Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) conference – my fourth. There were over 30 hours of excellent CPD and networking opportunities, and I’ve emerged re-invigorated and with plenty of new ideas for my business and personal development, if a little brain-weary …

Conference Call by Sara Donaldson
At the 2015 conference, as a newbie, I felt like a rabbit in the headlights (it was the first time I’d ever met ‘real’ editors), but this year was a much more relaxed affair, meeting up with all the wonderful people I met last year who I’m proud to call friends (and some lovely new friends too).  It was more relaxed, even if I did take a wrong turning, ended up heading back out of Birmingham, and arrived at the Aston Conference centre a little shaken up (thanks SatNav app) …

Lessons from #SfEP16 by Melanie Thompson
I have been to several SfEP conferences, but this was by far the most enjoyable. I learned a lot and had a great time meeting familiar faces and making new friends. Here are my sixteen top ‘takeaways’ …

Looking back at #SfEP16 by Graham Hughes
This was my second SfEP conference, the first being last year’s gathering in York. That time, I arrived with some trepidation, as if I was going to be surrounded by veterans who were out to judge me. I soon realised, though, that this was nonsense. Everyone was there to learn, share ideas and enjoy themselves. This year, I could turn up without any of those worries. The experience that I’d gained in the last 12 months also helped me feel more confident, and being a local group coordinator had possibly even put a slight swagger into my step …

Converting put-downs into pitches by Liz Jones
I went to the SfEP conference at the weekend, had a brilliant time catching up with friends and colleagues, and came back fired up with loads of new ideas and objectives for continuing to develop my editorial business. And yet … over the course of the weekend, still I came out with some absolute clangers when called upon to describe my professional self and what I do …

Setting up Mastermind and accountability groups was mentioned as a possibility for members of the SfEP at the conference, and John Espirian discusses the key issues in his latest video blog.

Compiled and posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP

The makings of a successful conference

By Margaret Hunter

Birmingham city centreWell, the SfEP 2016 conference is over. Editors and proofreaders across the land (and beyond) are catching up on sleep, trying to remember what’s on their to-do lists and enthusiastically writing up reports on their blogs. We’re striking while the iron’s hot and putting some of that learning into practice by writing five-year plans, testing out some new macros and even trying to get better at ‘selling’ ourselves and developing positive self-worth.

It was a really great conference this year! What made it so good? Other members of the SfEP have already praised the excellent session presenters and keynote speakers, the great venue and food at Aston University, and importantly each other for being open to sharing and discussing and generally being lovely people.

I’d like to give a shout out too – and a big thank you – to our sponsors, exhibitors and raffle prize donors. Let’s face it, how many of us usually take any notice at all of the list of sponsors printed on the back of our conference folder, or the various flyers tucked inside? It’s easy to go into automatic ad-blocking mode. Occasionally some offer or useful resource might catch our eye but sometimes they don’t seem to be all that relevant or interesting.

The thing is, at this year’s conference delegates DID notice – and appreciate – our sponsors and exhibitors, which is fantastic, and as it should be.

I lost count of the number of times I heard people say that PerfectIt is one of their essential editing tools. If you don’t know what it is, get someone in your local SfEP group to give a demo. You won’t look back!

The lovely people from Out of House Publishing not only sponsored us but also ran a well-received session on the current state of educational publishing and how editors and proofreaders fit into the process. Did they panic when half of the intended panel couldn’t make it at the last minute? Not visibly – they just got on with it, adjusted their presentation and gave us all lots of food for thought.

One organisation doing great work that some of you may not have come across is the Book Trade Charity. It exists to help anyone who has worked in the book trade in times of need. Kat Trail says she had a lovely chat about the charity’s work with its chief executive. For example, the BTBS can assist people who have been made redundant from publishing firms or are otherwise struggling financially, such as helping with deposits for flats, grants for training and so on. It also has its own housing complex, The Retreat, for ex-book trade folks. Well worth supporting!

A constant plea heard on the SfEP forums is ‘How can I get my first paying jobs?’ If you want clients to find you then you need to be findable. Our friends at Freelancers in the UK offer members of the SfEP a generous third-off discount on a listing in their online directory. For £20 a year it’s a no-brainer – get yourself listed!

A familiar face at SfEP conferences, Ann Kingdom represented our sister organisation the Society of Indexers. A common message in many conference sessions was about reaching beyond your comfort zone, challenging yourself to expand your business and move into new areas beyond core proofreading and editing. Indexing is a skill that would suit many of us, and it’s a professional skill that we want to see thrive and survive. Could that be your next challenge?

We’re all used to raffles where the prizes seem to be the unwanted items won at the donor’s last Christmas party. But not so the SfEP raffle! Every prize was fantastic, including books by keynote speakers David Crystal, Lynne Murphy and Susan Greenberg, books by session leaders, a copy of PerfectIt, and a fabulous prize of a two-day InDesign course donated by Certitec. Wow!

As if that weren’t enough, what really got people talking was the AMAZING goody bag from Cult Pens (‘The Widest Range of Pens on the Planet!’ – and I think we had a fair selection of those in the bag!). Just check out the Twitter feed mentioning @cultpens! Said one (normally entirely sensible) experienced editor:

This fab goody bag makes up completely for the hours I have spent every August in Asda, WH Smith and other venues spending loads of money on pens for CHILDREN. These are MY PENS.

Cult Pens goodby bag at SfEP conference 2016Some free pens and books may seem like a trifling thing, but our sponsors’ generosity made people feel good. And that all added up to make this one of the best SfEP conferences yet. Roll on 16–18 September 2017 at Wyboston Lakes – put the date in your diary now!

Margaret HunterPosted by Margaret Hunter, SfEP marketing and PR director.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP

Macros for editing? SfEP conference session preview

By Paul Beverley

The upcoming SfEP conference (Sept 10–12) offers an excellent range of learning opportunities, but unusually this year it offers a total of four hours of training on macros. Can one really justify spending four hours learning about macros?

Well, it depends what you think a (Word) macro is. If you research this via the internet, you will find various definitions such as, “A macro is a way to create a shortcut for a task that you do a lot.”

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The implication of all the definitions I looked at was:

(a task I already do) + (a macro) = (the same task done faster)

If that were all that macros could do, then those four hours would indeed be excessive.

However, I think that you get a better idea of what a (Word) macro is, if you say that it’s an app used to handle Word files. But what does an app do? The answer is, almost anything. So if a macro can do ‘almost anything’ with the contents of a Word file (or indeed a set of Word files), then they can provide the editor with a whole new set of tools.

Indeed, starting to use these new programmed macros (as opposed to just recorded macros) is akin to giving a sewing machine to someone who has only ever done hand sewing. Their hand sewing might be immaculate, and those techniques are still very valuable, but they will end up manufacturing garments much more quickly than before, and those garments can be of finer quality because of the consistency that a sewing machine is capable of – but they will need to learn new ways of working.

You might think this an overstatement, but hopefully the session on ‘Macros for editors’ will begin to open new horizons. Everyone will be able to benefit from finding a few new macros that will speed up the way they work, but for those willing to be more radical and learn new techniques over the next few years, you can expect considerable increases in earning rates.

Paul_Beverley1Paul Beverley has been an editor and proofreader of technical documents for over 10 years. He’s partly retired now, but doesn’t want to stop altogether because he enjoys his work far too much! He writes macros for editors and proofreaders to increase their speed and consistency, and makes them available free via his website.

 

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator.

Proofread by SfEP Entry-Level Member Sarah Dronfield.

photo credit: 2014-08 – Grand Lake via photopin (license)

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP

Talking about fiction: Why bother? SfEP conference preview

By Gale Winskill

At the time of writing there are almost eight weeks to go before my 2016 SfEP conference session: Let’s talk about text. As editors we deal with text on a daily basis but we don’t necessarily talk about it. We might mutter exasperatedly to ourselves in the confines of our working space, communicate our thoughts diplomatically (or not) on paper or in emails … but in these days of remote working we rarely discuss the nitty-gritty of a text face to face with another person.

So, much to my surprise, I find that at some point I seem to have agreed to lead a group discussion, masquerading as a live editing session on fiction. Currently in the midst of trying to choose/tweak/finalise my materials for said event, part of me wishes that I hadn’t agreed to talk about anything to do with any sort of text. After all, most of the time not talking about text seems to work just fine, doesn’t it?

conversation-1468159_640And what on earth am I supposed to talk about with regard to editing fiction anyway? After all, it’s a construct, a conceit, a deception. There’s no truth to it, so there’s certainly no benefit in discussing it, is there?

Like the five stages of ‘panic-buying’ – something to do with the financial world apparently – my preparations for the live editing session have gone through similar degrees of doubt and anxiety:

  1. Denial: Agree to do live editing session on fiction and then promptly blank all recollection of this fact from my mind. After all, September is ages away, so there’s no need to worry about it.
  2. Anger: Receive polite request to deliver the session summary during a particularly intense work crisis, wonder why on earth I agreed to do this and get cross with myself for not saying ‘no’. Write something vaguely pertinent together with my fellow group leaders, then bury myself in work and revert to denial.
  3. Bargaining: Eventually read the live editing brief properly and try to convince myself that I can use one text for all three parts of the session, as surely that will be easier! Stare blindly at my author folders and bookshelves for inspiration. None is forthcoming.
  4. Depression: Decide that the subject of fiction is far too large to squeeze into an hour-and-a-half session. Book a last-minute holiday two weeks before my children’s school term finishes at the end of June and flee the country. (I’m just back!)
  5. Acceptance: While away, and on receipt of another gently worded reminder that session materials need to be delivered by a certain date, acknowledge that all of the above is utterly self-indulgent, it’s too late to back out and that working through these various stages is actually my natural default setting. In addition, (most of) my authors are wonderful, generous people who might just grant me permission to do all sorts of unspeakable things to their text without asking too many questions.

So, with another conference deadline looming – one that theoretically means I now have a rough idea of what I might talk about in my session – I have rediscovered three things: that panic, especially when interrupted by a two-week holiday and a pile of good books, is ultimately a great enabler; that the patience and good humour of the conference director are seemingly endless; and that text – even fiction – really does merit talking about.

And how did this final epiphany emerge? Well, the longer I stared at my selected text options, the more I swithered about what ought to be altered, left or queried. And on further study, I found other things that could potentially be marked or considered. Then, on comparing these musings with what I had actually marked on the texts when I edited them properly – years ago in some cases – I discovered that some of my thoughts were now ever so slightly different.

So, does that mean I was wrong back then, or that I am wrong now? What’s the right answer? And if I don’t know, what hope is there for my live editing group? Will they agree or disagree with me, or with one another? Will they even glean the same approximate understanding of the texts?

To be honest, it doesn’t matter. As I have said on many previous occasions, fiction has no one right answer … and the myriad possible interpretations of any fictional text are, therefore, definitely worth talking about for no other reason than they are endlessly fascinating and a great starting point for an interesting blether!

photo_Gale WinskillGale Winskill is an Advanced Professional member of the SfEP who enjoys a challenge. She leaves it up to the reader to decide whether there is any truth or merit to the above text, but admits that there may be a large chunk of fiction in there somewhere … or not. Discuss (preferably in her live editing fiction session).

 

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator.
Proofread by SfEP Entry-Level Member Sarah Dronfield.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP

‘No’ your way to a better business: SfEP conference session preview

By Laura Poole

As I write this, I’m nearly deluged in paid work. I said ‘yes!’ to clients about three times more than I should have. My bank account will be very happy in about six weeks, but in the meantime I’m getting up early, squeezing in work everywhere, skipping exercise, deferring personal appointments, and drinking extra coffee.

In the 20 years I have been freelancing, I have noticed that it is very hard to say no. I’ve noticed it with colleagues, too, and my theory is this: as freelancers, we train ourselves to say yes because yes = paycheck. When we started out, we probably said yes to everything because we were desperate for work, eager to expand our client base, excited to learn new things, and appreciative of the income. Publishing seems to be a woman-dominated field (at least in editorial), and women often tend to be people pleasers, which can lead to a yes when a no would be better.

hand-no
When we say yes a lot, it can feel good! Gratification: we made someone happy. Security: work is coming in, money will be earned. Pride: look how much I got done! Too many yeses lead to a feast of work, with concomitant stress. Our bodies, our schedules, our families, and even our friends suffer when we do nothing but work. A feast portion is all too often followed by a famine portion. We’re briefly grateful for a break, a rest, some recovery, but then we start to panic about lack of work… so we start drumming up more business, saying yes to lots more things, and then we’re back in the feast portion again.

The problem is, these vicious circles of stress and panic are not healthy, and they are not sustainable in the long run. For full-time freelancers, this is almost certainly not the lifestyle you envisioned.

There are many steps, tools, and techniques for reclaiming your life and business. In this post, I offer a key one: start saying no. It may seem counterintuitive, and it may feel almost physically uncomfortable to get the words out, but it’s the simplest thing you can do.

Check your instinct to immediately say yes to everything and everyone (and that includes personal requests, like tea with friends or dinner out). Give each request – appointment, social event, client project – some careful thought. Is it coming at a time when you already have plenty of work? Are you already overloaded, or will the schedule free up? Is it work that you truly want to do, or something that’s not quite in your core skills and interests (e.g. proofreading when you really do developmental editing). Think about what you truly want in your life – are you missing time for hobbies, time with family, or even just relaxing? Haven’t taken a vacation in a long time? Reclaim your sanity by saying no as needed.

The tough part is saying no without feeling guilty, without softening it with a lengthy apology or explanation. Remember: ‘No’ is a complete sentence. Loyal clients will know they can come back to you and may even ask when you are available.

When you say no to the things that don’t serve you – that overload your schedule, that aren’t in your core business, that are just a chore and not an opportunity – you will free up time and energy for the things that do serve you. That alone can shape your business in exciting new ways, opening more doors than you ever thought possible.

Start now: what can you start saying no to?

My session at the SfEP conference is ‘Taking charge of your freelance life’ (Monday 9–11am).

laurapoole resized Laura Poole (Twitter: @lepoole) started her full-time freelance business in 1997. She edits exclusively for scholarly university presses. She started training editors in 2009 with privately run workshops. In 2015, she joined with Erin Brenner to become the co-owner of Copyediting, for which she is also the Director of Training. She loves Jelly Babies.

 

Posted by Tracey Roberts, SfEP blog coordinator

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the SfEP