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

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