By this time of year (May), many SfEP folks will have enthusiastically booked an early bird ticket to the SfEP (Society for Editors and Proofreaders) conference. Or be in a dilemma wondering whether or not to book for September’s annual networking event.
I am in the former camp.
If you are not feeling brave enough. Or wondering if you can afford to spend such a lot of money (it’s all relative), then read on.
If you have booked already, then it seems a very long time until September. When you psyched yourself up in March to book your place, it feels very unreal and way off in the future.
Rest assured, the wait will be worth it: there is popular opinion that it is one of the most valuable CPD (Continuing Professional Development) events you will attend. As well as being superb for networking.
Here are my highlights from the first two conferences I attended.
I was told about my first conference by a local member when I joined the SfEP in January 2017. I booked my place at Wyboston Lakes, Bedford. He pointed out the advantage that it was only an hour away from where I live (near Stansted Airport). I must admit that I was up for trying anything – it felt like a big adventure. It helped that I knew fellow local members were going as well.
Some highlights were:
- Eating meals in the canteen was an experience – I’ll never forget the sound of 120 delegates all eating and chatting together. If you are a freelancer who lives alone quietly, the change in environment may be something which either excites or frightens you. On the upside, there is always someone to talk to. Or you can get away to quieter parts of the campus to collect your thoughts in between the learning parts.
- Saturday evening quiz – hilarious!
- John Espirian and Louise Harnby’s double act on Content Marketing.
- Accountability Groups with Denise Cowle
- The Lightning Talks (each speaker has 5 minutes to entertain the audience).
- Guerrilla Marketing workshop.*
- Sunday evening Gala Dinner – very special.
*I was flattered to be asked by the Editing Matters editor, Hazel Reid, to do a write-up about the Guerrilla Marketing workshop for the Conference report. When I contacted the presenters (Tracey Cowell and Jackie Mace) afterwards to do a fact check, I discovered they were both in my local Herts & Essex SfEP group. In addition, they were both in educational publishing – which where I was heading to find proofreading work. Result!
My second conference, held in Lancaster, was an adventure. My local group members, Anna Nolan, Howard Walwyn and I really enjoyed the camaraderie of travelling together to the opposite end of the country.
My highlights were:
- Keynote Speakers, e.g. Lynne Murphy (#Lynneguist).
- The Lightning Talks (see a pattern here?).
- John Espirian’s Guide to LinkedIn (don’t be a LinkedIn Loser).
- Paul Beverley’s Beginner Macros.
- Learning how to copy-edit non-fiction with Erin Brenner and Laura Poole.
- Stephen Pigney, academic, reminisced about his first year as a freelancer (we joined SfEP at the same time).
This year, the conference takes place at Aston University in Birmingham from 14th to 16th September, with the theme ‘In the beginning was the word’.
When early bird bookings opened in March this year, there was a huge rush of excitement on social media and general optimism about something good happening.
If you are in two minds about attending, please read the variety of conference blogs. You might find some if you search in the SfEP Forums. They will help you reflect as to whether it is your kind of thing. You will certainly laugh and learn lots. I still refer to my notes from both conferences.
One event I hadn’t had the encourage to attend was the Speed Networking, held on the Saturday afternoon at the same time as the pre-conference tour. Well this year, I am determined to put that right!
Value for money
The cost of conference needs to be weighed up with the value gained. Fair enough, if you haven’t had many proofreading or editing jobs in the last year, you will need to pay the bills first. So conference won’t be your highest priority. The price being asked to pay for accommodation, meals, and speakers … is reasonable. Then, on top, there are the transport costs of getting there.
However, think of it as investing in your career. The benefits far outweigh any disadvantages: valuable learning experiences and upgrade points. The value of networking is certainly not to be under estimated. In fact, conference might be the only time in the year that some members meet each other IRL as they live in far-flung parts of the UK/world.
Another reason I am looking forward to this event is that I feel an affinity for Birmingham. My mother lived there for the first 30 years of her life. (So I am not entirely Scottish, only half!). She worked for the BBC at Pebblemill (as it was in the early 6os): one of her jobs was to type scripts for Radio 4’s ‘The Archers’. (If you’re a fan.)
Why I take time away from my desk
I appreciate the fact that I can take time away from my desk:
- My children have grown up so I no longer need childcare. (At the time of writing, my sons are 25 and 18.)
- I am no longer tied to the classroom, and can arrange my tutoring time to suit me.
- My husband is addicted to long distance cycling so is away a LOT. In fact, when he checked about a trip and found I was going to be away this particular weekend, he couldn’t hide his glee!
Well, it will be lovely to meet up again with trusted colleagues and make new #edibuddies.
See you there!
Proofread by Lisa De Caux, SfEP Intermediate Level Member, https://www.ldceditorial.co.uk