Conference Capers

Society for Editors and Proofreaders conference pack

Last week I came out of hiding and headed down to Edinburgh for the SfEP Scottish Regional Mini-conference organised by the Edinburgh, Glasgow and North/East Scotland groups of the SfEP.

Meetings like this are few and far between so for me it’s imperative that the whole thing is an enjoyable experience; there’s nothing worse than a few days away knowing you’ve left a pile of work behind (or worse still, taken it with you). So I cleared my work schedule and enjoyed the six-hour drive to Stirling, where I was staying for a few days, as my daughter and I sang along to our favourite tunes.

On the morning of the conference I gathered together my directions and notebooks, and headed for the train at stupid o’clock (the train was at 8 a.m. … I usually drag myself out of bed at that time). For once I was full of confidence as I know the area and didn’t have to navigate the car around unknown motorway exits while trying to remember directions. I love taking the train – I get to do some people watching and catch up on reading instead of spending my time swearing at road signs.

Outside the venue, 25 Nicolson Square, Edinburgh

Isn’t it pretty? This was the view from the venue – look, blue skies!

I was actually in plenty of time for the arrival coffee and networking (I usually manage to get to places with little time to spare if I’m being completely honest) and was pleased to see some familiar faces. I love meeting new people, but there’s nothing like catching sight of a friend to put you at ease. I talked complete and utter rubbish to a few people, then it was time to sit down and start the conference.

After our Chair, Sabine Citron, welcomed us all we started the day with a wonderful talk from Prof. Geoff Pullum. As Professor of General Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh, Geoff certainly knows his way around words (and apparently a Hammond organ – eat your heart of Prof. Brian Cox!) and this was the presentation I’d been most looking forward to. He didn’t disappoint. I think I’m a fairly rogue editor (and writer) as I prefer to use language as it has developed, rather than stick solidly to old-fashioned usage (unless, of course, the client wants to stick by the ‘rules’), and this talk was wonderful and full of energy. We were told that authorities do not suffice when it comes to grammar usage, and that most ‘rules’ were made up (yes, made up) in the C19th or earlier. As long as the writing makes sense, go ahead and split your infinitives, use the singular ‘they’ and be as passive as you like. And you can start a sentence with and, but and however. The overall theme from this humorous and refreshing talk was that unless you want to sound pompous, go ahead and be less formal – as an editor, over-correcting your author does no one any favours.

Next up was Jane Moody, Professional Development Director, talking about professional development and upgrading your SfEP membership. For me, moving to be a Professional Member was an obvious step, and not at all difficult, however Jane showed that for me to move to Advanced Professional membership will be equally as pain free. I’ll be looking at the upgrade procedure sooner rather than later now. Stephen Cashmore, Training Director, was due to talk about training, but unfortunately the internet crapped out, so we headed for an early coffee break instead.

Ashley Craig, from the North/East Scotland group, gave us a demonstration of commercial super-macros for editing, which was fascinating. I don’t use many macros, although I probably should, and her talk on Editorium and Wordsnsync EditTools was informative and very interesting. The user interfaces looked pretty good (I do like a nice check box) and I might be tempted to give them a trial (although finding the time to play with them might be difficult).

Lunchtime was another chance to catch up, and as we sat outside in the sunshine it made me realise just how much I miss editorial human interaction. Although I do have a tendency to talk complete and utter crap when faced with a bit of ‘networking’. Lunch with friends is a much better way of looking at it.

City of Edinburgh Methodist Church Garden

We sat in the garden at lunchtime, selfies were taken, I looked like a potato with blue hair, so here’s the lovely garden view instead.

Which moves me onto Laura Poole’s talk on authentic networking.  She had us all think about elevator speeches and why we network (it leads to conversations, which lead to relationships, which lead to opportunities). I did chuckle when she told us to ditch the words ‘only’ and ‘just’. They rank highly among ‘Oh, it was nothing’ in my professional phrasebook of ‘things to say when talking about what you do’. After our final coffee break, she gave the final presentation on taking charge of your freelance life. She spoke about dealing with the ‘feast or famine’ aspect of freelancing (how to break the cycle and how to say ‘no’ with conviction), and went into business practices such as client communication, paying attention, raising your rates and task management. Laura’s enthusiasm and drive were really infectious, and I really don’t know how she does it. I’m glad I finally got to meet her at last, as I missed her at the conference last September, but she now has one of my shiny new business cards (sorry, Laura) so she won’t forget the daft blue-haired editor she spoke with on her first trip to Scotland.

When the conference was over, after our Vice-Chair, Lucy Metzger, closed up shop, I dashed off with a friend to Waverley station to bag a seat on the last train before rush-hour madness descended. Sorry to all those I never managed to talk to, I’ll get you in September. There’s nothing quite like a bit of a get-together with friends (otherwise known as professional networking with editorial colleagues) to put a spring in your step. I felt thoroughly energised.

So, what did I take away from the conference?

  • Correct grammar isn’t necessarily something rigid that has been concocted 200 years ago, but is fluid and changing.
  • Professional development is easier than you think.
  • Super-macros are something that can help a professional to tackle their job more effectively.
  • Authentic networking means being yourself, and knowing yourself and your self-worth.
  • Taking charge of your professional life means saying no, as well as yes.
  • Editorial get-togethers are fantastic.

SfEP conference pack and editor's notebook

I’m now looking forward to September and the annual SfEP conference. Until then I have work to do and calendar spaces to fill, so if you know of someone who needs editorial help, contact me and we can have a chat.

The Workshop Workout for Weary Workers

Don’t fall into the mindset that you think you know everything about what you do.

Really, don’t.

I’ll bet there are times when you’ve thought about going on a workshop or seminar and dismissed it because it’s a subject you know about or you don’t think you’ll gain anything from it. Let’s face it, times are hard and every penny counts, so workshops can be pretty low down on the list of good ways to spend your money.

But by dismissing them you could potentially be missing out.

Take this summer, it’s a fairly good example.

Highland Social Road Trip - touring the Highlands with information and cupcakes

Highland Social Road Trip – touring the Highlands with information and cupcakes

I sponsored a day-time social media workshop. It’s not something I often do, but I love the idea of Highland Social and a series of road-trips that travel the highlands bringing workshops to those areas that are traditionally avoided because of their remoteness is something worth encouraging. I was due to present a little talk of my own and sat in on the workshop thinking it would be a good chance to meet new people and perhaps learn something new. And it was the best thing I’ve done in ages.

Whether you think you know the subject or not, meeting up with like-minded individuals will open your mind to new ideas, new networking opportunities and yes, you will learn something. Even if it’s just gaining a new perspective on a subject, you will learn something. Don’t dismiss a gathering because you think you know the subject backwards… there is more to be gained than subject knowledge.

We had a great day, we worked our way around social media, we talked tips and tricks and discussed what to do and what not to do. In these days of super-quick changes in social media one size does not fit all; different people and businesses need different things. Michelle from Highland Social guided us through the maze of social media; we talked so much that the end of the day arrived far too quickly. But not before we’d devoured a lovely lunch and some amazingly good cream scones.


Michelle took this photo of the amazing cream scones…yum!

The folk that didn’t attend the workshop because they thought they knew all about social media really lost out. It’s during workshops that you really have time to think without distractions, to talk to new acquaintances and to get a different point of view… and it’s these added extras you don’t get from sitting at home or in the office. Days like these really are like workouts for a weary work brain.

In the evening we went along to a local tearoom and had a two-hour session with more people attending (and some fab cupcakes – that day was SO not good for my waistline!) … it was a great networking opportunity, but I couldn’t help thinking that the attendees would have benefited from the day-time session.

How many times, especially being a freelancer, have you seen a workshop advertised locally and talked yourself out of attending? It’s too expensive, it’s during the day and you don’t want to take a day off work, you’re a bit shy among people you don’t know, or you think you know it all??

Unlock your potential

Unlock your potential

Here are five reasons you should seriously think about attending.

  1. You DON’T know it all, no one does. Don’t be silly (or are you being arrogant?)
  2. You will meet new people (it’s great for networking, even if you’re shy the others probably are too, take your business card, get yourself known)
  3. It will get you out of your comfortable office (aren’t those same old four walls boring you yet?)
  4. You will be helping the local economy (even if the workshop provider isn’t local, the venues need to survive, you will learn what other attendees are doing and how you can help each other survive in this tough old recession)
  5. You WILL learn something new, you will give your weary brain a workout and come away from the day with a new outlook, refreshed and ready to put ideas into action.

And yes… I learnt something new. I realised that making a Facebook business page was less scary than I thought… so I went straight out and created one. You can visit it here, pop along and say hello.

With thanks to Michelle from Highland Social for the use of her images. Check out Highland Social and Snow Marketing to learn more about their workshops.