Sunday was the first day of conference proper. I woke really early and lay there feeling pretty nervous. I’d practised my lightning talk a few times and was confident I could get it all done in the allotted five minutes. However, I still wasn’t sure how well it flowed. So, to quell my rising nerves, I decided to head back to my room after breakfast and practise some more.
Later, when I sat waiting to give my talk, I was glad I’d given myself this extra time. However, had I known that you would be allowed to finish even if you overran, I wouldn’t have been so concerned. My talk was all about the punchline on the final slide, so I was determined to finesse my talk to hit that five-minute deadline.
Unfortunately, I had to miss Lynne Murphy’s Whitcombe Lecture on editing US English versus British English, which by all accounts was brilliant. So much so, that when I arrived at the George Fox Courtyard there as a long line of people queuing for Lynne to sign copies of her book, The Prodigal Tongue.
After coffee, it was on to my first workshop: The budget and beyond, growing your business organically, led by Alison Hughes. Alison talked about how we can invest in our businesses without spending vast swathes of money. She suggested cheap but effective marketing tools such as sending a letter to potential clients with a sample of our editing on the back; investing in postcards as an alternative to business cards, simply because they are easier to read; getting out and networking more often – a must for fellow editors, who work from home and don’t get out much. Alison suggested that a good way to put ourselves ‘out there’ is to share knowledge and volunteer to give talks. My main takeaway from this session was that having a niche or specialism is a good thing.
Macros from the maestro and a quick rehearsal
After lunch and a chat with the person sitting in the next seat, it was time for the first set of sessions. I had chosen Paul Beverley’s talk: What can macros do for you? Paul is the co-ordinator for our local group and incredibly generous with his time and knowledge. I had already attended one of Paul’s free workshops in Norwich earlier in the year, so had some idea of what to expect. Word macros are little bits of code that can correct, for example, repeated errors and inconsistencies – the stuff that it’s easy to miss. This frees us up to concentrate on the interesting bits, such as sentence construction. As ever, Paul was his enthusiastic best. If you want to know more, he has a YouTube Channel which explains how to use macros and a free starter pack which you can download from Paul’s website Archive Publications
After Paul’s session, all that stood between me and my lightning talk was coffee, biscuits and a quick rehearsal. Robin Black and Lucy Ridout, who organised and presented the talks, were really reassuring. Robin’s easy manner helped to calm some of my nerves, and before I knew it, people were filing into Lecture Theatre One ready for us to start.
I was number six on the list, which meant I got it over and done with reasonably early on. My talk, The Dying Art of Crafting a Punchy Headline, was a nod to my newspaper background and lamented the demise of writing clever headlines for their own sake -as opposed to the need to feed search engines with keywords. I needn’t have worried, even though I forgot to set my timer. I used screenshots from my old paper, the Eastern Daily Press, finished on time and got laughs in all the right places – it was a great experience.
I passed on the social media social and headed back to my room for a nap before the evening’s big event: the gala dinner in the Great Hall. We caught the coach, even though it was only a 15-minute walk away, mainly because I couldn’t figure out the directions on the map. The atmosphere was buzzing and it was a good chance to catch up with some of the people I had chatted to the night before. I got wonderful feedback on my lightning talk and before long, we were filing into the hall to take our places.
On to the gala dinner – but first, a psalm
Apparently, it’s customary to kick off proceedings with a performance by the Linnets, the conference choir. This year, they sang An Editor’s Psalm written by our own Norfolk group member, Julia Sandford-Cooke. Her lyrics drew much laughter and eye rolls from the diners and included the immortal line ‘I cry out into the darkness: Why did I take this job?’ We can all identify with that.
I had a great time chatting to Erin Brenner of Right Touch Editing – mainly about American politics and the latest on Maine Senator Susan Collins. What a woman (Erin, not Susan Collins)! How does she pack so much into her day?
The very entertaining after-dinner speech was given by Sam Leith, president of the Society of Indexers, after which we headed back to the bar for more socialising In fact, I socialised so much that I didn’t notice the shuttle bus had started to ferry people back to their lodgings. After a long chat with some Norfolk buddies, I disappeared to the loo, only to find on my return that everyone had gone, apart from a small group of indexers.
I ran out to see if the bus was still parked by the kerb – alas, no sign of it. I didn’t have a clue how to get back, but four of the Indexers kindly walked me back through the rain. I will be forever grateful to Paula Clarke Bain and three of her fellow delegates for letting me tag along. I was soon safely tucked up in bed relieved, happy and looking forward to the final day of conference.