I woke up on Monday morning – the final day of SfEP Conference 2018 – feeling sad. We still a full day of workshops and sessions ahead, but first came the practicalities of handing over keys and checking out. I shut the heavy door to my room for the final time – sending good thoughts to the student who would occupy it when term began – and headed off to Cartmel College.
Breakfast was a business-like affair with people bringing in suitcases and handing over keys. We – the Norfolk Six – stashed ours in the people carrier to ensure a quick getaway at close of play and went off to our various workshops.
I was particularly looking forward to my first workshop with Simon Raybould: How to make presentations that people remember and act on. I’ve done a few presentations for local networking groups, including one for our Norfolk SfEP branch, but I’ve always come away feeling I could have done better.
Ditch the script and focus on the audience
Simon is a very compelling speaker – he doesn’t so much present to you but rather with you. He certainly lives up to the title of his book Presentation Genius. My first mistake, and one I see over and over again is simply to repeat the words on the slide. Simon reminded us not to use slides as a script. Instead, make them visually appealing and aim for an emotional response. He used the VW Polo television ad to illustrate this last point.
I made a note of some of Simon’s points that I found helpful:
- Use slides as prompts and ditch your notes. This takes away the anxiety of losing your place in the script and helps to engage with the audience.
- Lose the script but use keywords to help you make your point; another tactic to help calm those nerves.
- Reassure yourself that you have sorted out the logistics, such as the venue’s location and whether you can park there; make sure you have the correct resources, the right equipment and the right lead for the projector. Check in advance that there is an internet connection at the venue. Don’t give yourself any more reasons to feel anxious.
- Don’t forget to practise your presentation (‘practice makes permanent’), and to breathe.
- Don’t end your presentation by asking if there are any questions, which can lead to an awkward silence. Warn people five minutes before the end that you are happy to answer any questions. That way, if nobody has a question, you can still finish on an upbeat note and cue applause.
After a quick coffee break, it was on to John Espirian’s session on Using LinkedIn to build an online presence and find editorial work. John is known as the relentlessly helpful copywriter because he really is … helpful. Many of us have a presence on LinkedIn but are not sure what to do with it or how to use the platform to find work. John talked us through his LinkedIn starter guide (and gave us copies to take away). It’s filled with useful tips on how to get noticed in all the right ways.
John’s relentlessly helpful advice on making LinkedIn work
John gave us hints on how to stand out – some were obvious and some not so. For example, use a headshot that clearly shows your face, and use it everywhere – make it part of your branding.
Add a profile banner – again because it can reinforce your brand and make it look like you’ve bothered.
He also talked about the number of times to post, LinkedIn etiquette, and how to get recommendations.
This popular session was only an hour long but could have easily stretched to two. John’s relaxed style and affable manner made this an enjoyable, very informative session. I took his words on board when I redid my LinkedIn profile a couple of weeks later.
You can find more of John’s free advice here: espirian.co.uk/linkedin.
Unbelievably, it was still only lunchtime, but it was a valuable hour spent sitting and chatting to people about their editing lives. The SfEP Conference has a really friendly atmosphere. Delegates are so approachable, there’s no need to feel out of your depth. Many of us are introverts and naturally shun large gatherings, so nobody minds if you just want to sit alone and read.
After lunch, we had the second plenary session of the conference, this time presented by Kathryn Munt, chief executive of the Publishing Training Centre. Her talk focused on how digital technologies are replacing traditional publishing methods meaning publishers need bigger profit margins to reinvest in their businesses.
Kathryn explained that these financial pressures have forced publishers to look more closely at operational costs. And, because it’s cheaper, the management of freelance editorial work is being outsourced. So, offshore vendors who traditionally provided the production services are being trained to take on the management work. Teams managing the freelancers will be mainly located offshore, although some outsourcing companies will have offices in the UK.
I could sense some consternation in the room. Concerns were raised about being forced to work to publishers’ nine to five business hours – most of us don’t work like that. There were fears that quality might be compromised by rigid deadlines, and that fees might be lowered.
On a reassuring note, Kathryn said the Publishing Training Centre will be doing everything possible to support freelancers – especially those used to dealing with publishers directly – to ensure all involved can work together successfully.
An editor shares his journey and we all hit the road
After a fairly intense hour, there was tea and cake waiting for us before the final session of SfEP Conference 2018.
I chose Stephen Pigney’s talk on Surviving the first year of a full-time editorial business. Stephen, who comes from an academic background, talked about the many obstacles he faced when he started out, such as dealing with low-confidence, lack of a formal editorial background and no experience of running a business. He focused on the importance to him of creating a detailed business plan setting out the mini milestones he needed to hit in his first three years of business. His talk was entertaining and humorous, while some of the obstacles he had to overcome really hit home. We also share a love of coffee.
It was almost time to say our goodbyes. A few words from our chair Sabine Citron and it was time to hit the road back to Norfolk. It was an eventful journey. A section of the A14 was closed which meant a detour via St Neots and extra time on our already long trip. So, full points to our excellent driver John Ingamells ably assisted on the final leg by Sarah Patey. It was wonderful to be home with just four days to complete my notice before returning to freelance freedom.
Next year’s conference will be held at Aston University in Birmingham when delegates will celebrate 30 years since the Society for Editors and Proofreaders was formed – and I plan to be one of them.