Conference season 2015

September and October make up the annual conference season for writers and editors in the UK. Here’s a very quick look at some of the main events of 2015.

As a freelance, I look forward to the times when I’m able to meet up with like-minded people to exchange ideas and experiences. Along with attending local-group events, one of the best ways to do this is to dive into the world of the annual conference. Almost every major organisation has one, and it’s no different for those whose stock in trade is communication.

There are lots of types of communications professional, so I’ve added a few definitions to help you understand a little more about each area.

The Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP)

In September, I attended my fifth SfEP conference, held at the University of York. This year’s event was a joint conference – the first of its type – held with the Society of Indexers (SI).

About editors and proofreaders

Editors and proofreaders help prepare text for publication, by shaping and correcting written content supplied by someone else. Editors and proofreaders can work on any type of publication, from a local newsletter to a bestselling novel.

Editing has the potential to be quite an involved process; proofreading is much more limited in its scope. Think of proofreading as a subset of editing.

For better definitions, take a look at my video in About copy-editing and proofreading.

About indexers

Indexers create the detailed content listings found at the end of non-fiction publications. Indexes make it quick and easy for the reader to look up particular areas of interest in a publication.

(As a non-indexer, I learned at this conference that a search facility is not a substitute for a good index.)

As a director of the SfEP, I helped with proceedings at the conference, including co-presenting a ‘something for everyone’ session on digital tools for the efficient freelancer alongside our new marketing and PR director, Margaret Hunter. Here’s a link to just one of the 100+ tools we listed in the handout that accompanied the session:

Link Checker

This handy Word add-in will check all hyperlinks in a Word document. At just £6.95, it’s a great time-saving tool for editors.

SfEP conferences showcase the fantastic collegiate environment within the Society. Everyone is willing to help each other by sharing tips and personal experiences of working in the editorial world. There’s always something new to learn, and even the most seasoned conference delegates take away positives from the event. For evidence of this, take a look at the thoughts of this year’s Judith Butcher Award winner, Rod Cuff, in this SfEP blog post.

The Professional Copywriters’ Network (PCN)

The PCN’s third annual conference took place at Haberdashers’ Hall in London – an elegant setting for the meeting of many of the country’s brightest copywriters. While video highlights of the latest event are still being put together, here’s a snapshot of proceedings from last year:

Here’s a helpful write-up on the Messagelab blog and another on the PCN blog (check out #copycon15 for more).

About copywriters

Copywriters produce the words that businesses rely on to sell their products and services. In a crowded marketplace, it’s vital that organisations develop and show off their brand identity. Copywriters are a key part of that creative communication process.

Having discovered the PCN a year ago, I’ve been impressed by how organised the group is. The conference was well attended and well run. The PCN website is appealing and contains lots of useful content.

I was happy to have been invited to add my own entry to the PCN’s Member Spotlight, and I think this is an excellent way to showcase the talents of the group as a whole. So good, in fact, that we’re going to the same thing in the SfEP when our new website launches next month.

PCN Member Spotlight

My Member Spotlight entry on the PCN site

Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators (ISTC)

The ISTC brands its conference as Technical Communication UK (TCUK). An extremely busy schedule meant that I wasn’t able to make it up to Glasgow to attend TCUK 2015.

About technical communicators

Technical communicators typically produce written and illustrated documentation about technical subjects such as aviation, construction and IT.

‘Techcomm’ professionals often apply their skills to subject matter that simply requires a structured approach, meaning that the job isn’t always of a technical nature.

My previous experience of TCUK was one of a very well organised event full of interesting and in-depth content. The collegiate spirit isn’t quite what it is with the SfEP, much of which comes down to the demographies involved, but there’s no doubt that the ISTC has several helpful and very able members, particularly those serving on its current council.

Top conference tips

Here are my suggestions for how to get the best out of attending a conference:

  • Be prepared – make a list of what you want to learn and who you want to meet.
  • Stay onsite – the experience will be much more rewarding if you can stay in accommodation provided by the conference organisers.
  • Follow up – put the things you learn into practice as soon as you can, and maintain contact with the people you meet.

Final thoughts

I very much enjoy the conference environment, and I’d encourage anyone in two minds about trying it to dive right in. The cost to attend can be significant, particularly if one has to travel a long way, but on balance I’d argue that the benefits are worth it.

By attending such events, you demonstrate commitment to your own continuing professional development (CPD). You’ll also meet interesting, helpful people who share the desire to improve themselves – and that alone can be an inspiration for boosting your own business.

If you’d like to share your thoughts on these or other related conferences, leave a comment below or contact me on Twitter.

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Who wrote this?

John Espirian freelance technical copywriter

John Espirian – the relentlessly helpful technical copywriter

I write B2B web content, blogs, user guides and case studies – all aimed at explaining how your products, services and processes work. I also offer LinkedIn profile critiquing and rewriting.

I work from home in Newport, South Wales and support the (formerly) mighty Liverpool FC 🔴⚽️