Conference 2005: One Step Beyond
Page owner: Conference director
Reports from the 2005 SfEP conference, Crown & Mitre, Carlisle
Among many conference highlights was the awarding of an honorary SfEP membership to veteran editor Rosemary Roberts, who in January 2005 had received an MBE for her work on the Oxford Dictionary of National Biographyem>. The following is an excerpt from Rosemary's acceptance speech at Carlisle:
The Society has played no small part in my career. As a client for freelance services, I have worked with members, admired their professionalism and benefited from their efficiency and method. I revel in the diversity of knowledge and insight, the ingenuity and inventiveness and the expertise of the freelancers I've been privileged to work with.
As a teacher for some of the Society's courses, I have been able to expand my understanding of the publishing industry by meeting and working with you, and have learned easily as much as I have been able to teach.
When I received the MBE at new year for my work on the Oxford DNB, the citation was 'for services to scholarship'. I felt and feel enormously proud that a mere copy-editor could be recognized in this way, but I feel too that it's a fitting accolade not only for the freelancers who worked on the ODNB, many of whom are more truly scholarly than I shall ever be, but also for the whole community of editors and proofreaders, whom you represent.
So as I believe you were all somehow vicariously honoured by the MBE – Multitudes of Brilliant Editors – now you are welcoming me into the Society with this gift of membership.
I firmly believe that the Society is central to the professional status and industry profile of the freelance body, without which publishing could not function.Rosemary Roberts MBE
- Whitcombe Lecture: Clarissa Dickson Wright
- Keynote Speech: Andrew Bennett, HIT UK Ltd
- Next Steps Beyond: David & Helen MacDonald
Workshop and Seminar reports
- Website Design, Management and Editing: Simon de Pinna
- Working with PDFs: Kathleen Lyle
- Proofs: When and what to query: Gillian Clarke
- Editing Fiction: Imogen Olsen
- Copywriting and Rewriting: Sally Seed
- Project Management: Naomi Laredo
- Fewer Keystrokes: Anne Waddingham
- Design and Layout Programs: Chris Linford
- Beginner's Luck? Louise Bolotin
- Pointing Us in the Right Direction: Kathleen Lyle
- Where Do We Go Next? Jane Ward
These edited articles first appeared in the conference supplement of the November/December 2005 issue of Editing Matters
Clarissa Dickson Wright
Reported by Michèle Clarke
One could describe Clarissa Dickson Wright as feisty, opinionated, a passionate cook and, for our lecture, a really good speaker. What most of us probably didn't know, or could only guess at, was that she is an alcoholic (although, happily, she now has this under control), an aspect of her character that was to change her life. In years gone by, she cooked for the After-Dinner Drinking Club and gave Collins the publishers a group membership; her first insight into the publishing industry was helping out on the overseas-rights desk.
In a particularly harrowing episode of her life, Clarissa landed up in a halfway house for alcoholics and, while there, found herself at Books for Cooks in Notting Hill. She stayed and worked there for seven years, the start of her love affair with reading and writing cookery books. Clarissa opened a similar bookshop of her own in Edinburgh during her 'Restore the Cardoon' phase. Fame arrived while being filmed in a field of cardoons. She met Jennifer Paterson, and the rest, as they say, is history.
However, the Two Fat Ladies cookbook was not her first. Clarissa started her writing career with a book on the haggis, which still sells remarkably well. Her second was a resounding success, despite Roy Hattersley (and don't we editors just love him!) stating, 'These two hideous ladies will never succeed!' Apparently, it is the fourth-best-selling book (not just cookery book) in Los Angeles. Reasons for this seem inexplicable.
Clarissa's inimitable style won us over (although perhaps her views on hunting might not have done, but she was sensitive to some differing opinions). Her description of the Japanese Two Fat Ladies television series (dubbed with male voices), Jennifer careering into a camera on first driving a motorbike and sidecar, and herself being lifted from the ground by a burly Yorkshire farmer after trying to dismount from a horse, and her account of why we and the Romans have Worcester sauce in common – all defy adequate repetition here. If you weren't at the conference, you missed some hilarious tales.
Clarissa has written a number of best-selling cookery and food books, the latest – written with Johnny Scott – being A Greener Life (Kyle Cathie Ltd, £19.99). She is forever grateful to those editors who have made her books more readable with better grammar and spelling, and who have picked up the inevitable error. She reckons that the best editors are those with enthusiasm and humour, and who work with objectivity.
A non-publisher's view:
Andrew Bennett, HIT UK Ltd
Reported by Loulou Brown
HIT is not an acronym, although it might be construed as such: 'Health, Information, Training'; or 'hit' as in drug terminology; or simply as a 'hit' as regards information. Established in Liverpool in 1985, the organization was set up to provide information about heroin and HIV/AIDS. It was also the UK's first syringe exchange scheme and, in the 1990s, gave information to ecstasy users. Nowadays, clients include drug action teams, crime reduction partnerships and primary healthcare trusts.
Street robbery and sexual health
HIT is a provider of public health services and delivers effective interventions on drugs, community safety and other public health concerns. It employs 18 staff and has an annual turnover of £1.3 million. HIT works in partnership with health, social care and criminal justice agencies at local, national and international levels. Its numerous activities include:
- producing publications
- delivering training
- organizing conferences
- providing consultancy.
It also runs mass-media campaigns, using marketing techniques to provide information and promote behaviour change about issues such as substance use, drug-related deaths, street robbery, safer clubbing and sexual health. The approach is consumer-orientated, integrating the values, needs and concerns of target audiences into campaign planning and implementation. Attention is focused on how communication engages with these audiences, how they might be encouraged to interact with campaigns and how people learn through visual and written messages.
Much of HIT's work relates to communicating health messages to specific target audiences. It designs and delivers a wide range of health-promotion campaigns on issues such as drug injecting and sexual health. HIT also produces and sells a wide range of publications, including leaflets, booklets, posters and websites, as well as education and training resources via its mail order business. The credibility of the message, medium and content is essential. Over 140 titles are sold to health, social care and criminal justice agencies that, in turn, distribute the materials to drug users, professionals and the wider public.
The way HIT works is that the copy is written and then copy-edited. It is then designed and tested. After testing, changes are made to copy, which is subsequently copy-edited again. It is then typeset, proofread and, finally, printed. There is thus a lot of scope for copy-editors and proofreaders who have the potential to enhance the reputation and improve the quality of HIT publications with better design, layout and wording.
What HIT requires from copy-editors and proofreaders is reliability, affordability (of course!), responsiveness to deadlines and a non-judgemental understanding of the business with which the organization is involved, which may sometimes be extremely sexually explicit.
The work is both interesting and challenging, as HIT is involved in risk-taking behaviours in niche markets, using explicit and specific local language, slang terms and street terminology. Its work is not for the prudish or for those who cannot cope with strong language. There are publications that are very much more than simply explicit – for instance, Up Your Bum – An alternative to injecting and Having Hot Sex? Burn rubber … Suggested improvements to copy and design are welcomed.
David & Helen MacDonald
Reported by Shena Deuchars
On the morning of 26 September 2005, the conference was awakened by David and Helen MacDonald's journey into the future to see how technology will be changing our lives in 2010.
First, David and Helen introduced us to Jane, who, in 2010, is a publishing technologist (she was a copy-editor in 2005). Jane is surrounded by domestic technology that talks to her and responds to her voice commands (the future will be noisy – as one questioner asked, if you shout at your PC, will you get toast?). Jane's clothing is technology-enabled and her coat automatically pays for her parking ticket.
At her desk, Jane uses a computer that has a disk that is several orders of magnitude larger than is common today. It is indexed by a technology that allows her to search through the text in documents very quickly. Back-ups and system updates happen automatically over the ubiquitous broadband connection. Her word-processing program has built-in voice-recognition capabilities (but may force Jane to speak with an American accent). She no longer has a landline – her telephone uses the internet (VoIP). She no longer pays for individual calls, and videoconferencing is common.
Work to India
Jane's WiFi network allows her to work in the garden, where glare is no longer a problem because she is using electronic paper and ink, which reflects light (like paper) rather than emitting it. She finds work from across the EU using a system called Tenders Electronic Daily (TED). Jane mostly works for smaller organizations outside the publishing industry, because all the big publishers send the bulk of their work to India.
Some of the questions from the floor expressed scepticism about all this technology, but there is no doubt that the future holds big changes. You can see the MacDonalds' vision of the future at www.prepress-projects.co.uk/2010.
Reported by Helen Birkbeck
The SfEP (represented by Lesley Ward) approached the British Standards Institution some years ago with a view to the clarification and revision of certain points in the BS 5261 Marks for Copy Preparation and Proof Correction. Later Barbara Horn took on the role of liaising with the BSI in the preparation of a new edition, which involved asking for comments and recommendations from SfEP members. The result is BS 5261-2:2005.
There are no real shocks in the new version. Most of the changes are just clarifications of points that were not specified before, such as:
- abolishing the 'delete and close up' sign because it isn't relevant in modern typesetting
- officially establishing the 'cancel bold' symbol that we have been using anyway
- making underlining clearer
- giving a symbol for 'unjustify text'
- simplifying the 'en' and 'em' symbols
- removing the centre stroke in the 'italic' symbol to avoid ambiguity (apparently some proofreaders make it so long that it looks more like 'cancel italic'!).
Gillian advised that we should start using the revised symbols straight away, attaching to our handover notes for publishers a list of the new symbols we have used and what they mean, and informing them that they can obtain copies from the BSI. SfEP members, however, can get their copies from the SfEP.
Reported by Helen Birkbeck
Earlier this year Nancy sent questionnaires to volunteer SfEP members asking about various aspects of their work with overseas clients. She received 33 replies, which provided the statistical background for the talk.
Germany, France, the US and Japan are among the top providers of work for UK-based freelances. The types of work and range of materials worked on are broadly similar to those in the UK, though with a natural emphasis on textbooks, English-language work, multi-author books and translations.
Problems encountered when working for overseas clients were listed (along with solutions where possible) – for example:
- the transmission and reception of work (fax apparently doesn't produce good results: scanners are better)
- communication difficulties and language barriers
- time differences
- the possible need to convert or zip files (spam filters can block large files)
- FTP server problems.
Nancy reported her findings on the crucial question of the ways and speed of getting paid by foreign clients and the potential pitfalls involved in this. We were advised to try to get clients to pay any bank fee charged for currency transfer and to check VAT regulations and for tax being deducted at source. We were warned that overseas payment systems can be complicated.
Nancy then suggested ways of finding overseas clients, which are basically similar to how we find UK ones. There were a few questions about 'negotiation etiquette' in different countries. I am certainly glad I changed to broadband last month, because apparently it is essential if you want to work for overseas clients!
Workshop and Seminar reports
Simon de Pinna
Reported by Janet Pascoe
A comparison of the same story on the front page of the Guardian and on the Guardian Unlimited website confirmed some important differences between print and electronic media: in print, the scope to be more generous with language on the page and a headline to caption a story; but on the web, a photograph of specified size linking to text.
Guardian Unlimited coverage differed from that of the BBC, where there is no print equivalent and so fewer constraints: a larger font, a single sentence summary in bold type, smaller paragraphs and subheadings. All these increased readability. Readers' interest was held by placing links at the side of the page, not in the text.
Page design was analysed: the most important items are placed at top left. Tips followed on choice of fonts, text layout and the need for consistency, with illustrative examples of good and bad practice, together with advice for webpage proofreaders on generating the necessary site map. An original local authority webpage illustrated the pitfalls of inconsistency and how far design has come in the past few years.
Value for money
Using online examples, graphics and design features were examined: these should be kept as simple as possible to enable older versions of access tools to work. Clients should be satisfied that expensive animation represents value for money.
Two of the most important proofreading basics were to find out where the job ends and the need for factual consistency between linked sites, access to which may have to be negotiated.
Reported by Olwyn Hocking
Delegates to the PDF workshop wanted to learn about:
- how to mark up on screen
- which software or hardware is most relevant to proofreading and editing
- how to save the expense and hassle of sending documents physically
- how to avoid changes to content layout caused by the differing software of recipients
- how to send edited text to authors so that they can see the space set aside for additional words.
This introduction answered many of their questions, albeit slightly breathlessly.
Exercises simulated creating a PDF; sending typeset pages to printers; using a PDF to create a webpage as an end product in itself; and carrying out 'touching up' changes compared with full mark-up.
Standard settings can be created to cover a range of job options – covering fonts, formats and many other details. Printers can send a complete job-options file, which can be saved in the Adobe Settings folder.
Delegates enjoyed adding their text changes and comments – especially the possibility of compiling a complementary comments list. They even found this could be exported to a Word document to accompany the amended PDF document on an email to a client.
Another exercise created bookmarks to speed navigation between different sections of longer pieces of work. And delegates found they could save files in a way that could enable clients with just Adobe Reader to add their comments to alterations made to text. But delegates themselves were left to pay for Adobe Standard or Professional if they wanted to go further than play with this new toy.
Reported by Joyce Burgess
In a very animated and interactive session, Gillian gave some useful pointers on when and what the proofreader should query.
She had made a list of common problems faced by proofreaders – including the absence of a brief or design specification, poor copy-editing, errors of fact, inconsistencies – with an indication of when and how these should be drawn to the attention of the client. Gillian's advice was to make a list of queries to be emailed (preferably) or telephoned if a more lengthy discussion was required, followed by confirmation in writing of what was agreed.
Further handouts outlined problems encountered in different types of proofs: an academic book, a non-literary novel and a newsletter produced by a non-publisher client. All these required slightly different treatment in terms of judging when and what to query. Faced with a very brief brief for an academic book, Gillian stressed the need to clarify with the publisher how much should be checked – if told to check the arithmetic in tables, do so, otherwise do not – and the importance of covering oneself, by, for example, emailing the publisher to confirm that equations have not been checked.
Time and money
Throughout the discussion, Gillian stressed the need to check all queries with the client, the importance of good judgement on the part of the proofreader and the need to balance the requirement to make corrections against the client's time and/or money constraints. She very helpfully outlined the various roles in the process: checking arithmetic in tables is the copy-editor's job; bad word-breaks are the typesetter's fault; alerting the indexer, the last person in the link, to problems and changes is the proofreader's responsibility.
Reported by Mary Brailey
Here, the wonders of the fiction publishing world were revealed, the trials and adventures of the editor were recounted and we glimpsed the prospects and perils that lie 'one step beyond'.
A manuscript goes through many hands before it reaches the copy-editor. The fiction commissioning editor, lying in wait for the odd pearl to emerge from the 'slush pile', considers only those manuscripts (maybe 5 per cent) identified as worthwhile by freelance readers. Then the sales division, as well as the editorial board, need convincing that a book is worth taking on.
Structural editing – making suggestions to the author about significant changes that may be necessary to timing, pacing, characterization and plot – is usually done in-house. Only after the structural changes have been made does the manuscript reach a copy-editor, who may still have to use ingenuity to remedy inconsistencies in the author's imaginary world: impossible timings, anachronisms, continuity problems, loose ends, characters behaving 'out of character'.
The subject of working directly for a writer provoked lively debate. The numbers of unpublished writers are growing: witness the response to Richard and Judy's 'How to get published' competition or Macmillan's 'New writing' scheme. It is hard for writers to find an agent, let alone a publisher, and increasingly, they want help to improve their manuscripts before either submitting them to agents/publishers or self-publishing them.
Many writers stand no chance of publication except perhaps through self-publishing, so the editor's initial role may be as a slush pile filter. Some editors offer an assessment service for authors, providing a report on the prospects of publication, if any, and on what improvements are needed. Often, writers are looking for – or need – structural editing.
A thorough copy-edit, on the other hand, is not worthwhile until after any structural changes have been made, and even then it may not be the right service. An agent or publisher will recognize a good prospect regardless of its copy-editing, and the publishing process will include a further copy-edit. And, if a book is to be self-published for a small print run, is a 'perfect' product affordable or even necessary?
Is it exploitative or helpful to target writers as a new editorial market? Might our services even be a form of counselling or mentoring? Food for thought. Certainly the support industry for writers is already thriving – see WriteWords.
Reported by David Tait
This workshop was divided into three main topics, each of which involved a task designed to focus minds on the issues raised.
- 'Finding clients': Sally demonstrated to participants that they could find that they had many more prospective clients – both personal and professional contacts – than they had previously thought. She indicated that opportunities aplenty are there to be exploited. By tapping into local networks (such as designers and their clients), trade organizations and charities, as well as contacting existing clients, members could be well placed to pick up copywriting commissions for brochures, leaflets, advertising copy or text for websites. Maintaining regular contact with clients was a vital part of the strategy.
- 'Examples of copywriting': Participants viewed examples of good copywriting that exploited clients' own strengths by incorporating and reshaping their own ideas into text. The emphasis was on plain English, clarity and logical narrative order, as well as text that complemented design elements of the materials.
- 'Briefing and costing': Sally underlined ways to achieve the all-important professional approach. This included preparation of a checklist for exploratory talks that noted details such as aims and objectives, style, content, ownership and the rationale employed, to show the appropriateness of the selected medium. A project definition would record what had been agreed by client and supplier, as well as providing a methodology for tracking, costing and implementation. A pricing policy should be established early in negotiations so that contingency for additional work, preferences for fixed fees or hourly rates, and flexibility, especially for smaller clients, could be factored in, avoiding nasty surprises when the time came to collect!
Participants were reminded not to undersell their own experiences, which very often include expertise that could well be overlooked.
Reported by Pat Baxter
In an informative session, Naomi Laredo took some practitioners of this art, some budding managers and some lesser souls just wanting to know what was involved through the main aspects of project management.
After identifying the many tasks involved (a daunting list in itself), the responsibilities of the project manager were discussed. It soon became clear that he/she must act as a communications hub, keeping the flow of information smooth and timely, while monitoring the progress of all involved in the production so that the schedule can be kept or altered in reaction to changing circumstances.
Why take on this job, which demands an almost superhuman list of personal qualities? Apart from the obvious answer that someone has to do it, it allows experienced editors or proofreaders to come out of the somewhat lonely cells in which they normally work. Like the conductor of an orchestra at the end of a successful performance, the project manager must derive much satisfaction when delivering a project on time, within budget and to the required standard. Naomi's presentation certainly encouraged us to give this some thought.
Reported by Alison Walters
Anne Waddingham has our best interests at heart. Perhaps the twinge I sometimes get in my wrist isn't a result of childbirth (long story, don't ask) but the beginnings of repetitive strain injury. Thanks to Anne and her workshop on fewer keystrokes, I refuse to let it become any worse. And I'm pleased that this piece was typed up while my mouse was on holiday.
Have you ever noticed the underlined letter within many of the commands in Word? As an example – in a Word document, press and hold the ALT key and type 'i'. The 'Insert' drop-down menu appears! If you want to open the dialogue box for page numbers, type the underlined letter 'u'. Et voilà! Use the TAB key to move around each button, and ALT and the underlined letter to drop down the menu (ALT + p gives you the option to change the page number's position). TAB to 'OK' and hit Return and you're there, without a whiff of the mouse. Alternatively, ESC cancels the box altogether. Fabulous!
And don't even get me started on F8! Press it once to enable EXT on the task bar at the bottom; press a second time to select a word. Keep pressing and you can select its sentence and paragraph. SHIFT + F8 deselects back again.
There are many other keyboard shortcuts. My homework (like my children's spelling) is to learn a new one every day.
Reported by Timothy DeVinney
Chris Linford is a principal lecturer at the London College of Communication, and his experience goes back to working on the prototype of the first Apple Macintosh, on the very first magazine produced with DTP, and, more recently, on new generations of computer games.
Chris covered three topics. First, there are many channels now becoming available in addition to print, including the web, CDs, e-books and digital TV, which can all be used for the same publication. These require simultaneous, synchronized editing – a facility that already exists in QuarkXPress for the print and website versions of the same work. This means that editors will need to be aware of the different requirements for each medium for the same project.
Centrally managed workflow
Second, Chris pointed out that the traditional approach to print publication involved a writing and editing cycle, which, when completed, was followed by a design cycle. In recent years, this has started to change to a more integrated approach, with both cycles advancing simultaneously. This does, however, tend to introduce errors as designers move text that is still being edited, and authors and editors change text so that the layout has to be adjusted.
Phase two of this new technology, which is just beginning in DTP, will see the adoption of XML tagging and centrally managed workflow (with programs such as Adobe Bridge and Version Cue, both in Adobe Creative Suite). This will further integrate both cycles and help to avoid errors. And it will improve the synchronization necessary for multiple channels of publication.
Last, Chris gave a quick introduction to the two current market leaders in DTP: QuarkXPress and Adobe InDesign. He concluded with the prediction that routine tasks such as XML tagging will go to workshops in India, but UK editors will be increasingly in demand to supervise this new, integrated approach in its many facets. To do that, they will need project management skills and a good understanding of the different processes involved, so that, in addition to editing the work, they can see where errors are entering the workflow and know how to deal with them.
I'm not psychic. How was I to know when I paid my fee six months ago that Emma Carter would be preparing to elope with Ed Grundy during the conference? Despite those edge-of-the-seat cliffhangers, my first conference kept me more than sufficiently occupied to take my mind off the goings-on in Ambridge.
I had never previously been in the company of more than about a dozen editors on any one occasion and suddenly being surrounded by 120-odd of them was slightly overwhelming. I rose to the challenge by trying to spot fellow SfEPLiners by their name badges and discovering they look completely different from what I'd imagined.
That first evening, well over 30 people peered at my badge and said mysteriously, 'You're Louise!' I apologized profusely for not having terribly purple hair after all, but it was only after last orders at the bar that I learnt I was something of a curiosity – being a new member with a very lengthy career under my belt. This oxymoronically experienced newbie also discovered that a higher being (possibly a council member) had generously seated me on the top table at the gala dinner, along with our chair and esteemed honorary president and vice-president, but not close enough to actually talk to them.
Emma and Ed's fate
Despite all my work experience, I was at the conference to learn as much as to socialize (the book and bar bills were painful …), and learn I did. From the number of proofreaders who have a penchant for bow ties to how to create macros and market myself: conference offered a great opportunity to expand my knowledge on all sorts of interesting things editorial. But I had to wait until I got home to listen to The Archers on the net to learn Emma and Ed's fate. Can we hold next year's bash in Ambridge?
For me, the SfEP conference punctuates the working year. It provides an unmissable opportunity to:
- exchange ideas and information with colleagues
- enjoy the instruction and entertainment the conference organizers have provided
- browse the bookstalls
- talk to people who might otherwise just be names on SfEPLine – although there is never enough time to talk to everyone
Every year there is a good mix of newcomers and old hands who have been coming regularly or intermittently for some time. And then there is a special category – the persistent few of us who have been to every SfEP conference. We are the opposite of conference virgins (best not to explore that terminological avenue too closely, perhaps).
SfEP conferences have not grown greatly in attendance over the years, but they have evolved in complexity to include a mixture of plenary sessions, parallel sessions, hands-on workshops and sometimes off-site visits. The more lighthearted aspects have also gradually increased: fortunately, quality has more than kept pace with quantity.
This year we had comedian Sarah Ledger after dinner on Sunday, the SfEPLinnets (surely more numerous than before?) before dinner on Monday, David Crystal after dinner and then a ceilidh that went on long after less energetic mortals like myself had retired – not to mention a highly entertaining Whitcombe Lecture on Tuesday.
I didn't have time to explore Carlisle itself, but I enjoyed the journey there, by train over the famous Ribblehead route in beautiful sunshine. My accommodation at the Crown & Mitre was a great improvement on the depressing rooms I have occasionally experienced in previous conference hotels.
A good start
The AGM on Sunday, although not formally part of the conference, got us off to a good start: it was well run, good tempered, informative and constructive. Monday's highlights included David and Helen MacDonald's predictions of how changing technology may affect our working lives in the next few years, and Andrew Bennett's account of how a non-publisher client benefits from the input of an experienced editor.
The focal point on Tuesday was Clarissa Dickson Wright's Whitcombe Lecture. As well as being entertaining, she also had serious points to make about the world of publishing. Then, after workshops in the afternoon, suddenly it was time to say goodbye for another year.
A huge iceberg
I left Carlisle clutching my new little OUP books, exhausted but feeling it had all been worthwhile. Although the conference itself lasts for just a hectic 48 hours, the event is but the tip of a huge iceberg. The hard work behind the scenes goes on all year round. The setting up of the new conference committee should help to spread the load and make the task of the local organizers and council members less arduous.
My thanks to everyone involved for yet another enjoyable and successful SfEP conference. See you next year in Nottingham – I'd hate to miss it.
Location is relatively easy, in that we have settled on going to Nottingham in 2006. What training should be attached to it is a harder question.
When the SfEP started providing training courses, the need was for good basic courses for hard-copy proofreading and editing. Soon these were joined by courses on how to mark up hard copy for printing from disk, then how to edit on screen and now we are considering proofreading on screen, design programs and so on. The strength of the Society has been the willingness of its members to move on and embrace new technologies while trying to maintain excellence.
However, it does become harder to provide effective training in these new areas. Most years, the computer-based conference workshops are very oversubscribed: this year we had over 40 wanting a workshop taking only 8. So we must look at how to meet these clearly expressed needs without exhausting our tutors. We also need to retain the high standard of training and make it available to as many as possible – a little learning is a dangerous thing, particularly when an obliging internet sweeps you along.
Some of these areas clearly need to be expanded into professional development days and training courses, and this is an area that is under review. Next year we will be attempting to provide more opportunities to participate in computer-based workshops at conference.
The other important aspect of conference is the networking. Those starting out want to clarify whether the ideas they have for opportunities are realistic. Those with work want to assess whether to embrace a new approach. And those with an established career want to check that the world is not altering behind their backs and to get a taste of other potential skills to acquire. The idea of surgeries and special-interest lunch tables this year was well received and we will continue to build on this to facilitate networking.
These aspects of the annual conference are following a fairly defined pathway. Alongside, the one-day events are attempting to provide continuous professional development and the opportunity to network with other freelances and with potential clients. We tend to see the world from 'our' side, looking for clients, but in fact, those who use our services also need to access us. The 2004 and 2005 professional development days provided specialized training for those who were established in their careers, plus the chance to meet other professionals working in-house and freelance.
The message from the 2005 conference is that we should be looking to have a day very soon that concentrates on proofreading on screen with PDFs and one that looks in more depth at extending on-screen editing to the use of layout programs such as InDesign. We are receiving substantial help in developing this area from both the Publishing Training Centre and the London College of Communication.
Training has also expanded this year into providing in-house training to companies, which enables our tutors to keep abreast of the requirements of our existing clients and brings SfEP to the notice of potential ones. To produce a new generation of trainers, we now have a 'Training for Trainers' day, where those who think they might teach can try out their skills and begin to learn how to be effective trainers.
Enjoying each other
So where are we going next? At the 2006 conference, we should be able to talk about the new professional development days that have taken place or are about to happen; the new tutors who are joining our dedicated group of trainers; the web developments and pilot email newsletter to get the Directory and training opportunities deep into the hearts of a range of client companies – and, of course, about nothing in particular as we just enjoy each other's company.