Some thoughts on this year’s CIEP conference

I’ve lost count of the number of work-related webinars I’ve sat through under lockdown – and beyond – but almost all been useful, inspiring or both. And then the annual conference of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading, of which I’m a member, also went online. I’d been looking forward to showing up in person for the CIEP AGM and two intensive days of learning and networking, but hey – pandemic… Not to be cowed, the conference team worked hard to deliver something anyway, and boy did they.

Spread over three afternoons, from 2 to 4 November, we got to enjoy four sessions a day that truly offered something for everyone. I didn’t attend all the sessions as I was quite busy with a client’s project, but I sat through as many as I could of the ones I’d earmarked as important for me. Thanks first must go to our new chair, Hugh Jackson, whose opening welcome speech struck the right tone for the difficult times we are living in.

Having had to take my own training courses onto Zoom since August, I know too well how hard it can be to deliver a good session when you lack the energy that arises in a face-to-face classroom setting. This was clearly not an issue for the CIEP’s session leaders, however. On day one, I got the most out of Erin Brenner’s primer on digital marketing. I relaunched this website only a couple of months ago, and a newsletter (thanks to a webinar run by the FEU – next one out very soon), so it was reassuring to know I was doing plenty right. And I picked up lots of useful tips for when I have a little spare time to fine tune my marketing.

Marketing screenshot
Terrible screenshot (c) Louise Bolotin

Unfortunately, I missed the last session on day one as I had to take a Covid-19 test and get it sent back during that hour. I plan to catch up with Sarah Grey’s talk on inclusive language when I get a moment – being aware of how language can contain bias and exclude some readers is something we editors all need to be aware of. Learning about editing for inclusivity is an ongoing process, and something I’ve aimed to stay up to speed with since, well, ever… I fully expect to learn more when I watch the session recording.

Also informative was Louise Harnby’s workshop on editor website foundations on day two. Again, I was reassured that I’m doing things right with this website since I gave it a facelift. My namesake is one of CIEP’s experts when it comes to marketing your editing business and her presentation was about as comprehensive as you can get – not bad for just 50 minutes.

website workshop screenshot
Another terrible screenshot (c) Louise Bolotin

Before Louise Harnby, there was a really enjoyable and entertaining interview with our honorary vice-president, Susie Dent – she’s known to many as the dictionary whizz on Countdown, but she’s a serious lexicographer at the Oxford University Press. She talked about her work on the OUP’s dictionaries and her own very recent experience of having her latest book published full of typos. Every author’s nightmare, but so much more embarrassing when you’re a language expert. To cheer Susie up, I’ve ordered my own copy of Word Perfect for my Christmas stocking. Bookending day two was Daniel Heuman’s session on customising PerfectIt. Daniel is the mastermind behind this software, a go-to piece of kit for editors including me. PerfectIt does what I call the “grunt work” as it looks for inconsistencies in a document – spelling, punctuation, headings, etc – so that you can clean them up quickly before you do the actual editing. I customise PerfectIt already but there’s always more going on under its bonnet to learn about. And I picked up a really cool tip for adding my own logo to my customised style sheets.

Pretty much everyone I know has struggled with stress, anxiety or other mental health issues since lockdown last March. Being kind to ourselves and remembering to breathe has become more important than ever. Marieke Krijnen’s talk focused on being a digital nomad – being able to work from anywhere if you have a laptop and connectivity – and she shared her experiences of living and working around the globe. But she also made time to discuss the challenges of living in the era of Covid-19 and dealing with isolation, loneliness, lack of exercise and burnout. The chatbox on the side of the screen enabled us to share tips and ideas for relaxing and looking after ourselves (mine mainly involve gin-based cocktails).

My favourite session of the whole conference was Maya Berger’s on working with Excel. I use spreadsheets a lot for a number of work things, but am still a novice when it comes to unleashing Excel’s true power. I was frantically taking notes (so no screenshots this time – be grateful!) and will be putting almost everything Maya said into practice from this point on. For me, even one session like this is worth the conference fee.

Downsides? Not many. One or two sessions I logged into didn’t really tick my boxes but then I don’t attend every session in a non-virtual conference anyway. The biggest drawback was not being able to network face-to-face with colleagues. There were a couple of networking sessions via Zoom each day, none of which I made it to, but it’s not the same as arriving in the bar on the first evening, giving a hug (gosh, remember those?) to colleagues who’ve become friends and greeting others you previously only knew via the CIEP forums. All while quaffing a welcome G&T. Or two. Hanging out together is definitely one of the best bits about a CIEP conference so it was sorely missed. But, pandemic permitting, I’ll see you all in Glasgow next year.

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