Lessons from #sfep16

The annual conference of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) took place at Aston University, Birmingham, from 10–12 September 2016. I have been to several SfEP conferences, but this was by far the most enjoyable. I learned a lot and had a great time meeting familiar faces and making new friends. Here are my sixteen top ‘takeaways’:


1. Pack your swimming gear

Aston University’s conference facilities give delegates access to the fantastic pool at the Sir Doug Ellis Woodcock Sports Centre, which features tiled poolside changing cubicles and stained glass windows. A super swimming experience, even at 06:45 before a hectic day of conference-going. (There’s a gym too, but I don’t ‘gym’.)

2. Build in time to visit Birmingham

The conference venue is close to the city centre (20 minutes, fairly flat walk), including the revamped Bullring and surrounding shops and galleries. Loads of industrial heritage plus 21st-century culture … and balti!

3. Check your devices

If you need to finish an urgent work project, take a dongle or some other way to connect to the internet, in case the wireless network gets overloaded (especially if you’re packing an iPad).

4. Go on a diet before you get there

The food – especially the vegetarian/vegan options – was very good. I put on several pounds in just two days.


5. Take throat lozenges

There’s a whole lotta talkin’ goin’ on at an SfEP conference. Everyone is very friendly and welcoming.

6. Swot up for the SfEP quiz…

And you might win next year. (Did I mention: ‘We won the quiz!’ … thanks to my team-mates Helen, Gordon, Maggie, Hazel and Caroline.)

7. Introverts are welcome

Mingling is not compulsory, but there were helpful ‘themed conversations’ to join at breaks, if you wanted to put yourself out there a little. Just stand by the balloon of your choice.

8. Take business cards

Although we all wore name badges, I wish I had asked a few more people for a business card, because now I can’t remember everyone I’d love to name check.

9. Prepare to be entertained

Heavily disguised, The Linnets (SfEP’s impromptu vocal group) ‘talked about text’ in an unconventional style, and editors (and others!) looked good on the dance floor.


10. Editors are gatekeepers (Dr Susan Greenberg @sgediting)

We can open the door to opportunities. Sometimes we might suggest you take a different route. Read Editors Talk About Editing: Insights for Readers, Writers and Publishers.

11. Editors are welcome everywhere (Michelle McFadden)

They don’t just work for publishers. Charities, businesses and public sector bodies welcome the support of editorial professionals for a wide range of projects.

12. Fees are a freelancer’s bête noire (Katherine Trail @kteditorial)

We all worry about fees, but simply knowing this can be a big confidence booster.

13. Think business and you could go far (Sue Richardson @SRA_Books)

If you’re an editor who understands the publishing industry you could build a thriving business. Think ahead: it could be a legacy or pay you a pension.

14. Americanisms ain’t what they used to be (Lynne Murphy @lynneguist)

Lynne’s talk was funny and informative. Learn more via her blog Separated by a common language.

15. Project manager: manage yourself (Jackie Mace)

You can learn a lot in two hours about managing other editors, but you may well find you learn even more about managing yourself.

16. Educate yourself about education publishing (Jo Bottrill @oohpub)

The fast pace of curriculum changes is opening up a wealth of opportunities for digital-savvy editorial professionals. The future is here, in a classroom near you.

Bonus tip (ready for #sfep17)

17. Always take the opportunity to hear David Crystal (@davcr) speak. He never disappoints.


Many thanks to the organisers (SfEP staff and volunteers), the staff at Aston University Conference Centre, and all the excellent speakers and session leaders.

Hope to see you all in 2017 at Wyboston Lakes.