CIEP Conference 2021

Read time: 4 mins

The CIEP 2021 online conference is not long over, after a year of planning by the conference team, led by Beth Hamer they pulled off a fantastic event. I attended the SfEP conference in 2017 in person when the event was held in Bedfordshire, at Wyboston Lakes and remember that as an excellent conference.

Many months ago, I’d decided to attend the Glasgow CIEP conference of 2021, but that was moved online so it became my first online conference. It ran from Saturday 11 September to Monday 13 September and it was a triumph.

I attended much of it live and since then have watched Crystal Shelley’s interesting talk on representation and authenticity reading. I look forward to watching other recordings over the next few weeks. Being able to watch sessions later is a great bonus of an online event.

What we got up to

Hugh Jackson, a most capable, self-effacing and amusing chair made entertaining introductions, talks and commentary through the whole event. The business element, with the AGM, was conducted efficiently.

There were some fascinating speakers, including the poet and very amusing presenter of The Verb on BBC Radio 3, Ian McMillan, who’s from Yorkshire. Arguably the most famous copyeditor, Benjamin Dreyer, from New York in conversation with Denise Cowle, from Scotland. This gave us an intriguing insight into how publishing has changed, the ways Random House nurtures their editing talent (including their freelance staff) and we heard what it is like to edit for Elizabeth Strout.

As some of the sessions I have yet to catch up on my listing is not comprehensive but I watched Malini Devadas present a session on the marketing mindset. In this she talked about how to consider marketing and your mindset about it as an important facet of business. She had tips on how to overcome the mentality which may hold freelancers back from actively marketing their business.

Conscious and inclusive

Crystal Shelley gave a second session which was on conscious and inclusive editing – understanding conscious language and the editorial role. With it she shared copious resources to help support us deliver well-informed and enlightened services to our clients.   

Two sessions, fiction line-editing essentials: narrative distance, delivered by the force of nature that is Louise Harnby and guiding principles of developmental editing presented by Sophie Playle, were rightly very popular and with both it will be marvellous to receive the slides to pour over again to absorb more of the excellent learning.

There were lightening talks which brought snippets limited to five minutes from editing superstars of great variety. We were assured that English editors are the most powerful and urged to work compassionately, editing photos was examined, as was the learning of Korean and how football commentary is connected to proofreading.

The session on blogging (making it work for your business) with Liz Jones, Claire Bacon and Kia Thomas was like having a place at the table while these experienced bloggers discussed their approach to blog writing and hearing what they felt worked for them.

Who better than John Espirian to give the presentation on being a LinkedIn leader? Packed with advice and tips the time flew by so it is good that there are chances to revisit his session.

Easy English and what editorial professionals can learn from people with low literacy was spoken about by Cathy Basterfield and career development for freelancers was presented by Suzanne Collier.

A big thank you to Janet MacMillan from Canada who graciously introduced the session I ran from Hampshire, on Styles in Word. Thank you also to the lovely folk who attended the session live and asked follow-up questions, both at the time and later over LinkedIn.

The networking

There were themed networking sessions on different forms of editing, educational publishing, marketing and time management which involved small-group discussions in breakout sessions. These were good places to meet new faces and share experiences.  

Many of us had our first visit to the Wonderoom networking space where, having prized ourselves out of zoom, floating avatars could be dragged into circles, or just bumped into each other in a sort of virtual corridor. Once in the same space we could talk and, although some found there were some bandwidth issues and glitches, it largely worked smoothly enough to feel there was connection and further opportunity for conversation. It was there I met, among others a proofreader originally from the UK and newly setting up their business in Melbourne, and friend of old from Devon and a fiction editor living in Spain.

In Wonder

Small footprint

Delegates and speakers got together from seemingly all over the globe without the unimaginable carbon footprint that the same conference, conducted offline would have left. I’d usually expect a conference post to be accompanied by a photograph of a conference centre filled with delegates but as there wasn’t one, and I did not ask anyone whether I could take their images, I can only show myself at conference – the one at the top of this post is me puzzling over the quiz questions, perhaps we weren’t taking it seriously enough to win but it was fun taking part.

Great feat

The organiser’s choice and use of the technology platforms was certainly effective for putting out learning materials and delivering sessions to a very large group. There was the added bonus of staggering some of the delivery beyond the conference with materials including not just digital handouts but hours of recordings to watch back.

As a mainly introverted soul, used to working alone, I did wonder whether the networking side of an online conference could work at all, but it did. I even found that, as I was sitting in my normal work place (true for most delegates I suspect) this was conducive to relaxed interactions where I really felt at home, wait – I really was at home.

I am left feeling that the CIEP community is great to be involved with and their team create excellent conferences.

Stepping forward

What will the event be like next year I wonder. Certainly the in-person format is an experience we should strive to hold on to but there are some amazing benefits of the online model too. I’d vote for some form of hybrid if that’s doable and with the track record I believe they can do it. One thing is certain there is a kind of magic when we come together and in the words of the chair ‘… something unites us in our delight of the written word.’

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