Making time for face-time

Helen Stevens

Helen Stevens, Marketing and PR Director for the Society for Editors and proofreaders (SfEP), talks about communication.

Despite many of us being able to work from home, nothing beats face-to-face interaction, and one of the aims of the SfEP is to facilitate that.

With instant communication available at the touch of a button – wherever you are in the world – a whole range of geographical and other barriers have become a thing of the past.So it might seem surprising that people still want to meet face to face for professional and social reasons – and often for a mixture of the two.

Changing times

The publishing industry is in a period of great change. Many editorial professionals have seen their working methods and processes transformed out of all recognition. It goes without saying that being in touch with others working in the same field is invaluable in such exciting and uncertain times.

Cutting down the isolation

When the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) was set up in 1988, one of its main aims was to reduce the isolation of freelance life. From its earliest times, conferences, training courses and regional meetings were central to its activities.

SfEP’s membership now includes in-house staff and corporate subscribers, but communication is still at the heart of many of our activities. And we’re now on Facebook and Twitter too.

Face-to-face is still in fashion

Yet meeting face to face shows no sign of falling by the wayside. Twitter, far from killing off ‘real’ interaction, has spawned a new type of get-together – the Tweetup. BookMachine is extending its activities to Edinburgh later this month, giving those north of the border a chance to enjoy its special brand of friendliness and fun. Another publishing-related group, the Society of Young Publishers, is about to launch a new branch in the north of England.

Here at the SfEP, we’re getting ready to meet face to face at our annual conference in September, this year in Oxford. Once there, we’ll see old friends and make new ones. We’ll discuss e-publishing, editing software and negotiation skills. And we’ll be entertained by the erudite David Crystal and by an energetic folk-punk-skiffle cabaret band – though not at the same time. It just wouldn’t be the same to do it all by Skype.

A virtuous circle

Getting together with other people helps us to strengthen relationships and forge new ones. It adds another dimension to our interactions, whether with friends, professional colleagues or clients. In turn, today’s social media and instant communication methods can enhance our face-to-face meetings. It’s easier to organise, publicise and co-ordinate a get-together – and to keep in touch afterwards.

Onwards and upwards

So it’s not surprising that many organisations are extending their opportunities for individuals to meet face to face. This includes the SfEP itself: we now have 31 local groups, the newest being in Northern Ireland. Non-members can attend up to three meetings before deciding whether to join the SfEP. Most groups meet every few months; some hold training sessions, some have visiting speakers, and some organise outings. Some just meet for a good chat, to share experiences of freelance editing and proofreading, to give encouragement to one another, and to pass on work in busy times.

And in my own local group, we also go for hikes in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. You can’t do that on your iPhone.

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