3 Lessons I learned from organising a publishing conference

Publishing conference

This is a guest post from Serena Ugolini. Serena is currently a student of the MA Publishing at London College of Communication (University of the Arts London). She is also a part-time bookseller at Oxfam.

Every year a team of students from the MA Publishing course at London College of Communication organise a Publishing Conference sponsored by Macmillan. The team decide on the theme, the programme structure, pick the speakers and plan the marketing campaign. This year’s conference – New Frontiers – focused on how publishing is changing storytelling. It was my first experience managing an event, and as the PR and Marketing lead, this is what I learned from it.

1. Planning, Executing, Controlling … pardon?

I had no idea what project management really meant before starting on this conference. However, after we’d had our first group meeting I understood how crucial scheduling and timing are when dealing with projects, and events. Contacting speakers, engaging followers on Twitter, printing brochures, writing blurbs for the website, all these things can’t happen without a rigorous project plan and good communication between group members, which leads me to my second point …

2. Make an effort with your team

After months of scheduling and planning, the group you work with become like your second family. You get to know each other really well, and communication is the key to this success. The group will also support you if something goes wrong – and believe me, something will certainly go wrong. Our biggest issue was when the colour feature of the offset printer we were printing with stopped working. It was late afternoon, we were stressed and the conference was only 6 days away. Anyway, instead of quarrelling and blaming each other, we just said: ‘Let’s leave everything as it is, and tomorrow we’ll find a solution.’ And we did, for the issue was fixed the next day and the posters were printed perfectly.

3. You are not going to enjoy it

It might sound a little bit depressing, but you cannot expect to enjoy the event you are organizing. Especially not the first one. You will be checking the time constantly and thinking about the schedule. I remember being too busy arranging the room for the coffee break, or too preoccupied by tiding up the lecture hall to have a glass of wine with our guests during the reception. However, the whole experience is extremely rewarding: the idea that – after a very long and stressful day – you contributed to creating something meaningful for other people. Publishing is what the New Frontiers team and I love and where we want to be in the future, and receiving feedback and appreciations from professionals and students belonging to that world was a priceless reward.