A recent discussion with some fellow editorial pros about marketing, in particular networking via local-group meetings, got me thinking about what it is that makes our editorial group meeting (the UK-based Norfolk SfEP group) function so well. I'm always singing its praises so thought it might be worth articulating some of the features that make it so beneficial to attendees.
Paul Beverley, who runs our group (some of you will know of the free macros on his website, Archive Publications), is sensitive to the fact that this type of networking is not always easy for people who are new or shy. He does his best to make sure that a range of voices are heard in group discussions, and that’s important because a good chair can make the difference between whether people feel included or invisible.
On a few occasions he has met with aspiring editorial freelancers prior to their attending one of our group meetings; they found this a useful ice-breaker because when they turned up to the meet-up for the first time there was one familiar face in the room – someone to make a beeline for.
We meet in a church rather than a pub or cafe. We don’t do this for faith-based reasons but because having a dedicated room for our meeting means we can control the space in a way that’s inclusive. We did talk about meeting in a pub, but were worried that we’d be forced into smaller niche groups that some quieter people might not find inviting. And a cafe might be too small if there's a large attendance. There are also the noise levels to consider – by using a dedicated space for the meeting, we only have to put up with the sounds we create!
Seating for sociability
However many of us attend (and the size of the group can range from five to twenty), we usually place all the tables in a big circle. This means that everyone can see everyone else and niche groups are less likely to form. Even when the evening is based around a more general group discussion, rather than a training-style session run by one speaker, people are less likely to end up chatting with just the people either side of them – there’s space to engage with someone elsewhere in the room without rising from your seat. And if one of us sees someone who has no one to talk to, it’s easy enough to engage them.
What’s your name, again?
We wear name badges if there's a newbie in attendance. That way, they can see what everyone else is called. Paul comes ready with sticky labels and a big, black marker pen. And if a solid day’s worth of editing has left you feeling a bit addled and forgetful of all those names of those people you've met many times before, it’s no problem!
Giving a voice to the newbie
When new people attend, Paul asks everyone around the table to introduce themselves and provide a short summary of their skill sets, specialist subject areas and how long they've been doing the job. Then the newbie can follow suit and let the rest of us know a bit about their background. It’s a good ice-breaker for the new person, and it’s a great reminder to regulars of what the others do (particularly useful when it comes to opportunities for referring work).
The agenda – eat, work and wash up!
We usually eat together before the discussion or “training” session starts. And all those dishes need to be washed up after the work section of the evening. Preparing food and cleaning up afterwards means we’re forced (in the nicest possible sense) to engage with each other in a way that’s naturally comfortable and conversation-inducing. Even if it’s someone’s first time at the meeting and they’re the shyest person on the planet, it’s pretty difficult for them to disappear into a corner when they’re drying the dishes you've just thrown detergent and water all over! Some say the best parties always end up in the kitchen, and all the things that go into sharing food together really do facilitate easy-going communication.
How do you do it?
Do you attend a local or regional editorial group? What are the benefits and the challenges? How does yours function in a way that helps even the newest or shyest of attendees find their voice? Where do you meet and what makes your venue work for you? And do you think there are things you could tweak to make it work even better? I’d love to hear your ideas – maybe the Norfolk SfEP can borrow some of them!
If you're based in the UK and want to find out more about the SfEP's local groups, information is available on the Society's website: Local Groups.
If you're based elsewhere in the world, contact your national editorial society and ask what's available in your region. There's an international list on this website at Editing & proofreading societies.
About Louise Harnby
Louise Harnby is a professional proofreader and the curator of The Proofreader's Parlour. Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader, follow her on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or find her on LinkedIn.
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Winner of the Judith Butcher Award 2017 in respect of 'highly visible contributions to the SfEP and its membership'.