The American Copy Editors Society annual conference is 10 days away, and it will be informative, invigorating and enjoyable for hundreds of copyeditors honing their skills and making connections. I’ve been to six ACES conferences (which is not a great many among conference regulars) and three or four similar conferences.
I have wisdom from attending these as a novice and as a board member doing my bit to keep things running smoothly. The Las Vegas conference is my focus, but the following tips should apply to your conference in Toronto, Runnymede, Pittsburgh, or Canberra.
Don’t be shy. There are plenty of veterans and many reunions taking place, but there are also many people new to the conference experience. Even though you may start out feeling a bit out of place, remember that everyone there speaks the same language.
Some possible conversations starters: “Hi, AP or CMOS?” “Copy desk gutted lately?” “How about that epicene they?” You get the idea.
Bring your business card. People really want to know who you are and what you do, and many like me tend to forget details within three minutes without some reinforcement. If you have come to network, the business card is still de rigueur, especially if you remember to include your Twitter handle on it. If you can’t get to the shop formerly known as Kinko’s by the conference start, at least write your name and email address on a bit of card stock.
Attend the sessions. Sure, you’re in Las Vegas. Or Toronto. Or Pittsburgh! But a well-planned conference has plenty of session options with useful information from your peers and other experts. There is no guarantee that you will get 90 minutes of useful information in a 90-minute session, but I’ve been to very few editing-conference sessions that didn’t change my perspective or give me a few useful tips.
Grab the handouts. Good sessions have good handouts that reinforce the message. Make use of them by saving them for reading on the flight home and rereading weeks later to remind yourself what you found useful in the first place.
Go to lunch (and dinner and breakfast). Everyone eats. Grab another editor and go critique a menu. This is another chance to make a connection and learn something about the craft and about your fellow editors.
Attend the extras. Receptions, banquets, organized trips—these all give you a chance to rub shoulders with other people who share your interests. In Las Vegas, there’s even a spelling bee planned. If you’re the kind of person who needs a break from all the up time, by all means build that in. But if you can manage it, there will be ample time for sleep on Monday when you’re back to work.
Volunteer. Again, here is a chance to rub shoulders with your peers. There is no better way to immerse yourself in the organization and the conference. Before you know it, you’ll be recruited for other work within the organization. This is a good thing.
Spread the inspiration. You’ll feel ready to edit the world when you’re done, but your coworkers may not be ready for your enthusiasm. Don’t go down to meet them; bring them up to your level by sharing what you learned. Share with them the conference handouts. This is for you as much as it is for them. Even if you work alone, take a moment to review the things that inspired you.