Why you (yes, YOU) should be thinking about presenting at the next IPEd conference

Most students and academics would have little hesitation explaining why it’s important to give presentations at conferences. It seems obvious that a career in teaching and/or research demands an active engagement with the field and discipline – as a form of peer review, to expand one’s knowledge and build a network.

But what about professionals such as practising editors and indexers who are not involved in teaching or research at academic institutions?

Indeed, a conference presentation could give your editing career and business that much-needed boost you have been looking for.

A woman drawing a upwards graph of future projections on a white board

Conference? What conference?

There are different types of conferences, including:

  • sponsor/marketing conferences – these are designed and delivered by companies to create brand awareness, educate people about their products or services and promote them in the best way possible
  • scientific/academic conferences – as might be expected, delegates and audiences at these conferences are typically research scientists, academic leaders and their students, who gather to share and debate their data and findings, introduce themselves and their work to the field, increase their publications and, of course, network
  • industry conferences – these offer educational opportunities, encounters with potential vendors and suppliers, and opportunities to network with peers and have a bit of fun.

The IPEd national editors conferences, held biennially since 2003, can be described as an industry conference, where a range of workshops and presentations are offered as educational opportunities and social events provide a venue to create and maintain networks.

The 2019 National Editors Conference, to be held in Melbourne 8–10 May, is stretching the definition of an industry conference by pinching aspects of academic and sponsor conferences to enhance our offerings for both delegates and sponsors. By encouraging deep and rich engagement between speakers, delegates and the field as a whole, we are opening the conference to presentation types that explore concepts, approaches, topics and debates beyond the provision of practical tips for copyediting, though these are always popular. We are particularly keen to welcome presentations that demonstrate how professional practice can be integrated with scholarship – formal and informal.

We have instituted a formal process for peer review of abstract submissions and abstract presentation awards to recognise outstanding contributions, and we have expanded our sponsorship prospectus to provide past and potential sponsors with a wide range of opportunities to educate delegates about their products and services.

Is attending as much fun as presenting?

Well, no. Presenting is much more fun!

As a delegate, you will undoubtedly have access to plenty of educational opportunities and events for networking and fun. Sponsor exhibits will provide access to vendors and suppliers who can offer insights into the current economic climate in publishing and related fields – and a chance to get a sticky beak on what your competition is up to.

But as a presenter you will also have the opportunity to:

  1. Research, explore and present on a topic or subject of interest to you.
  2. Challenge yourself to scholarship in your profession.
  3. Position yourself as an expert or ‘thought-leader’ on your topic.
  4. Consolidate your reputation as a professional editor, indexer or both.
  5. Attend the conference at a considerably reduced rate.

Being a presenter at the conference means you can publicise your involvement with the conference on your website and on social media.

If you are a freelancer running a viable editing business, there is no point being the industry’s best-kept secret. As in any other field or profession, editors are keen to associate with the experts – people they can learn from or refer their clients to when they go on holidays or retire. And clients tend to feel good about doing business with professionals who are well-known and celebrated by their peers.

a woman holding a coffee mug bearing the words 'like a boss'

What topic could you speak on?

Choose a subject that is close to your heart. You don’t have to be the expert on your topic of choice, but you should research it thoroughly and ensure you are well versed – enough to be able to answer questions from the audience. One of the best ways to do this is to write a full draft of your presentation, then ask a friend or colleague to provide feedback so you can continue to refine your presentation until you are happy with it. (A tip, however: reading your paper to the audience is a big no-no.)

Having a comprehensive knowledge of the topic will give you that extra confidence you’ll need as a first-time presenter. Better still, your presentation will be credible to your audience if you are able to speak from professional experience and provide real-world examples.

But … public speaking!

The first thing we tend to think about when someone mentions presenting at a conference is public speaking. Many people avoid public speaking like the plague – either because they are afraid of embarrassment or failure, or because they believe that to do so they have to be experts ready to be scrutinised and cross-examined like they’re in a court of law.

Let me assure you from the outset: when you attend an IPEd conference you are among friends. Presenting a paper should therefore feel like you are speaking to a group of colleagues around a meeting table – there will be questions, naturally, and perhaps even dissent, but it will be (or should be) always respectful.

If you’ve never before presented at a conference (and you’re still nervous about it), consider submitting to present a poster (see our Q&A for details).

Okay, so where/how to start?

First, read the Call for Papers, then decide on your topic and undertake sufficient research to enable you to prepare a 250-word abstract, which you should submit by no later than 30 November 2018. If your abstract is accepted you’ll receive notification early in the new year, with plenty of time to prepare your presentation before the conference.

There is no shortage of information and support for people who are nervous about presenting their ideas before an audience. Among these are to:

  1. Focus on the key points you want your audience to take away from your talk.
  2. Prepare clear, legible slides to support your presentation.
  3. Stick to the allocated time.
  4. Let your personality flow into the presentation.

As a seasoned public speaker and conference presenter, the most important tip I can offer is to ‘prep like a boss’: practice, practice, practice. And then practice some more, until you are confident you are able to give a (near)flawless presentation.

There are many reasons you may wish to speak at the conference, but it all comes down to your assessment of its value to your career and business. Will it provide you with the exposure you need to boost your career and grow your business? I think so.

Dr Renée Otmar HLM DE

Convenor, IPEd 2019 National Editors Conference