Recently, several fellow freelancers working in ELT
publishing have asked whether it’s worth going to the IATEFL conference – this
year in Harrogate at the start of April. I’m a big fan of the conference and my
answer has been an unequivocal ‘yes’! It’s
great for keeping up-to-date with what’s going on in ELT generally, but from a
freelancer’s point of view, I think it’s even more valuable for making contacts
which can lead onto work. I’ve lost track of how many projects I’ve worked on
that came about either directly or indirectly as a result of people I met at
So anyway, having talked several people into going, I
promised I’d put together some tips for getting the most out of the experience.
Here’s part one about things to think about before you go:
To register or not?
As a freelancer, the cost of registration, plus travel,
plus accommodation can seem like a big (and often unaffordable) expense,
especially as it comes on top of time lost at your desk. Perhaps the most
effective way to get around that is to offer to speak on behalf of a publisher
– if your proposal’s accepted, the publisher will usually pay for your
registration and travel, plus some accommodation (although sometimes only a
night or two around your talk).
If you haven’t already gone down that route for this year
though, probably the cheapest option is to go along to the conference (for as
long as you can afford) without registering. You can go into the conference
venue and the publisher’s exhibition hall (quite legitimately!) without having
to register as a delegate. That means
you can browse around all the publishers stands to see what’s new, but more importantly, you still get lots of networking
opportunities. Lots of the key publishing folk you might want to talk to (i.e.
in-house editors) will hang around the stands at some point, although be aware
that editors will tend to be pretty busy, so it may be worth booking a slot
with them in advance if you possibly can – see below. You can also meet up with
other freelancers over coffee who can be really useful contacts as well as just
good to chat with and share experiences. And by hanging around, you’ll also
hear about any evening events going on – publisher’s do’s which are also great
Tip: If you don’t register, you won’t get a name badge. I
know they feel a bit naff, but honestly, people are more likely to remember
your name if they see it on a badge - how often are you introduced to someone,
then forget their name and are too embarrassed to ask again? I’ve made up a
simple name badge before just using an old one from a previous event.
along for just a day and a half without registering (see my blog post about it
) and I definitely felt it was worth it – I’ve since got work for
a new client directly as a result of going along to their evening do. I did
though feel a bit left out not being able to go to sessions. That’s partly just
because they can be interesting, but from a purely business point of view, I
think I also missed a few people I’d liked to have talked to.
If you’ve got a particular area of interest
(so for me dictionaries and EAP), then the sessions on those topics are often
the best place to bump into the most useful contacts.
Tip: Don't be afraid to ask people you already know to introduce you to people you haven't met.
If you don’t want to register for the whole week, then you
could also pick just one day (either in advance or you can pay ‘on the door’
Take a look at the provisional
programme on the IATEFL website
to get an idea which sessions/day might be most
useful for you.
As I said, a lot of editors are very busy through IATEFL, so
it can be worth contacting them in advance to ‘make a date’. If you’re currently working with someone who
you haven’t met face-to-face, meeting up to say ‘hello’, even if it’s just over
a coffee (be prepared to drink LOTS of coffee!) can be really useful to chat
about how the project’s going, but also to cement your relationship with them
and increase your chances of getting more work in future. Quite often they’ll
mention something else coming up that you can express an interest in.
Similarly, if you’ve worked with someone recently who you’d like to work with
again, get in touch with them and suggest meeting up.
It can all feel like some weird kind of dating scenario, but
honestly, once you’ve taken the plunge and sent off a few friendly emails, it’s
really not that bad!
In my next post, I’ll talk about how to make the most of it
once you’re there …
Labels: freelancing, Harrogate 2014, IATEFL, networking