The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Monday, February 03, 2014

Getting the most out of IATEFL - Part 1

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 IATEFL.

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 for networking.

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.

Last year,  I went along for just a day and a half without registering (see my blog post about it here) 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’ too).  Take a look at the provisional programme on the IATEFL website to get an idea which sessions/day might be most useful for you.

Making dates:
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 …

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, so I have established with some people that we'd like to meet....but then what? When do I make the a firm thing with time and date? Now...in February? Later when I've marked what things I might attend? This is more fraught than real dating!

12:02 pm  
Blogger The Toblerone Twins said...

Hmmm, well I'd say it's a bit early yet - some in-house people don't know exactly which days they're going to be there until nearer the time. I guess I'd start putting out feelers into March ... say you'd like to meet up and mention which days you're going to be there. Some people will want to make a definite 'date' up front, others will say "Let's meet on Weds" and wait till they get there to arrange a time, etc.

It's also worth getting people's mobile numbers (and giving them yours) beforehand too - Wifi can sometimes be unreliable at venues and some people don't check their email when they're out and about.

12:20 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right, thanks! I will start trying to remember who I said I should meet, next week!

10:28 am  

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