• The Publishing Post

Going Digital: Talking Conference with SYP London

Ahead of the SYP Autumn Virtual Conference ‘Turning The Page,' we spoke to SYP London Co-heads of Events Farzana Khan (Production controller at Hachette Children’s Group) and Omara Elling-Hwang (Gift & IP Editorial Assistant at HarperCollins) to get insights into how we can better collaborate, innovate & educate in 2020.


How many people worked to organise this event? When did you start thinking about it? ​


This Conference is a whole team effort from the SYP London Committee. We started thinking about it way back in January when we first started in our roles, obviously assuming it was going to be a physical conference. We had some great plans and our venue was already sorted. Over the summer, in the middle of our series of Career Cafe virtual events, we realised that we were going to have to make it work virtually. Watch this space for more information as we are still figuring out the details! 


What was the most challenging aspect of organising this event? ​


One of the most challenging aspects was trying to figure out the best platform for the conference. Even though it will be online, we tried to find a platform that was still protected in some form so people can’t just share the link and avoid buying tickets. It is obviously much harder to have networking opportunities in this ‘new normal’ (and we can’t provide lunch – sorry!) but the Conference is still just as much work for the committee and raises money for the SYP so we can continue to put on events throughout the rest of the year.


How do you approach potential guests? 


​This part hasn't changed. The Events team have regular meetings to decide suitable panellists for each event and we have been approaching them via email. It is a bit trickier though as the events will take place via video conference and we spend enough time at our screens each day as it is! We are very lucky that our panellists are so kind and willing to share their wisdom! 


Do you think online events can also welcome partners or sponsors?​


We are definitely still exploring this as a possibility and the SYP have some wonderful partners that we hope will help us publicise the Conference. It is clearly harder than in-person events as we can’t offer display tables!


Where do you find inspiration for panels or topic ideas?

Everyone knows that the SYP is great for publishing hopefuls but it is also for people who are early in their careers. We have tried to tailor the panels this year so they will be of interest to those already in the industry and looking to move up or around, as well as those trying to break in! We also keep up with industry news so we have an idea of what is relevant, what is controversial and what we think needs to be addressed. This year’s Conference is all about learning from 2020 and looking forward to what comes next!


How do you feel about paid-for online events? ​


They’re definitely the best option at the moment – we don't have a choice! But, when things settle in the world it will be nice to see faces in person instead of on a screen. RE paid online events, there is still a lot of work put in to organise them so if you would pay for a ticket to attend in person then you should pay to attend online. Although, we do realise that they are different and you don’t necessarily get the same atmosphere – we hope our reduced ticket prices reflect that!


What is the best way to make your event stand out in a crowded online space? ​


We’ve got some stunning visuals by Aimee Dewar that we hope will do the trick. We have also been really conscious to put out content that we would all want to learn about and pay to attend. Give the people what you would want to see! 


How do you prepare for technical mishaps? ​


This was a worry during the Career Cafe series and we had a Zoom run through session ahead of each one. They may very well happen but we hope that people will be understanding if they do! We are doing everything we can to avoid problems but this will be the first time any of us have done video conferences on such a large scale.


The Conference will take place from the 9th to 13th of November and all the latest updates can be found at @SYP_LDN. Follow Farzana @fkhan381 and Omara @omaraeh for further insights!