ROCK HILL,This Friday, Winthrop University will host EM Fest, an electronic media awards competition open to college students from across the Southeast, for the third consecutive year.

Steve MacLaughlin, who launched EM Fest in 2002, says the goal of the event is to spotlight the top electronic media design students and academic programs from colleges across the region, with the awards competition open to those from Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

“The number of entries increased from last year, and the quality has also gone up,” MacLaughlin said of EM Fest 2004. “Once word spread about last year’s event, I think students knew it would take their best work to win.”

MacLaughlin started the event to give aspiring electronic media professionals a showcase for their skills and talents. The 2003 awards competition was hosted by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte Art Department and was a “tremendous success.”

EM Fest 2004 will feature a day-long electronic media festival that will include a variety of speakers and workshops. The event will culminate in an awards show from 7-8 PM on the campus of Winthrop in Rock Hill, SC, which is just across the border from Charlotte.

Awards will be given in the following categories: Long and Short Animated Story/Narrative, Digital Illustration, Digital Image Manipulation, Digital Music and Sound, Digital Photography, Long and Short Digital Video, General and Educational Game Design, Logo/Identity Design, General and Personal Web Site.

EM Fest also will present a “Best of Show” award from among all the winning entries.

Five speakers: from ‘weblogger’ to cameraman

The first event, from 1-1:45 PM, will feature Ed Cone, a technology writer and prolific “weblogger.” Cone will give a presentation called “Will Work for No Food: Confessions of a Professional Journalist with a Weblog.”

As a senior writer for New York-based Baseline magazine, Cone specializes in case studies on business and technology. He is also an opinion columnist at the News & Record, the main daily newspaper in his hometown of Greensboro. Cone also has worked as a contributing editor at Wired, a staff writer at Forbes, and a freelancer.

MacLaughlin takes the stage at 2 PM for a 45-minute presentation on “Get a Job: How to Get Hired in Electronic Media.” Not only is he the organizer of EM Fest, but also an experienced interaction architect who has helped develop websites for a variety of clients like Eli Lilly, Finish Line, the NCAA, RCA, and Verizon. MacLaughlin also has taught the fundamentals of interactive design at Indiana University and the UNC-Charlotte.

Following him will be Samantha Bailey, vice president of information architecture for Wachovia, who will speak on “Big Company, Small Company: Working in Two Very Different Worlds,” from 3-3:45 PM. In her role, Bailey is the lead information architect at Wachovia, providing strategy and direction for the corporate website. Prior to joining Wachovia, she was VP of operations at Argus Associates, an information architecture firm, where she worked with clients such as AT&T, Procter & Gamble, Ernst & Young, and Microsoft.

The last two speakers of the day are Symetri President Ron Jones, speaking on “The Right Stuff: Skills Needed to Succeed in Web Development” at 4 PM, and Bob DeLano, VP of The Film Foundry on “Life behind the Camera: Working in the Video and Film Industry” at 5 PM. Both presentations will last 45 minutes.

Jones leads Symetri, an ebusiness company that helps clients use technology and user research into better business solutions. Prior to Symetri, he was a senior manager with MCI, where he led development initiatives. DeLano is an online editor now with The Film Foundry, a digital film and video finishing facility in Charlotte. His current projects include four 3-D animated children’s specials, along with episodic programs and broadcast specials for HGTV, The Food Channel, Turner South, and Speed Channel.

The ‘big thing’: educating students

The lineup of speakers and other scheduled events for EM Fest 2004, while not geared specifically to entrepreneurship, does expose college students to working in the electronic media industry, MacLaughlin says.

“The speakers are geared towards educating students about what life is like working in the industry,” he notes. “We have a broad range of speakers to cover a lot of different fields from journalism to banking to film. The awards contest helps to spotlight students and programs in the Southeast that are doing great work.”

But the “big thing,” explains MacLaughlin, is that EM Fest brings students together in a setting where they can learn more about what it takes to become a successful professional.

“Many students don’t get a lot of opportunities to see, meet, and talk with people actually out there doing work in the real world,” he says. “Plus, students get to meet students from other programs and learn more about what other people are learning.”

EM Fest 2004: