9 Things You Can Do Today to Get the Most out of #ATA58

This October, some 2,000 language professionals will swarm the Hilton in Washington DC for the 58th Annual ATA Conference. They will push through crowds of people to find the next packed presentation room, will sit in a sea of unfamiliar faces, will spend their entire waking day taking in new information and trying desperately to remember the name of the person they met two seconds ago. It’s overwhelming. It’s exhausting. It’s also exhilarating.

Even the most introverted among us feel a thrill being around people who understand our career and share our interests. In the chaos, it is easy to miss opportunities and come away from the conference feeling disappointed. Below are nine ideas for how you can prepare to get the most out of ATA 58.

1) Double-check your marketing materials

Update your resume and triple check for any mistakes. Do the same for your business cards and order extras now.

Find something extra to bring to help you stand out. This could be a personalized name badge, a lanyard—something pretty, crazy, or specific to your specialization, stickers or pins to show your language or specialization… Anything that encourages others to approach you about something you are interested in is helpful.

As you update your marketing materials, write out previous jobs and relevant experience. What stands out? What are you most proud of? What might be funny (and positive and professional)? What showcases your talent, knowledge, and drive?

Add to this list any time you take on a new job, and always note why the job is important. (A challenge you overcame, an impressive client, new information learned, etc.) If you don’t have a lot of job experience, consider classes you’ve taken, volunteer work you’ve done, research you are excited about. Review this list before the conference so that you will have specific, positive, professional responses when people ask you about your experience.

2) Research the presentations… and the presenters

Does the presenter have a website? Social media accounts? Find what information they’ve made public. Look for common interests, common languages, and anything you would like to ask about. Write all of this down and review it before the presentation. After the presentation—introduce yourself!

If you’re really excited about a presenter or a topic, feel free to send them an email in advance sharing your excitement, asking a question, or pointing out a shared interest. Everyone likes enthusiastic people in the audience. And while we’re at it, why wait until after the conference to follow them on Twitter?

3) Research the companies at the job fair and the exhibit hall

Look for specific things to discuss with any company you are interested in. What skills are they looking for? Why are you a good match? Why do you like this company? Research can make you stand out in a busy job fair. If you can find out who will be representing the company, why not drop them a line today, and tell them how much you’re looking forward to meeting them?

One easy way to start this now is with the ATA Conference App. During the conference you can use it to keep track of the schedule and stay up-to-date, and you can use it today to look through the list of represented companies as you start your research.

4) Reach out and make friends

Whether you’ve met fellow attendees in past or only know them online, a quick social media post or a brief email to let people know that you look forward to seeing them or to plan a coffee together can go a long way.

5) Research the area around the conference

A little research saves a lot of time and stress during the conference. Find a place you can recommend for lunch or coffee. Find a place you can slip away, where others can’t see you, for some quiet time. Find cultural places in the area specific to your language/specialization/interests. Look up a few practical places around the conference: ATMs, drug stores, phone stores for chargers, etc.

6) Set specific goals

Goals give focus and clarity in the midst of chaos. Set a goal for each presentation: “I want to meet two people who translate in this field into my B language,” “I want to learn X, Y, Z.” Don’t assume it was a bad presentation if it didn’t cover your specific question. Asking your question at the end of the session is a great way to meet people.

7) Prepare for questions

If you feel awkward when asked the standard conference questions, prepare for them now. “Why are you here?” “Did you come last year?” “What did you think?” “Are you enjoying the conference this year?” “How did you become a translator?”

“Last year I was just too overwhelmed and intimidated to come,” may be true. But it might be better to try something like: “I’ve been developing my business this year, learning about the profession, expanding my client base, and I’m so excited to be here!” Focus on what you’ve learned, what you look forward to learning, what excites you, how it fits with your work or a new avenue you are interested in exploring. Be honest, positive, and professional.

8) Post to social media

Everybody recommends this, but I’m going to be the one negative voice here. Posting to social media that you are going to be traveling on specific dates is a potential safety risk. You don’t have to do it. However, if you’re comfortable with it, it can be a great way to connect with people before the conference and can make it easier to plan coffee dates, lunches, trips to cultural sites, etc.

But remember, you can do much of this via email, phone calls, and private messages if you prefer not to post about it publicly. Where appropriate, you can also contact favorite clients to tell them that you will be attending a presentation pertinent to their field.

9) Schedule time after the conference

Immediately following the conference, you will have so much to go over, you will have work that’s piled up, and then there’s the laundry… If at all possible, schedule a few days after the conference to catch up and recharge before diving back into your routine. Otherwise, you may never get to your post-conference to-do list.

After the conference is the time to post to social media about what you learned and who you met. Write an article or two… Blog…  follow up with the people you met. This is the single most important thing you can do. Send emails, private messages, tweets. Connect on LinkedIn and Twitter… And be prepared to do it all again in a week or two.

This is where you will really stand out. So prepare for it now.

If you plan to mail cards after the conference, buy them now. Address them if possible. Write up ideas for what you might say. Streamline your social media. (Link your accounts so one post will go to multiple accounts, learn to schedule your posts, etc.)

The key is to be intentional and organized about what you want out of any large conference. After all, you are setting aside time and money to be there. Why not make the most of it?

Author bio

Anne Goff is currently writing a book on networking for introverts. She has an MA in French>English Translation and a BA in French. She translates legal texts and particularly enjoys helping adoptive families bring their children home. She has lived in countries with red, white, and blue flags—France, the UK, and the US. When not translating, writing, or introverting, Anne teaches French at university and speaks about networking and business for the non-extraverted. Contact her: anne@aegtranslations.com, http://www.aegtranslations.com.

Enter to win a free copy of Anne’s upcoming book on networking for introverts. Send her an email with “I’m interested in your book!” in the subject line.

A Newbie’s Experience at #ATA57

ATA 57th Annual ConferenceAttending conferences can be exciting and nerve-racking at the same time, but with the Newbies & Buddies program at the ATA annual conference, I felt at ease and enjoyed every moment to the fullest. Bonding with three smiling faces through the welcome reception—Farah Arjang, a veteran translator and translation service provider, and Yifan Zhan and Lilian Gao, two graduate students studying Translation and Localization Management at Middlebury Institute of International Studies, I was happy as a clam. Our little group had quite the variety: practitioner, student, and scholar of translation and interpreting.

‘Hectic’ is a good word to describe the first day of international conferences for first time attendees. The 57th ATA annual conference was no exception. Luckily, the conference was carefully organized and attended to even the smallest details, such as the suggestion that Newbies have a meal with their Buddies. Compulsory and stiff as it might sound, it did help to take a lot of pressure off the Newbies. Farah briefed us on the basic flow of the conference schedule at the continental breakfast on the first day, so the three of us had a general idea of where to go and what to expect at the sessions to follow. I personally am a big fan of the conference app! I had all my sessions planned out ahead of time and was able to set up alerts. With the guidance of a kind and caring experienced ATA conference attendee and a helpful app, the first day was not all that hectic but instead quite enjoyable.

As a scholar and practitioner of Chinese/English translation and interpreting, I’m always drawn to learning about the Chinese/English language service industry, so I added the session called “Language Services Industry in China: Opportunities and Challenges” to the top of my schedule. It was a pleasant surprise to find out that Dr. Ping Yang, Chief Editor of the Chinese Translators Journal, the most influential academic journal in translation and interpreting studies in China, had been invited to give a talk about the status quo and prospects of translation services and translation studies in China. I’ve met Dr. Yang on many occasions in China, and ATA brought us together once again in the U.S. What a delightful coincidence! The other two speakers, Hui Tao and Yang Yu, introduced translation services in China from the perspective of localization, machine-aided translation technology, and big data analysis. It was definitely eye-opening for me to learn how entrenched technology is becoming in the industry.

The sessions that I looked forward to the most even before I arrived in San Francisco were those related to interpreting ethics, which was the theme of the panel discussion for the Interpreting Division this year. Interpreting ethics is my current research interest. I learned a lot from the panelists, Helen Eby, Milena Calderari-Waldron, Robyn Dean, Christina Helmerichs, and Marina Waters. In Dr. Robyn Dean’s sessions, she deconstructed the notion of the interpreter’s “role” and differentiated the use of the term in sociology and applied ethics. This was very new and insightful, since the interpreter’s role is always the center of discussion regarding the quality of interpreting services, where different metaphors of roles are often used to assess an interpreter’s performance. I had a pleasant short conversation with Dr. Dean afterwards and mentioned to her my questionnaire about interpreters’ decision making processes. She was interested and offer a few words of encouragement. The ATA annual meeting offered a great bridge for young scholars like myself to reach out to established scholars and learn from them.

Time always flies when you’re having fun. In the end, I departed San Francisco feeling extremely grateful. I’m grateful to Farah, whose advice was like a life jacket for newbies to navigate the oceans of opportunities and insight at the conference; to Yifang and Lilian, with whom I braved the air-tight schedule without suffocating as we were bombarded with new information. I’m grateful to all the speakers in the different sessions that painted the picture of a new and promising world of translation and interpreting. Finally, I’m grateful to the conference organizers and volunteers, who produced a successful event, united us for the 57th time, and reminded us that as translators and interpreters, though we are invisible most of the time, we are important, and we do not stand alone.

Author bio

Mia YinMingyue Yin is an assistant professor and Ph.D candidate at Sichuan University in China. She is also a visiting scholar at the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research interest is in Translation/Interpreting Studies and Language Communication. She is currently working on her doctoral research project, “Interpreter’s Decision Making and Ethics”. Mingyue is also a certified Chinese/English Interpreter through the Chinese Accreditation Test for Translators and Interpreters (CATTI).

My ATA Conference Experience

by Veronica Sardon


It has been more than a year since I acted on a very unlikely hunch and reserved a room at the 2014 ATA Conference hotel in Chicago.

On the face of it, it did not make a lot of sense. Almost two years into my career as a freelance translator, which I was still doing on the side of my regular job as a journalist, things were not going as well as I had hoped. And I live in Buenos Aires, so going all the way to the United States for a conference my translation business could not really support sounded wacky at best. But I decided I could postpone any final decisions and just make sure that, if I were to go to Chicago after all, I would have a room at the conference hotel.

A few months later, my ATA mentor at the time strongly encouraged me to attend the conference. By then, I had done all the maths: the plane trip was going to set me back about 1,100 dollars, accommodation would amount to about the same, and I still had to add in the conference registration fee, division dinners and any expenses in Chicago. It sounded absolutely crazy, and I told my mentor just that.

He insisted, however. He clearly thought it was worth it, even at that cost. That left me thinking, and by the end of August I had bought my plane ticket.

I did not really know what to expect. I was relatively new to the profession, and since I had not studied translation I knew virtually no one in the industry, even in Argentina. As the conference grew closer, I realised that I was obsessing about how much I had invested, and about whether five days in Chicago could ever justify spending 3,000 dollars. In particular, since I intended to make a living as a translator, would I get any actual clients out of the venture?

Fortunately, I changed my attitude in time. When I got on the plane to Chicago I was determined to just make the most of it, whatever “it” might turn out to be. Enjoying myself, meeting interesting people, and doing all I could to return to Buenos Aires with a sense that I had grown professionally were much more realistic goals than finding 2-3 clients to pick up my conference tab.

To cut a five-day story short, it was a fantastic experience.

It was not all easy, of course. I am fairly sociable once I am “accepted” into a group, but I am awful when it comes to introducing myself to strangers and making conversation out of the blue. So I started the conference quite slowly and had dinner alone a couple of times. Once, a thoughtful translator actually told me off for standing on my own, two yards away from a large group. I was supposed to introduce myself, she said; that was surely why I was in Chicago, after all. She introduced me to a couple of people around, but they were busy talking and I was soon standing on my own again. Mmm…why was I in Chicago?

And yet my luck changed just a few minutes after that. On the way to a division dinner, I started to talk to the man who happened to be walking next to me. When he said his name, I knew who he was from an ATA listserv, so I was impressed. And the longish walk became an opportunity to chat, which led to the opportunity to sit with him and other conference veterans at the restaurant, which led to an after-dinner beer with them back at the hotel, and another beer the following day. Soon, I was finding the odd friendly face in the lobby, during a session or at breakfast. Suddenly, I had developed the confidence to talk to strangers more naturally. Before I knew it, I had, probably for the first time ever, the feeling that I belonged in the translator community. Yes, that was exactly why I was in Chicago.

The sessions were mostly great too, by the way, but I could have found interesting webinars from afar. What made the trip necessary was the people I met, and they were worth it, hands down.

I might as well have bought my plane ticket to the 2015 conference the moment I landed in Buenos Aires. In Chicago, I had fun, learned a lot, and got to feel part of exactly the crowd I want to be a part of professionally. The conference became the confidence booster I needed to feel like a real translator. So I was both extremely glad to have made the investment and determined to do it again a year later.

Of course, I got back home without a single new client. The fact that I did not really measure the event in those terms anymore does not mean that I did not spend a few days on follow-up. But I stuck to my priorities and sent thank you notes first to the people who had made the experience so enjoyable. Then I wrote to a speaker that I thought was particularly good. And only after that did I write to 7-8 agencies.

Only a couple of them wrote back, although those included the one I would have considered my favourite. It was the usual thing: I filled out the forms everyone sent me, someone said my rates were too high, etc. The agency I really wanted to work with did not write back after that initial contact, but I remembered what I had heard at the conference and, in early February, I wrote to them again. Perhaps I had gotten lost in the post-conference hustle and bustle, so it seemed worth another try, to remind them I was available. Within two days, I got a phone call and a job, and I have worked with them on many other projects since then.

It looks like my trip to Chicago will pay for itself after all. The funny thing is, however, that after seriously stressing over it for weeks almost a year ago, I no longer really care. Growth is always more important than money. As great as my new client is, what I will always treasure is the fact that my first ATA conference experience brought me closer to the professional I want to be. See you in Miami!

About the author: Veronica Sardon is a Spanish journalist-turned-translator who has been living in Buenos Aires for close to 15 years. Before that, she spent seven years in Britain and one year in France. She has a BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics and a Master’s degree in Journalism, as well as the DipTrans in both EN>ES and ES>EN. As a translator, she specializes in international development, business, and the social sciences. You can learn more about Veronica on her website and blog and on Twitter as @wordassets.

After the Conference is Before the Conference: Tips for ATA Conference Networking Success

cloud_mainAttending the largest annual translation conference in the USA can be a little daunting if you do not know any attendees beforehand. Luckily, my first ever ATA conference coincided with the newly established Newbies and Buddies program initiated by Helen Eby and Jamie Hartz. Here are some tips I picked up and suggestions to help you navigate your first conference.

Prepare Your Conference Strategy

  • Find a conference roommate: ATA staff pointed me to the conference roomie blog (this year’s is at http://ataroommate-chicago.blogspot.com/), which helped me find a lovely roommate who was also my first personal contact at the event.
  • Create your conference profile online: Once it becomes available, you can access the free ATA Conference App, which lets you communicate with fellow attendees and work out your schedule in advance.
  • Social media is your friend: Use Twitter (the hashtag for 2013 was #ATA54) and other social media platforms to connect with attendees before, during, and after the conference.
  • Business cards and résumés: Be sure to have enough business cards (hundreds rather than a handful) with you at all times and also pack a few paper copies of your résumé, which can come in handy for the Résumé Exchange and other networking opportunities.

Make the Most of Your Time during the Conference

  • Plan your day: Set your priorities, e.g. gaining more clients, networking with colleagues, running a successful freelance business. Figure out which sessions are the most suitable for you at this point in your career.
  • Go with the flow: Having said that, Helen and Jamie definitely stressed to also go with the flow. If you’re being invited by another attendee to come along to a particular session, networking drinks or dinner, go ahead and do it. I made some interesting connections during a few of the more unexpected gatherings I joined.
  • Useful sessions If you’re not sure: If the extensive conference schedule seems a bit overwhelming, try a few of these: Buddies Welcome Newbies and the debriefing session (both a must for any self-respecting newbie or buddy!), division meetings (by language or specialization), Annual Meeting of All Members, Résumé Exchange (face-to-face contact with potential agency clients) and the Business Practices mixer.
  • Your elevator pitch: It seems like a cliché, but it is essential to be able to sum up in one or two sentences what it is you do and specialize in. This is especially handy when meeting prospective clients and networking with colleagues.
  • Take breaks: Conference days are long and eventful, so taking a short walk outside the venue or having a coffee in a quiet corner once or twice a day is great for recharging your batteries. While the social events in the evenings can be very tempting, try and have at least one early night to keep your energy levels up throughout the busy event.
  • Don’t forget to visit the trade exhibit: ATA speaker Eve Lindemuth-Bodeux (http://bodeuxinternational.com) recommends that “in addition to attending educational sessions and social events, don’t forget to spend time in the Exhibit Hall. Seeing who is represented will give you an idea of what is hot in the translation industry and what is not, and introduce you to various products that are useful to translators, various translation buyers and other related information.”
  • Ask questions: Your bright red newbie badge is your passport to introducing yourself to other attendees and asking questions that will help you navigate the conference jungle. It also helps you to easily spot other newbies, who are always worth buddying up with. The language dots are another excellent ice breaker, so don’t forget to add them to your badge.
  • Broaden your horizons: Another piece of advice we were given was to attend at least one session that’s a bit different. This year, I went along to one on translating Willie Nelson’s tour blog as well as a hands-on workshop for translators interested in doing interpreting. Not to forget the speed networking, which may sound a bit scary to the more introverted among us, but it was actually a remarkably friendly, fun, and useful event (don’t forget to bring lots of business cards).
  • Take stock: Spend a few minutes every night or morning making notes on the business cards you have received and keeping a running to-do list so you can launch straight into follow-up when you get back home.
  • Quality over quantity: Just like in real life, it is less important how many business cards you hand out and collect; what really count are meaningful connections with people you have something in common with. If someone shares your interests or outlook on life, they are much more likely to trust you and therefore collaborate with you in the future.
  • Indulge your creative side: Attend or participate in the literary After Hours Café or have fun learning some new dance steps, like salsa, line dancing, or Kurdish dancing, at the conference closing party.

Don’t Forget the Post-Conference Follow-Up

  • Organize: Sort and work through your follow-up list starting with the items which require immediate attention. Stay motivated by aiming to do a few every day for a week.
  • Stay in touch: Write a brief follow-up email to your new contacts within a week after the conference and include any information which might be helpful to them.
  • Get involved: Now that you have a better idea of which ATA divisions interest you, join them and find out if you can volunteer for a committee or write a guest blog post.

I had a really fantastic time at ATA54 and am looking forward to being part of the Newbies and Buddies program again this year – this time as a buddy to someone in the next group of first-time attendees! ATA speaker Corinne McKay (http://translatewrite.com/) also enjoyed her conference experience: “At my first ATA conference in 2004, I remember walking in to the opening reception and feeling completely intimidated because I didn’t know anyone. I think that this year’s Newbies and Buddies program was a huge step toward making people’s first conference a rewarding and less stressful experience. I’m excited to see this program continue!”
In case you missed the 2013 event, here is a fantastic short video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72iI5mUA6To. If you have any additional tips or questions, please leave a comment below.

About the author: Gisela Böhnisch is a qualified English to German translator currently based in London, UK. She translates her passion for words, travel, cultural events, and design into targeted campaigns for businesses, NGOs, and cultural organizations that require quality content in German. LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/giselaboehnisch

Conference Wrap-Up

By Helen Eby & Jamie Hartz

As seen on Twitter: from newbie to buddy in three days. Credit for photo: Mary David

As seen on Twitter: from newbie to buddy in three days. Credit for photo: Mary David

The 54th annual American Translators Association conference was held this year in downtown San Antonio, Texas, just a short walk from the Alamo and the beautiful Riverwalk. The conference was a huge success on several fronts: it drew over 1,400 attendees from all over the world, and it was the first year that featured “Buddies Welcome Newbies,” a way for newcomers to pair up with experienced attendees and receive some personal advice and an instant friend. Other new items on the program were the Résumé Exchange and “For the Love of T&I,” where attendees were encouraged to write down why they have a passion for translation and interpreting, and to share it with others.


1.  Buddies Welcome Newbies met with overwhelming support from buddies and newbies alike; with over 160 people registered to participate, the room was filled to capacity, and then some! Some buddies even took on more than one newbie, and during the rest of the conference it wasn’t uncommon to see participants touting green or red ribbons (green for newbies and red for “ripe” buddies) tied to their nametags. It was exciting to see so many newcomers receive encouragement and advice from seasoned translators.

One newbie approached us during the conference and said she had not been able to attend the Wednesday evening event. However, three experienced ATA attendees had approached her and asked if they could be her buddies! She was thrilled, because she left the conference with three solid professional contacts.

The event was experimental in that it was the first time something like this has been done at an ATA conference, and while there are some glitches to work out for next year, we received a lot of positive feedback about it. We were aware of challenges with the pairing process, and because we didn’t have a one-to-one match in the total numbers, never mind language pairs, we decided to go with random pairing on the spot. We did email people with special requests connecting them with an appropriate newbie or buddy ahead of time, and that worked well. The random pairing also made it easier for walk-ins to participate. See some of the feedback we received below.

From buddies:

“I learned as much from [my newbies] as they did from me. It was a great experience.”

“My first conference was last year and I learned by making mistakes. I think this program is a great idea.”

From newbies:

“Only the pairing process could be improved. The rest was almost flawless.”

“Nice way to break the ice and start talking to people—loved it!!!”

As one attendee noted, “This year’s newbies are next year’s buddies!” Be on the lookout for ways to be a buddy to someone else in the industry.

2.  Networking, networking, and a little more networking! From the welcome reception to the conference dance party, the ATA conference focused heavily on networking opportunities. There was an additional chance for freelancers and clients to connect this year at the Résumé Exchange. At this event each person was given one of two stickers to wear on their nametag: “Ready to work” or “Ready to hire.” Tables were set up with signs indicating different fields of expertise, and participants were encouraged to meander and give their résumé to interested employers. Other networking events included the hectic but enjoyable speed networking session and the many division dinners and events which allowed members to get to know others in their fields. The networking you do at conferences like this one will be valuable to you for years to come, so be sure to take advantage of these opportunities!

3.  Continuing education! There were sessions on almost every topic imaginable. Most of the sessions are available on the eConference, but being able to interact with other people interested in the topic in real time is invaluable. Even attending sessions that don’t directly apply to what we do every day can be very interesting! I (Helen) find that some of my favorite sessions are the one or two “impractical” sessions I go to.

4. Follow-up is key. This was one of the points we stressed at the Buddies Welcome Newbies wrap-up session. Having a successful and enlightening conference experience but not following up on the information you received and the contacts you made is akin to planting a seed and then leaving it alone, in the hopes that it will water and nurture itself! Step one for newbies who received a buddy during the conference is to send an email thanking your buddy for volunteering their time to help you. It’s a good idea to write to new contacts you made (probably by email or Linkedin messages) within a few weeks of the conference. Be sure to go through the notes you took and business cards you collected to identify anything that merits follow up.

The ATA annual conference can be beneficial to translators and interpreters at any stage in their careers, and all it takes is one excellent contact or piece of advice to make it worth your while. If you didn’t make it this year, start planning your trip to Chicago next year!