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.

How language professionals can reclaim their digital lives after Snowden

How language professionals can reclaim their digital lives after SnowdenOur private and professional lives happen increasingly online. However, we often compromise our privacy and put the integrity of data and information at risk. Public and private entities exploit that: invasive ads, tracking across websites, profiling, restrictive digital rights management, attacks on net neutrality, bulk data collection – the list goes on.

It is time for language professionals to reclaim control, especially when handling client data, which can be sensitive or even confidential. This hands-on talk provides practical solutions: from encrypted email and secure wi-fi on the go to safer passwords and having your files available and yet safe.

This session was presented at the American Translators Association’s 57th Annual Conference. Learn more about the conference at http://www.atanet.org/conf/2016 and more about ATA at http://www.atanet.org/.

Header image credit: MMT

Author bio

Alexander DrechselAlexander Drechsel has been a staff interpreter with the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Interpretation since 2007. He has studied at universities in Germany, Romania and Russia and his working languages are German (A), English (B), French and Romanian (C). Alexander is also a bit of a ‘technology geek’ with a special interest in tablets and other mobile devices, regularly sharing his passion and knowledge with fellow interpreters during internal training sessions and on the web at http://www.tabletinterpreter.eu.

You can also find Alexander on Twitter as @adrechsel (personal account) and as @tabterp where he shares all things related to using tablets for interpreting.

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.

Dear newbie,

By Jamie Hartznewbie

We’ve been in your shoes.

In fact, I’m personally still in your shoes. Last year was my first time at the ATA annual conference, and let me be the first to tell you: it’s overwhelming. But take heart! “Buddies Welcome Newbies” is here to help.

I was a first-time attendee and an undergrad student looking to learn more about this “American Translators Association” I kept hearing about. You may be a student like me, or a mom looking to earn some extra money, a business professional interested in a second career, or a professional translator/interpreter who has just never been to a conference before. Wherever you’re coming from, as a newcomer you will have a lot of questions for the real experts: the people who have made it in this field. Here’s how Buddies Welcome Newbies works:

  • On the Wednesday of the conference there will be a Buddies Welcome Newbies intro session where buddies and newbies will be paired up to swap contact information, do some role-playing in preparation for all the real-life networking both parties will do during the conference, and hear some practical advice from me and Helen Eby, my partner in crime (and a very knowledgeable translator/interpreter).
  • During the four-day conference you will be expected to attend one session with your “buddy,” and to have one meal together. This isn’t a lifelong commitment to be mentor and mentee for as long as you both shall live; it’s just for the conference. The experienced translator will be excited to share their knowledge and expertise with you, and you’ll be glad to have a familiar face in the crowd.
  • On the Saturday of the conference there will be a Buddies Welcome Newbies wrap-up session. Here, you’ll reconvene with your buddy to talk about how the conference went and we will provide you with some helpful instruction about how to follow through on the progress you will have made over the previous few days.

Our goal is to provide you with an experienced translator/interpreter who will help you to make the most of this conference and get a good, strong start in your career. With that said, let me point you to two sites that I know will enhance your understanding of the profession and your preparedness for the conference (that is, in addition to this blog, which you should definitely subscribe to—just click “+ Follow” at the bottom right of the page):

  1. The ATA newbies listserv is an online forum that you can join to post any questions you may have before the conference gets underway. It’s easy to join, and you’ll benefit from the questions that your peers ask on the forum as well. Click here to see the group: http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/atanewbies54/info. You can subscribe by sending a blank email to atanewbies54-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.
  2. The ATA conference website has a page devoted to the newbie/buddy sessions where you can register for our event (this will allow us to pair you up with a buddy, and it will give us an idea of how many people to expect). Click “SIGN UP NOW” at http://www.atanet.org/conf/2013/newbies.htm.

——————————————–

Next week: Why be a Buddy? From Helen Eby.

How to Market Yourself at the ATA Conference

By Kevin Hendzel

Reblogged from Word Prisms with permission from the author

I’ve hired thousands of translators and interpreters for over 20 years, many from ATA conferences.   Here’s how to attract attention, stand out from the crowd and win new clients.

You’ve arrived in sunny San Diego to 70-degree, zero-humidity weather and spectacular views from your room of sailboats, cruise ships and bright lights on the bay.   The conference launches tonight with a Welcome Reception that is always packed and energetic.  It’s the first of many opportunities you will have over the next four days to market yourself and your skills to potential new clients.

Think like a translation buyer

A central tenet of successful marketing is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes.   Think like a translation buyer, not a translation provider.  ATA conferences are distinctly different experiences for translation buyers.  They are bombarded and often overwhelmed by the hurricane forces of resumes, business cards and pitches and blasted by a dizzying array of faces, names, languages, events and sessions.   So everything becomes a blur.   When I used to work my company booth in the Exhibits Area, it took about two days before my brain staged a cognitive revolt.  I just wanted to hide under the table, mostly from the resumes.  And I’m a translator. Who likes to read resumes.

So you will want to stand out in this sea of sameness.

Shine like a star

Translators and interpreters are word people, but the world is a visual place.  This is especially true of human decision-making which turns out to be emotion-driven, not logic-driven. That means that you want to make your best impression visually, and persuade verbally, with the objective of imparting confidence, trust and interest in translation buyers.

  • Dress: Clean, crisp and professional.  Your first visual impression is important. People judge your dress emotionally and subconsciously, and are often not even aware of how visual impact affects them.  This is a subtle but powerful factor.
  • Business cards: Original, memorable, flawless and available.  Include your language(s) and direction(s) and multiple ways to reach you (phone, website, Twitter, LinkedIn, FB, etc.)
  • Body language: Much of this is common sense. Smile, don’t scowl; engage, don’t avoid; look at people, not your footwear.
  • Narrative: Gracious, inquisitive and thoughtful are better than the hard sell.  Lead with questions about the other person, finish with their wanting to hear more about you.
  • SubjectsGood translation customers care about the following, and in this order:
    • Expertise
    • Reliability
    • Accessibility
    • Flexibility
    • Value

They care a lot LESS about what translators instinctively and compulsively talk about in sort of an encoded-in-our-DNA way:

    • Education
    • Degrees
    • Countries of residence
    • Training programs
    • Certifications (really)

I recognize that this contradicts a lot of what you’ve been told about how to market yourself as a professional translator or interpreter at ATA conferences.  But it will make perfect sense if you think about what you, as a consumer, value when you are looking for a plumber, dentist, doctor or any other professional service and are spending your own money on them.  That top list is a lot more important and compelling to you as a consumer than the second one is. That’s because the second list is just a description of the provider’s personal history.  The first list is all about the customer.

Focus on your customer’s requirements, not your own life story (leave the highlights of your life story to your resume).  It can make all the difference to a translation buyer who you wish to impress and convince to buy your services.

Five Fails

Translators and interpreters are very good at many things at ATA conferences.  They always get out of the hotel and visit the host city, make fast friends with hotel staff, comb through all the dictionaries, software tools and vendor products, listen politely, share experiences and stories and are uncommonly generous.  The Five Fails listed below are the most common pitfalls encountered at the conference.  You will want to avoid these.

  1. Friends Only.  It never ceases to amaze me how many translators will fly thousands of miles to live for several days in a hotel room in a remote city surrounded by hundreds of potential new colleagues, mentors, advisors and friends only to insist on talking solely and exclusively to…people they already know.   The conference is certainly a great opportunity to meet with old friends and renew acquaintances, but its real value lies in pushing boundaries.  That means moving outside your comfort zone by striking out on your own and talking to new colleagues.
  2. Grousing and Complaining.  It’s a rich and supportive environment to let loose about downward pressures on rates, unreasonable client expectations, crazy deadlines, and a total lack of appreciation among the general public and even clients for what translators and interpreters do.  After all, where else will you find people who understand your professional life quite so well?  We all grumble at times about the vagaries of the profession, of course, but try to resist the temptation of grousing and complaining all the time, especially in the educational sessions or the ATA plenary events.  Negativity tends to breed downward spirals of doom and in its purest form is a stunningly powerful client repellant.
  3. Deadly Speeches.  Making comments or asking questions during sessions should be done in the service of the speaker and the topic.  Avoid the temptation to turn your public comments or questions into revival speeches, angry tirades or public challenges of the speaker’s integrity.  It’s the nature of controversial topics to sometimes incite such reactions, but if you go down this path, be prepared to alienate the audience.  It’s best to seek out a middle ground where civil discussion is possible, even (and especially) if you disagree with the speaker.
  4. Staring at Shoes.  There’s an old translator joke that goes like this: “Introverted translators stare at their shoes.  Extroverted translators stare at everybody else’s shoes.”   It may be true that translators are more introverted than other professionals, but take advantage of the more accommodating environment of your colleagues to speak up and share your experience.
  5. Arrogance Breeds Contempt.  Be careful about throwing your weight around too much.  If you want a lesson in humility – and in how spectacularly talented and accomplished your colleagues actually are – the ATA Conference is great place to learn all about it.