Public Outreach Presentations: Change Perceptions Outside our Industry

This past fall, Veronika Demichelis and I had the opportunity to speak about translation and interpreting at Rice University. My hope is that in sharing our experience, you will be encouraged to seek out or accept similar opportunities. It’s important to bring greater awareness to the general public about our industry and to educate potential buyers of translation and interpreting services. We each have a role to play in that.

The opportunity

Located in one of the most diverse cities in the country (Houston), Rice University offers a class called Multilingualism. Rice linguistics professor Dr. Michel Achard teaches this course and approached Veronika about presenting to his students because of her volunteer efforts with the Houston Interpreters and Translators Association, where she serves as VP of Professional Development. Since our experience attending the Offshore Technology Conference together last May had gone so well (read about that here), she invited me to join her for this presentation. This was especially exciting for me because not only would we be presenting at my alma mater, but most of these students were majoring in Cognitive Science, which was one of my two majors. What a small world!

This course was focused on the challenges faced by governments and society as a result of multilingualism. Veronika and I were asked to discuss how translators and interpreters solve some of these problems. Additionally, we saw the students as possible future buyers of translation and interpreting services and felt the presentation could have a real impact in whatever fields they will later choose to dedicate themselves to. It’s always good to have allies.

Preparing the presentation

Have you ever attended a lecture/presentation/conference session and left disappointed because the presenter hadn’t spent enough time preparing or didn’t have you in mind while preparing? How about when the presenter shows up with a few points written on a napkin? Ack!

Here are a few tips to consider when preparing your public outreach presentation:

  1. Get to know the audience and think about how our industry can solve some of their headaches.
  2. Spend time both brainstorming and whittling down your list of topics so that you can focus on quality and not quantity. A good presentation takes time to prepare.
  3. Avoid writing your full script on your PowerPoint slides whenever possible.
  4. Consider using information from the ATA’s Client Outreach Kit (read here for more information).
  5. Practice your presentation beforehand.
  6. Ask questions of your audience and be receptive to audience questions.

We wanted to ensure everyone would walk away feeling like their time was well-spent. Before the day of the presentation, we chatted with Dr. Achard for an hour on Zoom and were able to get a deeper understanding of his class, his students, and his goals for our presentation, as well as learn about some topics he was interested in us exploring.

Objectives

Dr. Achard wanted us to introduce the students to the fields of translation and interpreting. Additionally, he hoped that our presentation would give the students some ideas for the research project they were going to carry out later in the semester. Knowing his goals helped us immensely.

We talked with the students about how translation differs from interpreting and we discussed the variety of different environments translators and interpreters work in; the different types of assignments that translators and interpreters are asked to work on; and the skills, education, and tools translators and interpreters use to perform their jobs successfully.

Our hope was that when multilingual issues come up for these students in the future, they will know how to and why they should find professional translators and interpreters to help them.

In line with Dr. Achard’s objectives, we discussed with the students how interpreters and translators can solve some of the challenges found in societies where residents speak many different languages. The two of us were able to give several impactful examples of challenges that hospital administrators, medical professionals, and non-English-speaking patients face every day in Houston. The students also learned about some of the difficulties LEPs face in the legal system and that courts face in dealing with the wide variety of languages found in Houston. I also spoke about some legislation that a local Texas representative had drafted last year that would have reduced the passing score required to become a Licensed Court Interpreter in Texas. ATA, HITA, TAJIT, and others opposed this legislation and worked to successfully defeat it.

Conclusion

Veronika and I enjoyed the chance to educate these college students about our careers. The students asked several great questions and walked away with a new perspective on some important issues. Veronika and I are hoping that we can leverage the hard work we put into preparing this presentation and use it to do more public outreach in Houston. We do not want this to be a “one and done” effort.

I enjoyed the opportunity to talk with Rice students so much that I decided to sign up as a volunteer associate at my former residential college. The Linguistics Department also recently invited me to join an Alumni Panel. What unexpected outcomes!

While we don’t know whether any of the students left our session inspired to become translators or interpreters, the truth is that I was inspired to turn my dream into a reality after attending a similar outreach presentation in Tokyo while I was wrapping up my time working on the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme.

You just never know how much you can impact others and I encourage you to get involved in sharing our profession with your community. This brings greater awareness to our industry, helps prospective clients know what to look for when hiring language professionals, and is an interesting way to network and learn.

Author bio

Jessica Hartstein is an ATA-Certified Translator (Spanish>English, French>English) and a Texas Master Licensed Court Interpreter (Spanish-English). She holds an MA in Conference Interpreting and Translation Studies from the University of Leeds and graduated Cum Laude with a BA from Rice University.

Prior to working freelance, she held full-time, in-house translation positions at a marketing firm in Luxembourg and an oil and gas engineering company in Houston. Jessica specializes in legal, medical, asylum, and oil and gas translation and interpreting projects. She has been fortunate to have lived abroad in Spain, China, Japan, England, and Luxembourg.

Attending your clients’ conferences

Have you ever been told, “go where your clients go,” “meet your clients face-to-face,” or “attend an industry event”? Have you been interested, but not sure where to start?

Attending your potential clients’ conferences can be very rewarding: you learn new terminology, get familiar with the industry, meet potential clients, and promote your services. The list goes on! However, conferences can be overwhelming, and putting yourself out there can seem intimidating.

Have you considered attending with a colleague? Do you think attending alone would be a better fit?

Earlier this year, Veronika Dimichelis and Jessica Hartstein teamed up and attended an international conference together, and Veronika attended a local symposium alone just a few weeks later.

We hope this article gives you some food for thought on how you can make the most of attending large, non-translation industry conferences and find new ways of partnering up with colleagues.

Choose the right client conference

We chose to attend the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) together since we both worked in the oil and gas industry in the past. This is an international oil and gas conference and tradeshow with 2,470 exhibitors and 60,000 attendees from 100+ countries. We had both attended this event in the past through our former employers, so we knew what to expect and excitedly anticipated running into old co-workers.

Of note, many non-technical companies attend and exhibit at events like this; you can find people to talk to even if you’re not working with technical subjects. Think: communication experts, law firms, and even environmental and human trafficking NGOs.

A few weeks later, Veronika attended a local Human Resources symposium with 2,000 attendees and around 100 exhibitors. She is a trained HR professional; it’s one of her areas of specialization and she knows the subject matter. Given her experience in this field, she found it easy to connect with people and start conversations around common challenges and focus areas.

Fly solo or go with a colleague?

Jessica initiated the buddy approach with OTC. She approached Veronika because she felt like they had similar communication styles and knew she’d be comfortable talking to prospective clients with Veronika. Keep in mind that while you and your buddy may work for yourselves and offer separate services, you are likely to reflect on each other to prospective clients.

In our case, we have completely disparate language pairs, and this meant we would never feel in competition, but teaming up with someone in your same language pair or with your opposite language pair may be the right fit for you.

The pros of attending with someone else are that you may feel more comfortable striking up conversations, you have a chance to learn from the other’s experience, you can vouch for each other’s professionalism, and it may simply be the crutch that gets you to the event!

The cons, if not managed well, could be that you talk to fewer people, take backstage to your colleague, or are less efficient with your time. Toward the end of our visit, we had to split up because the tradeshow was so large, there was no way to get to every exhibit we wanted to otherwise.

Preparation

Rather than just punching the address into your GPS and winging it, it’s worth the effort to think about what your main objective is in attending the event. You are making a time and financial investment to attend the conference, so be strategic.

For example, is your biggest priority to find potential clients? To improve your understanding of the subject matter? To get inspired and find new ideas for services you can offer or markets you can target? Or is it to catch up with former colleagues or to position yourself as an expert in the field? Once you’ve determined your main goal, look at the events with that goal in mind.

In our case, OTC is a 4-day event, but we set aside enough time to be in the tradeshow for about 4 hours. Our hope was to connect with companies who work in Spanish-speaking countries (Jessica) and Russia (Veronika). We individually looked at the exhibitor’s list and took note of which companies we thought would be a good fit for ourselves, and then compared our lists beforehand. With over 2,000 exhibitors located in two different arenas, it’s important to have a game plan!

We also wanted to bump into former colleagues to let them know what we were doing and to get a chance to learn about what they were up to now. We reached out to the people we knew and stopped by their booths. It was an excellent opportunity to reconnect and introduce each other to people who know the value of professional translators.

As Veronika prepared for the HR Symposium, she looked at the exhibitors’ list, reviewed their promotional materials, and took note of companies that work in Russia or offer services that have to do with relocation or international assignments. She also made a list of presentations related to topics that she worked with as an HR manager in the past. The HR Symposium was a relatively small event, so she felt that she had to be comfortable asking questions and contributing to the discussion after the presentations.

The day of the event

Go prepared with an elevator pitch that specifically targets that industry or even the companies of greatest interest to you. Prepare a few good conversation-starters and avoid using T&I jargon. For example, clients are unlikely to be familiar with “source language” and “target language.” A simple “do you have English documents you need translated into Russian?” would probably get you the information you need or start a conversation where you can help them learn more about the industry.

Neither of us is pushy, and while many companies at OTC need or use translation services, we both knew that the exhibitors had their own priorities, and our services were not what they were targeting at this event. Thus, we were respectful of people’s time, engaged in conversations about their international presence, and provided information about T&I wherever we could. In fact, Veronika very politely pointed out to an exhibitor that was trying to present an international face with a multilingual display that they had made a significant error in Russian. We could see him immediately appreciate the need for professional translators, and we’re fairly certain he went back and told his team about that to improve the display for his next tradeshow.

At the HR Symposium, Veronika focused on participating in conversations with other participants, primarily about international assignments and intercultural challenges that arise when operating in different countries. She could relate to examples and challenges discussed and could share her own experience as an HR professional and a translator.

At a “niche” event like this, she really stood out as the only translator in the room, and most people were interested in learning how translation works and why translators want to stay abreast of trends and focus areas in the fields of their specialization.

Conclusion

There is no one right way to attend client conferences. The only thing for certain is that NOT attending is a missed opportunity. Of course, it’s important to set realistic expectations for what success will look like to you.

Is it fair to think you’ll have 10 new and fantastic clients sending you work immediately after one day at a conference? No! Both of us have the long-game in mind and feel that attending client conferences is one component of that.

At the very least, this is a chance to be better informed about your potential clients’ interests, challenge yourself to step out of the T&I bubble, and practice talking about what you do with confidence.

We will definitely be attending more client events in the future, both together and separately. We hope you will, too!

Image source: Unsplash

Authors’ bios:

Veronika Demichelis is an ATA-certified English>Russian translator based in Houston, TX. She holds a Master’s degree in Linguistics and Intercultural Communication and an MBA in Human Resources Management, and specializes in corporate communication, HR, and social responsibility.

She serves on the ATA Membership Committee and is the co-host for the Smart Habits for Translators podcast and Director for Professional Development for Houston Interpreters and Translators Association.

Jessica Hartstein is an ATA-Certified Translator (Spanish>English, French>English) and a Texas Master Licensed Court Interpreter (Spanish-English). She holds an MA in Conference Interpreting and Translation Studies from the University of Leeds and graduated Cum Laude with a BA from Rice University.

Prior to working freelance, she held full-time, in-house translation positions at a marketing firm in Luxembourg and an oil and gas engineering company in Houston. Jessica specializes in legal, medical, asylum, and oil and gas translation and interpreting projects. She has been fortunate to have lived abroad in Spain, China, Japan, England, and Luxembourg.

How to Have a Super First Year in the ATA: Go to Your First ATA Conference

ATA 57th Annual ConferenceWelcome to the fourth and final article in the series How to Have a Super First Year in the ATA. This time, I’ll be talking about why you should attend your first ATA conference this year, what you can expect and some tips for success.

This year’s annual conference, ATA57, will be held in San Francisco, California from November 2-5, 2016. Over 1,500 translators and interpreters will attend the conference, so your chances of networking and creating meaningful connections are pretty high! Not only that, but you’ll have the option to attend over 175 educational sessions. I went to my first conference last year and have nothing but good things to say about my experience.

Registration and Opening Ceremony

From the second you arrive, you’ll feel the warm welcome from conference organizers. Pass by the registration booth to get your nametag, which will have a bright “FIRST TIME ATTENDEE” flag attached to the bottom. I thought of this tag as a ‘get out of jail free card’ to use during the whole conference. Use it as a free pass to ask as many questions as you want, walk up to strangers and strike up conversation by saying “I’m alone and new!” and wander around looking lost without feeling silly about it.

The opening ceremony is the first step to get everyone pumped up and for an extra boost of newbie confidence before diving headfirst into four days of networking and learning. Last year, I was pleasantly surprised by the huge emphasis the ATA President put on welcoming and helping newbies in her speech. She got me to walk out of the auditorium with my head held high!

Buddies Welcome Newbies

As a first-timer, you absolutely must go to the “Buddies Welcome Newbies” session. This program is designed as an icebreaker for those attending the conference for the first – or even the second – time. The session starts off with some tips for success and ends with you being matched up with a buddy, someone who has attended the conference before and who will answer any questions you may have. Your buddy is also there as a kind of support for you throughout the entire four days, someone to say hi to in the hallways or to approach during a coffee break if you’re alone.

Networking Events

Most divisions hold a dinner or networking event at the conference. If you’re a member of a division, make sure to attend whatever it is they’ve planned – you’ll already have something to talk about with other members, so it’s the perfect place to feel at home within the bustle of the conference.

Using Social Media

If you’re on Twitter, follow and participate in the #ATA57 hash tag. At last year’s conference I met someone who is now a dear friend and colleague through tweeting: “I love your tweets about this session, would you like to meet at the next coffee break?”

Financial Worries?

There are plenty of ways to make the conference more affordable. First off, make sure you register by September 23, 2016 for a discounted price. Last year and this year, I’m staying within walking distance of the conference hotel for half the price. Last year I also ate the majority of my meals at the Whole Foods buffet for under $10.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t quite made back my investment in last year’s conference with paid work, but I did manage to get some work from two new agencies and started collaborating with other freelancers I met at the conference on direct client work. My freelance reach has broadened, and I now have a long list of people I can go to when I have questions (linguistic or business-related) or refer work to when I can’t take it on.

Make the Most of it

There’s anywhere between three and five one-hour educational sessions every day and last year I only skipped out on one hour. I also attended every single networking event I could in the evenings. In short, I was busy for about 15 hours every day. My recommendation would be… do exactly this! If it’s your first year, you’ve got to test the bugs and see what you like and what you don’t like. Thanks to last year’s over-effort, this year I know what I’m okay with skipping and what I consider to be my best investment of time and energy.

I was really nervous to be the new kid on the block, but use that “first-time attendee” flag to your benefit. I was so surprised to feel so accepted at the conference. Our profession is full of great, compassionate people who are excited and willing to accept newcomers. I couldn’t encourage you more to take the leap, make the investment and head to San Francisco this 2016!

You can learn more about ATA57 here https://www.atanet.org/conf/2016/ and sign up for the Buddies Welcome Newbies session here http://www.atanet.org/events/newbies.php.

About the author

Molly YurickMolly Yurick is a Spanish to English translator specialized in the tourism, hospitality and airline industries. In the past she has worked as a medical interpreter in Minnesota and as a cultural ambassador for the Ministry of Education in Spain. She has a B.A. in Spanish and Global Studies and a Certificate in Medical Interpreting from the University of Minnesota. She is currently living in northern Spain. You can visit her website at: http://yuricktranslations.com/

Networking at a Conference: Chris Durban on and off stage

By Cynthia Eby & Bianca Dasso

Networking at a Conference Chris Durban on and off stageThis April, I attended the VI Congreso Latinoamericano de Traducción e Interpretación: El traductor después del mañana (6th Latin American Translation and Interpreting Congress: Translator after tomorrow) in Buenos Aires. I was there watching and learning as I often have this year in my job as an administrative assistant for my mom, Helen Eby, and then we spent some time visiting family.

ATA member Chris Durban was also there—as a speaker in the opening roundtable and also for her own presentation: “The Business of Translation: 8 ideas to implement as soon as you exit this room.” Over the three-day conference, I had the opportunity to get to know her as both a speaker and a friend, and it made me more aware of how newcomers to the profession can—and should—take full advantage of opportunities that might otherwise pass them by. In a nutshell: by all means attend official sessions and make note of ideas and concepts that can shape your practice. But also make a point of connecting with speakers—actually going up and talking with them. Because most are far more approachable than you’d think, and genuinely interested in feedback on their talks, which in turn leads to connections and new ideas for you.

I’ll use Chris as an example—keeping in mind that I was meeting her in person for the first time in Argentina.

Chris: The Speaker

When you attend one of Chris’s presentations, probably the first thing you will notice is her energy. She brings life and passion to her speaking, a sense that she really believes what she says.

But what, exactly, does she say? Well, in Buenos Aires her main topic was how to grow your business—a subject that seemed to resonate with many attendees, students and others. Here are the five points she made which I consider most important:

  1. Get out of the house. Go to places where clients gather, like the local chamber of commerce or a relevant association. Don’t be afraid to phone a client. Be proactive in looking for customers and also getting to know the ones you already have.
  2. Look for GOOD clients, not BAD ones. The good ones are reliable, the bad ones are not. The good ones pay well, the bad ones go for the lowest bidder. The good ones will also force you to raise your own bar, which is all for the better.
  3. Don’t go it alone. Have a mentor, a reviewer, or a small group of people in your language pair that you meet with to discuss and compare translations. You need the feedback to grow, and you need the community to remind you that you aren’t the only one.
  4. Go out of your way to help clients and colleagues. Point out mistakes to potential clients in published translations courteously—but be sure to congratulate people on translations that are well done, too. Generosity sets the stage for all sorts of interesting developments: for example, consider at least three freebies you might offer potential clients when you contact them, like translating their “About us” page or bio blurb. Another idea is to tweet tips about difficulties in your field for clients or colleagues, or email them to clients.
  5. Think of your online presence like a resume or a cover letter. Focus on your real specialties. Don’t list everything you’ve ever done, just the ones you know you do well. This is often the first thing a potential client sees about you, so be sure to put your best foot forward.

As you can see, there was already plenty of food for thought in her “official” presentation. But why not take it a step further?

Chris: The Friend

I’ve described Chris on stage, microphone in hand, but who is she off stage? As luck would have it, after Chris’s session I met Bianca Dasso, an interpreting student from Buenos Aires. During a lull in the conference program we formed the beginnings of a friendship with each other—and with Chris. After chatting for a while about various things, the three of us went off to a park to escape the crowds for a bit. There we spent time chatting and joking in a more relaxed environment, surrounded by kids playing soccer, people talking, and the general business of life.

As the daughter of a friend, it was fairly easy for me to strike up a conversation with Chris, but Bianca didn’t have those advantages. I wondered how she went about it. After the conference, she told me this story:

I started talking to Chris after the opening roundtable. I was sitting at one of the tables downstairs next to her, although I didn’t realize it was her at the time. She was working at her computer, frustrated that the Wi-Fi wasn’t working right. And I laughed under my breath. In five minutes, we were talking. We kept talking for another half hour.

The next day, I saw her at the conference again in the morning. As I passed her, she recognized me and said hello. So we talked again that morning.

I really enjoyed taking advantage of opportunities like these, to get to know her and other speakers at the conference. It might seem intimidating to approach someone as prominent as Chris, yes, but she can also sit and talk comfortably like other people. Take-away: You can learn so much from just going up and talking to people who’ve taken the time to prepare a presentation and clearly enjoy what they do. Wonderful opportunities can come from losing your fear and taking the first step.

Like Bianca, I enjoyed the time I spent with my two new friends, and can attest that “even” speakers who have their own professional networks can be very approachable. In Chris’s case, she enjoyed taking time out of her day and spending it with young people, whether she was being asked for advice or talking about something else entirely.

Lessons Learned

First, I strongly advocate taking Chris’s “official” advice to heart. I’ve seen those same tips work in my mom’s business, when, for example, she calls the local hospital and gives them information from the concerns she hears expressed in the community about their services. It helps her develop a stronger relationship with them, as her client, and helps them serve the Spanish-speaking community better—win/win. My Savvy teammate David Friedman has also been applying these principles to help grow his business. He mentioned as an example how grateful two of his clients were recently when he pointed out some typos and inconsistencies in the source text.

Second, don’t put speakers on a pedestal: remember, they are people, too. Don’t hesitate to go up and talk to them. I was able to approach Chris naturally because my mom is her friend. But Bianca didn’t have that advantage, and she still struck up a conversation very comfortably. The message here is to be proactive: do something to overcome your fear, whether it’s helping with the Wi-Fi or something else. Go up and shake a speaker’s hand, and have a conversation—say you enjoyed their talk or ask for clarification on a point or two. Or ask what books or courses they’d recommend.

Finally, don’t think this applies solely to speakers. On the contrary: as a first-time or young attendee at a language event, you should consider initiating a conversation with the more experienced folks as a matter of course. Most translators really are welcoming and happy to share their thoughts. And you’ll be happy you did so when you see how taking the first step can open so many doors.

Header image credit: Unsplash
Header image edited with Canva

Author bio
Bianca Dasso is a 19-year-old Argentine interpreting student in her second year at Universidad del Salvador in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She started learning English in preschool, at the age of 3, and continued taking the regular courses until she graduated from high school. At the age of 8, she began attending English classes at Cultural Inglesa de Moreno, a private language school, where she currently teaches the language to young learners (from 2 to 10 years old). You can contact her by email at: bianca.dasso@gmail.com

Working the Room tips by Chris Durban

By Catherine Christaki
Reblogged from Adventures in Technical Translation with permission from the author (incl. the image)

Working the Room tips by Chris DurbanDuring the ITI conference in Gatwick in May 2013, I had the privilege to attend Chris Durban’s Working the Room masterclass.

Chris always offers numerous great tips about generating leads and finding direct clients. She inspires her audience to be and look more professional and better marketers. Below you’ll find some of the pearls of wisdom she shared during the masterclass.

Required skills for translators

  • Writing skills. A specialization (or two). The ability to translate.
  • Marketing skills to be able to identify and approach good clients.
  • Invest in specialization and be/get passionate about your projects.
  • Don’t start looking for direct clients right out of college. Get some experience first, translating, revising, working with colleagues.
  • Speak your client’s languages fluently and write it well too (invoices, pitch etc.)
  • Read the business press and specialized magazines/journals, as well as your colleagues’ blogs

Before contacting potential clients

  • Make sure you are up-to-date about their industry; the terminology, the technology etc.
  • Research the company and identify key people using industry publications, their websites and social media
  • Read up on the person you’re planning to contact before meeting them.
  • Potential good clients are passionate about what they do.
  • SMEs are easier to approach than big companies.
  • Be prepared to invest time and budget, this is a long-term project.

Attending conferences/events

  • Training events are also marketing events. Pick your events carefully.
  • Find out which events your potential clients are attending.
  • Dress the part and carry professional business cards.
  • Prepare and rehearse your elevator speech.
  • They must think you are one of them.
  • Use the Q&A part in presentations. Identify yourself quickly and ask a pertinent question.
  • Attend at least a few events per year; practice makes perfect.
  • Find [target language nationals] in international client events, they’ll be more open to talk about translation issues.

How to approach clients in events

  • Listen carefully to what they’re saying.
  • Never start with “Hi, I’m a translator, do you need anything translated?”.
  • Be friendly and positive. Never be negative about our profession with clients and don’t complain about bottom-feeders, competitors and CAT tools. When they ask “Do you make a living being a translator?”, say “Absolutely and my clients/texts/projects are super important etc.”, nothing negative.
  • Start with a nice comment as the ice-breaker; thank the organizers for a fabulous day/event etc. when talking/asking a question.
  • Express genuine interest about the industry.
  • To start up a conversation ask: “What did you think of the speaker?”, “Which presentations did you like best?”.
  • After you get them talking about themselves, go into business mode: “Do you export to [X]?” “Do you have any documentation in [language Y]?”
  • Other examples to get them to talk about translation:
    • “I just started to specialize in your industry which I find fascinating. Can you recommend events I should attend in 2013?”
    • “I see your company specializes in [X]. Based on texts I’ve translated recently, some of my clients need those services; can I give them your name?”. Don’t mention your clients’ direct names; your work is confidential.

Few more tips

  • After meeting potential clients: Send email to people you met with terminology questions, things you were talking about.
  • When quoting prices: The right price is not when they agree immediately; they should wince first (otherwise your price is probably too low). If they tell you “That’s expensive”, reply “But it’s worth it” or don’t say anything.
  • Educate clients: Explain that language services are a long-term investment rather than a quick fix

Chris also talked about the rationale behind translators signing their work. Check out her interview in Catherine Jan’s blog: To sign or not to sign? Chris Durban strikes again.

You can also read the German translation of this post by Alain Rosenmund.