Following up after the ATA conference—How to ensure your efforts and expenses don’t go to waste!

by Jamie Hartz

Follow up and follow throughATA 56th Annual Conference #ata56 Miami

Within two weeks

Review your notes from the conference sessions and networking events. Make a to-do list of people to follow up with, and save all the business cards you collected. You can upload them to an electronic contact file, but be sure to save the business cards too in case you want to check them later. Organize the cards by what type of contact the person is—potential client, colleague in your language pair, interesting person you want to get to know more, etc.

Reach out to each of these people within two weeks after you return from the conference. Send them an email with a friendly but professional message. One tip is to include a tidbit of interesting information that is relevant to that person, ask them a thought-provoking question, or give them an update on a topic that the two of you talked about. Be specific about where and when you met the person, and be sure to thank them for their time. Person #1 on your list of people to contact should be your Buddy! Here’s an example:

Dear Mary, it was great to meet you at Brainstorm Networking during the ATA conference. I was really curious about what you said about medical terminology. I’ve been studying in some crazy ways, but I never ran across your method, and you said you had a description written down. Would you be willing to send it to me? I think it will really help me solve some of the translation problems I run into. By the way, would you like to work with me on some of the translations I do? Maybe you could review some of my work, and we could see how it goes.

People tend to appreciate it when you connect them with a good resource or a person they have something in common with, so if you see opportunities, don’t hesitate to make these connections. Here’s another example:

Dear Mary, as I was talking to Joe at the ATA conference, I realized he is working on exactly the same problem you are trying to solve. I think if you and Joe got together you would do great work. You can find his contact info in the conference app. Tell him I mentioned this to you, because I was talking to him about you today. I hope it goes well!

This type of connection is mutually beneficial to both Mary and Joe, and it also makes you look good! Keep an eye out for opportunities to help others.

Within two months

Reach out again to everyone you met at the conference within two months. Ask questions about specific conversations you had or situations they told you about; show that you are interested in them and that you want to keep in touch. This is a good opportunity to briefly share the progress you have seen in your business/job/other endeavors since the conference or how you’ve implemented what you learned and are using it to grow your business/job/other endeavors.

Within six months

Reach out once again to the people who responded to your initial correspondence. Follow up on your more recent discussions and keep the correspondence going so that the person remembers you and recognizes that you are taking an interest in your professional relationship. You can ask if they are going to the conference next year and how business is going for them.

Take some time to evaluate how the conference went for you the previous year and consider what you need to do to prepare for next year (it’s never too early to start thinking about this). Perhaps you need to develop a professional website or set some career goals for yourself. If there were things you felt you could have done differently, either in preparation or during the conference itself, review your notes and consider what you need to do to get the most out of your time this year.

Access the resources you need to succeed

Local chapters and affiliated groups
ATA is affiliated with a variety of local translator and interpreter associations across the U.S. that help professionals stay involved in their own regions throughout the year. This map shows the locations of regional T&I organizations across the country.

There are three types of local T&I organizations: local chapters (official chapters of ATA), affiliated groups (affiliated with ATA but not officially chapters), and other T&I groups. To find out how to join the local T&I group nearest you, click on the aforementioned links.

These local translation and interpreting professional organizations offer the opportunity to connect with people in your profession who live in your geographical region, which means that you will be able to meet in person more often and share advice, stories, and questions on a more regular basis. Local chapters and other groups also hold regular events for networking and professional development. Much like ATA, they also typically provide various levels of membership, which includes a listing in the organization’s directory of translation and interpreting professionals.

ATA Divisions
Each person’s ATA membership includes free membership in the various divisions, which are organized groups within the association for special interests, such as languages or language families (Spanish, Nordic, Slavic, etc.), specializations (Medical, Science and Technology), or service types (Interpreting). These groups convene at their annual meetings during the ATA conference, but they also provide benefits outside of the conference in terms of member forums, newsletters, webinars, and more.

Joining a division is simple. Just log in to your ATA membership profile on the website and click the word “Modify” next to “You belong to __ divisions”. Select the divisions you would like to join and then click “Submit”. There is no limit to the number of divisions you may join.

Once you have joined the divisions of your choice, visit each of their websites to see what they are up to. On these sites, you will be able to sign up for listservs (member forums), newsletters, blogs, and more. You can also visit these sites periodically to keep up with the current news and events for each division.

Other resources

Business Practices list
The Business Practices forum is a lively and active Yahoo group where ATA members can collectively discuss issues related to business practices in the translation and interpreting professions. You can opt to receive an email each time a new post is made, or you can receive a daily digest of the discussions. Some forum members choose to lurk in the background, following the conversations but not necessarily contributing, and others choose to participate in the discussions on a regular basis. Either way, you are sure to learn a lot from your colleagues in this forum.

The Savvy Newcomer
The Savvy Newcomer is a blog that ATA volunteers started in order to provide resources and advice for people who are just getting started in translation and/or interpreting careers. We post articles weekly with relevant content for newbies, and we always welcome feedback and questions.

Mentoring Program
The ATA Mentoring Program matches newer translators or interpreters with more experienced ones in a one-on-one, year-long program wherein the mentor offers ongoing advice and support to the mentee to foster his/her professional growth. Learn more and see if you are currently a good candidate for mentoring here:

Endless possibilities
Don’t underestimate the benefits of other resources you may have in your own backyard!
– Your local chamber of commerce most likely has networking events where you can meet potential clients or other professionals.
– Many cities have coworking offices where you can rent a desk or workspace and meet other freelancers or small business owners.. You can build great relationships and pick up some useful tips this way
– Every town has freelancers—you just have to look for them! Try searching for Meetups in your area (

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.” Dale Carnegie

How to Get the Most Out of the ‘Buddies Welcome Newbies’ Program at the ATA Conference

ATA 56th Annual Conference #ata56 Miamiby Helen Eby

This post contains some of the information we provide in a presentation for the Buddies Welcome Newbies program we hold the day before the conference (Wednesday). Our goal is to help you think about how to prepare for the conference. We hope these tips will serve you well at other networking events too.

Why did we start Buddies Welcome Newbies?

  1. Because it’s fun! We love getting to know you.
  2. Because, truth be told, I was scared when I came to my first conference. And my second. And my third. And people kept saying, “Hi, Helen, so nice to put a face to your name!” No matter. The crowds intimidated me. So this is to give you exactly the kind of help and tips I would have liked to have had back then.
  3. Because we think people of courage should get a nice welcome mat rolled out for them! It takes a whole lot of courage to come across the country to face over 1,000 strangers!
  4. Because we believe we have a lot to learn from those who come to the ATA conference. As Buddies, we expect to learn from you!

Buddies Welcome Newbies is something we dreamed up right at the same time we conceived The Savvy Newcomer. Both are resources for people starting out in the field. One is a resource for networking. The other is an online resource. But the same people run it, which keeps the online resource real. In our mind, they are two sides of the same coin.

Travel light! Carry as little as possible.

  1. Your smartphone, for the ATA conference app.
  2. A small notebook. I like the Moleskine notebooks.
  3. Business cards. Never leave home without them.
  4. Your wallet, because you’ll probably impulsively take off for coffee with someone.
  5. Your room key and ATA conference lanyard/ID. We’ll show you the most effective way to use it.
  6. A pen! Electronic notes are not the answer to everything, folks… We process things differently with a pen.
  7. Emergency rations if you can fit them in, but there is fruit and coffee at the coffee breaks.
  8. Your bag should be as small as you can get away with so you can just grab it in one swoop and move on quickly. You don’t want to be the one who forgets your stuff in the session because you changed your mind about what session you wanted to be in!

What sessions should I go to?

  • I find that I learn a lot from what I expected to disagree with, so I make sure I go to at least one session per conference that I expect to thoroughly disagree with—I mean learn a lot from, of course. Those are great! As an interpreter, I was skeptical about online training. I went to a joint session by some online interpreting trainers, and they convinced me they had worked out important kinks and it was an important option for some of our members.
  • Go to a session about something thoroughly impractical. Relax! Open your mind! After all, this is a conference. You never know when this other material might come in handy. It might even be a session in a language that isn’t yours. I went to a session on literary translation into Hebrew once. It was fascinating! I learned that literary translation skills help us in all fields.
  • I attend presentations of speakers I want to encourage, especially they are my friends. So, go to your Buddy’s presentation, or to a presentation given by someone else you connect with along the way! After the presentation, have lunch or send the speaker an email with your thoughts.
  • And last but not least,, sessions on topics you are interested in should always be on your list.
  • During the sessions, keep in mind that the people next to you are interested in the same things you care about. Watch for people who ask interesting questions and strike up a conversation with them right after the session. Exchange cards with them. Those could be your best contacts! Sometimes I even quietly move to where they are during the session and give them my card to make sure we connect before they leave. I figure if this can happen at the Capitol, I can do it at the ATA, right?

With all these great choices, you will surely be able to fit in at least one session with your Newbie or Buddy, regardless of your respective languages, specialties, etc.!

The conference is hectic, so take time to relax.

  • Go to your room for a nap.
  • Take a walk on the beach.
  • Go to an art gallery.
  • Hang out with a new friend over coffee, during a session.

Just don’t obsess about being there every minute of every day. If you do, you will be so tired you won’t actually be able to take advantage of it. Take breaks, and the best breaks are actually during the sessions. I’ve been known to go off to visit friends who live in town during a session, especially if they are totally disconnected from the interpreting and translation field. Or loiter the halls networking with other attendees playing hooky.

And make sure you sleep well!

Networking is a very powerful tool.

However, it is often misunderstood. You have to use it wisely, appropriately and professionally. Be aware of these guidelines:

  1. Thou shalt not just count cards. It is not just a question of seeing how many people you meet, but of establishing relationships with people you can count on.
  2. Thou shalt give without expecting reciprocation. It is an investment of time, energy, sharing ideas and resources without expecting anything in return.
  3. Skilled networking will put you a step ahead of the competition: People do business with people they know, like and trust.
    • Know what you want and need.
    • Know who you need it from. Anyone you might want to meet or contact is only 4 or 5 people away from you. Your contacts will recommend you to their contacts.
    • Know who you are and what you do
      • Be an expert in your field
      • Be able to clearly and quickly tell others what you do. If you can’t explain it, why would they trust you with it?
      • Become a resource for others.
      • Be the best professional you can be. It will show.

Networking is something we learn how to do. Many of us are shy—even interpreters, who are used to expressing the ideas of others. Here are some clues:

  • Watch those in the room who look effective, and try taking a page out of their book.
  • Get to the room early and stay late.
  • Establish a goal, e.g. today I will hand out three cards to people I had not met before.
  • Start easy, maybe with people you feel it’s OK to not do a great job introducing yourself to. You’ll see it goes great! They will introduce you to others, and you will start to introduce others yourself.
  • Bring lots of business cards, but don’t be handing them out every time you shake someone’s hand.
  • Dress professionally.
  • Wear a nametag high and on the right hand side. As you shake hands, the person’s eyes will be drawn to your name.
  • Stand by the food line. It’s a great place to chat with people.
  • Start by focusing on others. Be genuine. Ask why they are here, how you can help them. After you get to know them, you might find a way to help them, or maybe you will decide to tell them your services aren’t quite what they need, and you might send them to someone else. They’ll remember your honesty. People work with people they know, like, and trust!
  • Be involved. When you commit to something, follow through. Remember, volunteering is a great way to build your reputation as a professional!
  • Be consistent. Attend as often as you can. People like to know they can count on you. People work with people they know, like, and trust!
  • Don’t sound like a tape recorder! It’s great to have an elevator speech, but I will never forget the guy who I noticed gave exactly the same forty-second speech every time he shook hands with people… When he shook mine, I just didn’t feel connected. Being a good listener and asking plenty of pertinent questions will give you a better idea of who you are speaking to and how to present yourself, as well as make you more authentic.
  • If you want to meet someone specific, ask for an introduction. Someone will know someone who can introduce you.


Yes, it’s easy to feel lost. So please, in the crowd of 1500 people, 180 sessions, 3 days of non-stop excitement…

Relax. Remember why you came. Maybe you might have it written in the front of that Moleskine notebook you carry around. Check it and see if you are on track with that.

Keep notes. Most of us don’t remember most of what we think we are going to remember. “Yes, I’ll call you later.” Especially now that people have some much information in the app, it’s easy to trust the app to remember it all for us. I still write it in my notebook. “Just a minute. Let me write this down. ‘Call Mary Jane Brown, from Texas, about how she studies medical terminology.’” Now you can have a way to really get back to her! She will love knowing that you care enough to make sure you don’t forget.

Then… follow up! Write to Mary Jane:

Dear Mary, it was great to meet you at the conference. I was really curious about what you said about medical terminology. I’ve been studying in some crazy ways, but I never ran across your method, and you said you had a description written down. Could you please send it to me? I think it will really help me solve some of the translation problems I run into. By the way, would you like to work with me on some of the translations I do? Maybe you could review some of my work, and we could see how it goes.”

Bingo! You probably got a new partner! Because Mary would rather review the work of someone who respects her opinion and who she trusts than someone else.

Give lots of referrals:

Dear Mary, as I was talking to Joe at the ATA conference, I realized he is working on exactly the same problem you are trying to solve. I think if you and Joe got together you would do great work. Why don’t you connect with him? His contact information is in the app. Tell him I mentioned him, because I was talking to him about you today. I hope it goes well!

Then others will give you referrals, and you thank them:

Dear Peter, thanks so much for recommending me to Client X! The work I did for them was incredibly interesting, and I believe this relationship will last a long time. Thank you so much for trusting me with such a great job! I will keep you in mind in the future, and I really appreciate this! The next coffee at Starbucks is on me, buddy! Let’s catch up and compare notes on the work we are doing.

Just remember this. Networking isn’t just about you. It’s about connecting with your community. As you connect, you will see where you fit in, and will be able to serve others better and wow them.

So don’t start with your pitch before knowing anything about the person you are talking to. Listen first. Look for ways to be helpful. You’ll get your chance. And enjoy the process of getting to know others.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.” -Dale Carnegie

We hope these pointers help you in your networking events as you visit local conferences with your ATA chapters, ATA affiliates and other groups, local chambers of commerce, and other groups you might decide to go hang out with. Go connect!

How to prepare for the ATA conference

How to prepare for the ATA conference #ata56What sessions should I go to? What should I do to prepare? How can I find what I’m looking for? What should I even be looking for?

A few days ago, one of my newbies sent me a list of great questions about preparing for the ATA conference. After writing down my answers, I started to wonder if these thoughts and ideas might be helpful to others, too. I remember how hard it is not to know what to expect, especially if you’ve never been to an ATA conference before! So here are my thoughts based on what I’ve learned at three ATA conferences.

Sessions and Goals

What sessions should I go to? What should I be looking for?

I’ve personally found it helpful to go to the conference with one or two main questions or goals in mind. For example, is it about exploring certain aspects of translation, or a certain topic? Is it about meeting new people? At my first conference, I attended sessions on anything and everything because I didn’t yet know where I wanted to specialize or even what was possible in the world of translation. While that sounds random, it actually helped me to very quickly get a feel for which areas I thought were interesting and which areas weren’t, which was what I needed at that stage of my career. At my next conference, I attended a lot of sessions in the “Independent Contractor” specialization, because I wanted to become more professional in certain aspects of running my own business. Last conference, I mainly wanted to find like-minded people and possible collaborators I could work together with on certain projects. But these are just examples. I’m sure you have your own questions and goals in mind!

What about intermediate or advanced sessions if I am a beginner?

If you are interested in an intermediate or advanced session, don’t hold back! You will still gain valuable insights, even in fields entirely new to you. You might also get to know other people who work in that area, which can be very helpful. If you happen to find that a session deals with very detailed questions that are not relevant to you, there’s always the option of quietly leaving the room after a few minutes and attending a different session instead.

What about note-taking?

Computers, tablets, and paper notebooks are ubiquitous throughout the conference, and what you choose is really up to you. I personally think big laptops are heavy and cumbersome to carry around, so if you want to use a computer, I’d recommend using a smaller laptop or a tablet. Paper notebooks are easier to pull out on a whim or to use in crowded auditoriums where you might not have much space, so I would definitely bring one.

Meeting new people

Before the conference

One of the best pieces of advice I ever heard about attending conferences was to select one or two people that you would really like to get to know and to send them an email in advance asking if they would be willing to meet up during the conference. I’ve done this once before, and it was wonderful. My contact was very welcoming and interested in me and my questions. We had an instant connection that lasted well beyond the conference. If you want to do this, be specific: Let the person know why you would like to connect and what you would like to talk about. Suggest a timeframe (maybe twenty minutes), so they know you’re not planning to take up all their time. The list of attendees can be very helpful here. Oh, and if you haven’t downloaded the conference app or haven’t filled out your own attendee profile yet, go and do it now!

At the conference

The nice thing about the conference is that just about everyone is looking to make new connections. People chat literally everywhere—in the lunch line, while waiting for a session to start, and even while looking for the bathrooms. Nametags, which specify hometown and language combination using color-coded dots, make it easy to find other people in your language combination or area, and they also offer a great conversation starter for anyone. If you don’t know what language combination a certain color stands for, just ask! If you are by yourself, it helps to look for other people who are by themselves or who seem to be looking around. Quite likely, they are looking for someone to talk to as well.

What about agencies?

Many translators go to the conference hoping, among other things, to connect with potential agency clients. And many agencies attend the conference to connect with qualified translators. It’s a great way to find new work, but don’t let it stress you out. Remember, agency representatives are people too. Some of my most interesting conversations with agency representatives or tool makers occurred outside of sessions and organized events, when everyone was more relaxed. And always remember that there are many agency owners and representatives among the attendees who don’t have a table in the exhibit hall. Seeking out specialized, boutique agencies can often lead to more interesting and rewarding work, so you should not count them out. Here, too, the attendee list can be a great tool to discover people you would like to meet.

If you go to the resume exchange or the exhibit hall, always keep in mind that this is not just an opportunity for agencies to screen translators. It’s also your chance to screen the agencies in order to find which ones you would like to work with! If finding new agency clients is a goal, following up with any interesting contacts you make is especially important. As I can (very regretfully) attest, that bag full of business cards means nothing if you never sit down and actually write to them afterwards…

A few more thoughts on following up…

For me, follow-up has always been one of the biggest challenges, and I’m still working on it! I’ve learned that I need to set aside a time after the conference where I do nothing but go through my business cards and notes and write a quick personal message to anyone I would like to stay in touch with. Getting started during the conference can make the task less daunting at home. As a minimum, I recommend sitting down each night to look through the business cards you received and make a note of where you met each person and what you talked about (or to make notes on the cards themselves whenever you have the chance). It’s amazing how fast you can forget when you talk to so many people in a day!

For the upcoming conference, I am also planning to keep a separate section in my notes to write down any ideas about things I want to implement, follow up on, or do after the conference, no matter when or where these thoughts occur to me. That way, my ideas and to-do list items will all be waiting for me in one place when I get home, instead of being spread between numerous sets of session notes, where they might never see the light of day again.

…and the unexpected

Every single conference I’ve attended has given me something unexpected. A sudden insight, a meeting with wonderful people, a new idea that resonates with me, and lots of motivation. All the goals and questions we might prepare before the conference are just meant to help us look in the right direction, to open our minds to the unpredictable, to be able to actually see the things that are relevant to us, and to find unexpected answers and new questions that will take us further. If we already knew what we were looking for, we wouldn’t have to go and find out! So my final piece of advice would be to soak it all up, to go with the flow, and most of all, have a LOT of fun!

—See you in Miami! 🙂 (And if you happen to see me, feel free to grab me and say hi!)

Author bio

Lea Rennert

Lea Rennert is an ATA-certified English to German and German to English translator specialized in corporate communications and PR as well as creative translations, primarily in the entertainment and film sectors. Lea grew up bilingually in Vienna, Austria, and moved to the U.S. in 2011. She holds an economics degree from the Vienna University of Economics and Business. Lea is active in the ATA and serves as a grader for the Eng>Ger and Ger>Eng ATA certification exams. She lives in Bloomington, Indiana.