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.

Let’s Spring into Action in Miami this March!

From March 16-18, 2018, Miami is hosting what will surely be the must-attend event of the season for professionals of the T&I industry.

Co-organized by the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Florida (ATIF), the Spanish Language Division of the American Translators Association (ATA), and Florida International University (FIU),* Spring into Action will be a three-day event featuring the internationally renowned speakers of Palabras Mayores, along with 25 terrific professionals hailing from different parts of the U.S. and abroad, who will be presenting on various topics.

The four speakers of Palabras Mayores—Jorge de Buen Unna, Xosé Castro Roig, Alberto Gómez Font, and Antonio Martín Fernández—will guide us through the intricacies of the Spanish language, help us improve our technical knowledge of the language and brush up on our basic skills, and provide practical tips for writers and translators alike. The content will be relevant not only for translators, but also for interpreters, journalists, and basically anyone whose job is to communicate in Spanish.

Spring into Action was designed to offer something for everyone.

Even though Spanish is at the heart of the event, the conference is not geared exclusively toward practitioners working in the English/Spanish languages. In fact, of the 35 sessions, almost half deal with topics that may be applicable to other language combinations, are language-neutral, or are suited for professionals working into English.

The offerings are extensive, and attendees will have the opportunity to choose from as many as three sessions happening simultaneously in any given time slot.

Interpreters will be delighted to see advanced workshops to hone their skills, while translators—and dare I say writers and journalists?—will be able to delve into the depths of grammar, terminology, and style, and will even have the opportunity to explore the growing (and controversial) field of post-editing. Check out the program to learn more about sessions and presenters to get you all fired up!

ATA Certification Exam Workshop.

Bright and early on Friday March 16, translators working in the EN>ES combination and interested in taking the ATA certification exam will have the rare opportunity to have their practice tests corrected by ATA graders at the ATA Certification Exam Workshop. Participants must sign up ahead of time as space is limited. You will be asked to translate a 275-word passage and your hits and misses will be used anonymously to create the slides that will drive the workshop. Request your passage by writing to TallerEnMiami@gmail.com. They will send out as many passages as are requested, but only the first 20 translations received will be reviewed and used during the workshop. The first 20 people to send in their translations will be allowed to attend the workshop. This is truly a first come, first serve event!

Registration: Open to all and quite reasonable.

Despite the world-class level of this conference, it is extremely affordable and open to both members and non-members of the ATA. Early bird registration ends on January 30 and is priced at $175 for the general public. Interested in becoming a member of ATIF? Join and you will secure a $100 registration fee until January 30, in addition to a full year of benefits from ATIF. After January 30, registration increases to $250 for the general public and $175 for ATIF members.

The Magic City

Spring into Action will take place at the Modesto A. Maidique Campus of FIU, and information about the venue and accommodations can be found on the event’s webpage.

As if sessions and presenters (and affordability!) weren’t enough reasons, the attraction of Miami as a conference destination is undeniable. Tickets to Miami, a major travel hub, are usually very reasonable, whether you’re coming from anywhere in the U.S., South America, or even Europe, as some of our presenters are! Most airlines offer direct flights from major cities, so getting here is a breeze.

Spring is a fabulous time to visit Miami—not too humid, not too hot. It’s perfect for exploring the Magic City and, of course, its beaches!

Speaking of fabulous, in case you’re still reading this article and not over at ATIF’s website registering for the conference, let me casually mention the welcome reception. On Friday, March 16, after our first day of sessions, ATIF is inviting conference attendees to a swanky reception at one of Miami’s historical landmarks: The Biltmore Hotel. It will be the perfect backdrop to a perfect evening of relaxation and mingling with colleagues and friends.

As I said: Let’s Spring into Action, and see you here in Miami!

*DISCLAIMER: Florida International University’s Translation and Interpretation Program is providing space at the FIU Modesto A. Maidique Campus as a professional courtesy to the American Translators Association’s Spanish Language Division and the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Florida for the event “Spring into Action 2018.” FIU/T&I is not responsible for the content, finances, or administration of the event.

Local Conferences: The Block Parties of the Language Industry

Are you a member of your local translators and interpreters association? Have you ever attended a local conference? There is no question that a large-scale conference like that of the ATA is worth attending at least once in your career, but conferences of its scope come with a price tag and can require significant travel.

Luckily, you do not have to travel far or break the bank to find inspiration, meet new colleagues, and improve your skills and knowledge. To highlight the value of local conferences, The Savvy Newcomer is bringing you a series of guest posts featuring reflections by conference-goers who have kept it local. In the first post, Jillian Droste, member of the Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters (OSTI), reflects on her experience at the organization’s 5th annual conference in Portland, Oregon this summer.

         As small, intimate, and relatively informal events for networking and continuing education, local translation and interpreting conferences are as warm and inviting as neighborhood block parties. Much like a neighborhood gathering, local conferences provide the perfect opportunity for new and experienced professionals to mingle and learn within their regional cohort. This year’s Oregon Society of Translators and Interpreters (OSTI) conference was a perfect example of just this sort of reunion.

An Easy Step in the Right Direction

Neighborhood block parties encourage individuals and families to step outside of their own backyards and join others in a celebration of community. Local conferences achieve this same goal with respect to translators and interpreters, proving especially important to those of us who fit the stereotype of the introverted translator. I readily admit that my comfort zone is at home, with my dogs, working independently. And yet, I know my business will not grow itself in the quiet of my office. Fortunately, local conferences are among the least daunting of those opportunities designed for professional development, continuing education, and networking.

Mentally preparing myself for this one-day conference was far easier than anticipating an event that would take me away from home for multiple days. The event’s affordable cost further contributed to the ease of attending, as did the location. Attending a conference over the weekend in my hometown meant that I did not need to plan for time off work, purchase a plane ticket, or book a hotel room.

This is not to say we should all succumb to introverted tendencies and forever avoid large events. But if this important step in career-building is something you would rather put off out of intimidation or logistical complications, it may be the perfect time to check out your own local events. You can ease your fears, and your transition into this branch of the professional world, by attending a local conference now and working up to a larger event later.

Designed to Facilitate Networking

         Though we may not think of them as such, neighborhood block parties are, at least in part, networking events. Sure, neighbors come together to celebrate neighborliness, and probably good weather, but they also undoubtedly intend to vet neighbors, scout for babysitters, or seek new friendships. Block parties bring people from the same area together in a neutral setting, making it easier for folks to connect. Local conferences work from the same premise.

By volunteering at the registration table at this year’s OSTI conference, I enjoyed a head start in forming new connections with other local language professionals. I recommend this to anyone looking for an extra way to feel involved. As a volunteer, I was immediately connected to the conference organizer, members of the board, and a number of regular conference attendees.

Once the volunteer shift came to an end, I easily found more opportunities to get to know other attendees. Conference-goers enjoyed breakfast and lunch together in a beautiful hall full of friendly faces. Outside of mealtimes, the limited number of presentations at each hour further enabled connection among attendees with similar goals and interests. It is easy to assume that a conference with more workshops is always preferable, but with fewer options, there was less movement between presentations. With this, conference-goers had more time to bond with a fairly consistent group of individuals and were able to engage in more in-depth conversations before and after presentations.

Small Size Means Greater Participation

         Neighborhood block parties often have games and activities to entertain young kids. While there were no games, per se, at this conference, the event’s smaller size resulted in more opportunities for creativity and active engagement. One presenter used minor costume changes to simultaneously represent the distinct perspectives of independent contractors and project managers. Another captured the attention of attendees of an otherwise dense medical presentation about anticoagulants by guiding them through the creation of a human hemostatic plug.

Presenters were able to get immediate feedback from attendees and make small adjustments to adapt their material to issues specific to the actual audience. Of equal importance, the smaller audience size ensured that attendees were able to ask questions and more easily approach speakers after their presentations. Attendees were also able to benefit from more direct contact with fellow conference-goers and presenters.

Conferences as Leadership Opportunities

         Local conferences serve as the perfect venue for translators and interpreters to develop their presence as industry experts by delivering presentations, addressing attendees as candidates for the board, or by filling other essential roles during the conference. As with any event in which people are brought together, whether it is a block party or a conference, leaders are essential.

Beyond requiring leaders to make the event itself a reality, the OSTI conference served as a springboard for future leadership opportunities for attendees, who were encouraged to propose OSTI events and submit workshop proposals for the following year’s conference. Moreover, the other characteristics that made this event so inviting—its small size, the ease of attending, the more casual atmosphere—made the path toward securing a leadership role feel more immediately attainable.

What Are You Waiting For?

There is no doubt that this conference will be a regular event in my fall calendar. In fact, I have already saved the date for next year. If you are a Pacific Northwest translator, interpreter, project manager, or other individual involved in the industry, I encourage you to join us! If you do not live in the area, take a moment to find your own local events. For a small price and minimal effort you will find yourself connecting, participating, and feeling inspired at an event that—truly—is as friendly as a block party. I hope to see you there!

Author bio

Jillian Droste is a Spanish to English translator with an MA in Translation and Interpreting from the University of Illinois. Since earning her degree in 2016, she has translated marketing, academic, and medical texts with an increasing focus on medical materials. A member of the ATA and OSTI, Jillian values continuing education and community engagement.

When not translating, she enjoys interpreting for The Red Cross and a local medical clinic in an effort to increase access to health care. Outside of work, she can be found reading, snuggling with her dogs, or crouched in the dirt struggling to understand the intricacies of first-time gardening. Reach her at info@sentidotranslation.com.

The Extraordinary Translator and Interpreter: A Mini-Survey from #ATA57

In just one week, nearly 2,000 translators and interpreters will convene at ATA’s 58th Annual Conference. Memories of last year’s event abound, and The Savvy Newcomer is pleased to present the results of a mini-survey we conducted at the 57th Annual Conference in San Francisco whose goal was to examine trends in the backgrounds of translators and interpreters, particularly those who have enjoyed long careers in the field.

Some of the aspects we looked at in the survey were: highest level of education, areas of study, how often translators and interpreters transition to these fields from a prior career, and for those who have transitioned, the ways in which their prior professional experience has influenced their careers as linguists.

The survey, and who responded

To conduct this survey, postcard questionnaires were handed out randomly to attendees at the Conference. We received a total of 35 completed postcards, which were processed by our team and evaluated for trends. What we found surprised us. To start, here is a breakdown of the basic demographics of our sample:

  • Translator, interpreter, or both?: 13 translators, 13 translator-interpreters, 4 interpreters, 5 no response
  • Length of T&I career: Average of 13.85 years (range: 1 to 44 years)
  • Language combinations: Overwhelmingly Spanish-English—in one direction or bidirectional (32 respondents, 91.4%); but French (2), German (2), Japanese (1), and Portuguese (1) were also listed in combination with either English or Spanish.
  • Number of language pairs: The majority had one working language pair (32, 91.4%), whereas only 3 (8.57%) had two or more language pairs.

Translators and interpreters appear to be highly educated—well beyond the general population

Some of the most compelling findings were in relation to prior studies completed by those surveyed. Of those who responded to the question “What is your highest level of educational achievement?”, 82.86% (29) had earned an associate’s degree or higher (the remaining 5 respondents had completed university courses, but 4 did not specify whether they had completed a degree). A striking 47.5% (16) reported having earned a master’s degree as their highest educational achievement, while approximately 25%* (9) held at least a bachelor’s. (*The responses of the 4 mentioned above who did not specify their highest university degree suggested they had earned at least a bachelor’s, which would bring the total of bachelor’s to 36.43%.) One respondent held a PhD (1), and another was a doctoral candidate (1) at the time of the survey.

Respondents had earned degrees in 16 different countries (with some overlap): Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Germany, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, Spain, Uruguay, Venezuela, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Prior studies: from A to T

There were a total 29 prior fields of study reported, including T&I. Seven (20%) reported having studied T&I, of whom one held a master’s in translation and another a bachelor’s, whereas the other 5 reported having participated in a certificate or other non-degree program. Most fascinating was the incredible variety of areas of study beyond T&I itself. There was truly a range from A to Z (well, to T for translation, to be precise!): from art history to social work, advertising to computer programming, finance to music, education to philosophy, and interior design to hotel management. We also saw journalism, linguistics, psychology, law, anthropology, and geography. Of the 29 fields reported, 9 had some overlap: engineering (4, 11.42%), business (3, 8.57%), education (8.57%), Spanish or English (8.57%), literature (8.57%), advertising (2, 5.71%), archaeology (5.71%), biology (5.71%), and political science (5.71%).

Getting a leg up from prior careers or studies

Most respondents shared stories of how past professional experience and academia had bolstered their careers in T&I. Below are just a few examples—some expected, and others less so:

  • Engineering and biology (master’s): Academic knowledge leveraged in medical translation
  • Political science, philosophy, economics, journalism (master’s): Benefit of strong research skills and experience reading foreign-language sources
  • Psychology (master’s): Communication and listening skills, understanding of human behavior
  • Chemical engineering, literature (master’s): Grasp of “implicit information” in source texts
  • Finance (bachelor’s): The ins and outs of working as an independent contractor
  • Social work, hotel management, law: Understanding international clients and medical content
  • Mechanical engineering: Context for technical translation
  • Social science, geography/geographic information systems (GIS), anthropology: Appreciation of the importance of language access after working with low-income, at-risk families and inmates
  • Advertising: Marketing one’s own business

Making the switch to T&I

The reasons respondents gave for switching from another career to T&I were varied: While some felt the need for a change and decided to intentionally put their language skills to use, others seemed to find themselves in the career inadvertently and never left.

Some found a need in the community (years translating or interpreting in parentheses; T=translator, I=interpreter, T-I=translator-interpreter):

  • “Somebody heard me at the hospital helping my mom” (13 years, I)
  • “The need of people who speak Spanish” (20 years, T-I)
  • “Increasing need in community where I worked” (3 years, T)

Others had “dabbled” in T&I as part of a past career and apparently discovered a passion for it:

  • “Already working as bilingual aide, I was hired as translator” (16 years, T-I)
  • “Part-time job interpreting, liked it a lot” (7 years, I; 4 years, T)
  • “Through my work as a Spanish instructor because I started proofing” (3 years, T)

Yet others saw an opportunity to make some extra cash, and for some, the work became a lifelong career:

  • “Needed money in grad school” (37 years, T)
  • “Became a freelancer because I quit my other job” (20 years, T)
  • “Plans for retirement” (2 years, T)
  • “At the suggestion of a friend, because I couldn’t find professional work in the US (and I wasn’t going to make coffee)” (14 years, I)

Considering the relatively small sample of 35 respondents, the variation in experiences observed was remarkable, leading us to conclude that the individuals behind the professions of T&I, the paths that led them there, and their specialized knowledge, are as diverse as the languages they speak and the countries they hail from. Aside from their current careers, the one thing they seemed to have in common was an impressive level of formal education.

To think that these 35 individuals make up only a tiny fraction of the attendees at the ATA Conference each year brings into perspective just how magnificent our colleagues are. Whether you have plans to attend a local conference or meet-up this fall, or plan to join the ATA Conference in Washington, DC, you can be sure you will be in extraordinary company.

ATA Conference Recap

By Jamie HartzATA 57th Annual Conference

It’s been just over two weeks since the 57th Annual American Translators Association Conference ended, and we’re excited to report that it was, once again, a blast.

This year’s highlights included Brainstorm Networking, an event where colleagues meet to discuss business practices-related scenarios in a quick but fun setting; the Job Fair, featuring a number of agencies searching for vendors as well as freelancers looking for work; and of course, Buddies Welcome Newbies.

At this year’s session, we focused on topics such as handing out business cards, choosing what sessions to go to, and conference etiquette. At the Wednesday session we also distributed a “passport” and asked Newbies to interact with as many ATA Divisions and local chapters as they could, collecting “stamps” for their passports.

For those of you who missed the Buddies Welcome Newbies introduction session or would like a copy of the presentation, see below:

Our Buddies Welcome Newbies debrief session on Saturday involved an interactive discussion of methods for following up with contacts, with great suggestions from both Newbies and Buddies alike. We’d like to thank Wordfast and Johns Benjamins Publishing Company for their contributions of prizes to the most-filled Newbie passports: a Wordfast Pro license and two translation and interpreting resource books, respectively. We appreciate your support!

Readers, did you attend the Buddies Welcome Newbies or any other great sessions this year? We’d love to hear about your experience!