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.

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!

Buddies Welcome Newbies at #ATA57

by Jamie Hartz

ATA 57th Annual ConferenceIf you’re a newbie to the American Translators Association, or to translation or interpreting in general, and you’re thinking of attending the ATA conference in San Francisco this November, then this post is for you – so read on!

The Savvy Newcomer Team would like to tell you about an event that was a huge success its first year and has grown by leaps and bounds since – attracting a few hundred attendees! I know, you’re thinking to yourself, “Clearly, this is the place to be!” Well, Buddies Welcome Newbies is back again this year, and here’s the scoop.

Led by Helen Eby and Jamie Hartz, with the support of lots of volunteers, this program is designed as an ice breaker for those attending the Conference for the first – or even the second – time. The ATA Annual Conference is the biggest T&I event in the US, and walking around without knowing anyone can be a bit overwhelming. Think of us as your Fairy Godmothers, who will help you to be fully prepared and make the most of your time in Miami.

The plan is simple:

  • Attend the opening session of Buddies Welcome Newbies on Wednesday of the conference (Nov. 2).
  • After the presentation, which will be jam-packed with cool tips for getting the most out of the conference, Newbies will be paired up with Buddies (the final ratio of Buddies to Newbies will depend on the number of participants in attendance).
  • Newbies and their Buddies make their own plans to attend a conference session together, have a meal together, etc. The number of activities and frequency is up to you.
  • Attend the wrap-up session on Saturday Nov. 5 for even more great information on what to do next and to hear presentations from guest speakers.

Although we often advertise this event as a great session for Newbies (and the benefits for them are apparent), the real stars of the program are the Buddies. We just can’t do it without their help, dedication, and willingness. A big shout-out to all our Buddies! If you’ve been to an ATA conference before – and remember how scary/confusing/overwhelming your first conference was – then you’re an ideal candidate to be a Buddy!

Haven’t registered yet? Here’s the link: http://www.atanet.org/events/newbies.php (Buddies can sign up here too!). In case we haven’t convinced you already, here are some of the concerns that other Newbies have told us are reasons they’ll be attending the Buddies Welcome Newbies sessions (and we’ll be sure to address these at the session): learn new skills, meet people, network, learn more about my field, get tips from a friendly colleague on choosing sessions, I’m introverted, learn how to make the most of the conference.

What you get out of the Conference is up to you, and your Buddy will be a friendly face who can provide general guidelines as to what to do, how to navigate the Conference, and perhaps share a tip or two about the trade. Your Buddy is just a friend who can help you feel less anxious about the conference.

Have questions about how to prepare for the conference ahead of time? Did you know there’s a free webinar for that very purpose? Check it out:http://www.atanet.org/webinars/ataWebinar116_first_timers.php. We also invite you to join the Newbies listserv, a forum where Newbies to the 57th ATA conference can post their questions and concerns: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/atanewbies57/info.

And don’t forget to leave us your comments below to tell us about your experience before or after the Conference!

Anatomy of an ATA Conference

By Jennifer Guernsey
Reblogged from the ATA Chronicle (February 2015) with permission from the author

 ATA 57th Annual Conference

After hearing colleagues raise interesting questions regarding ATA’s Annual Conference, I decided it might be helpful to gather and publish information regarding how decisions are made concerning the selection of the conference venue and sessions. David Rumsey, ATA president-elect and conference organizer, kindly agreed to answer my myriad questions.

Conference Site Selection
How do we identify and select a conference site?

Conference locations are typically selected four to five years in advance. We generally have one to two years for ATA’s Board to evaluate potential locations and then select one of them as the host venue for the conference.

There are several factors that go into selecting a conference site. ATA typically tries to rotate the conference between the East Coast, central U.S., and the West Coast so that the conference will be relatively close to all of the membership at some point. We work with a conference specialist, Experient, to help us identify cities and hotels that can meet our needs. Since it is difficult for a single association to negotiate directly with the conference hotels, Experient helps us in the negotiation process by working directly with the hotel.

Experient looks for locations based on our cycle and then provides a list of prospective hotels. The Board discusses the options and arranges to visit one of the hotels in conjunction with one of the Board meetings. The prospective hotels provide free or discounted accommodations and/or meals for us while we are having the Board meeting and checking out the hotel, which saves the Association money on food and lodging costs. Of the four Board meetings per year, one or two of them are held in potential conference locations.

The biggest hurdle is finding a hotel that can accommodate all of the sessions. The room rate is always a major factor. ATA is in a challenging position because our group is too small for a convention center and often too large for many hotels. The hotel needs to provide 15-20 meeting rooms of various sizes. It also needs to have a venue for the exhibitors, a location for the certification exam sittings, and large areas for the meeting of all members, the closing dance, general mingling, etc. Providing meeting space for 175+ sessions of varying size can be very difficult for many hotels and locations.

In addition to having a conference hotel that will work for us, the host city needs to have easy flight connections. We also look for a host city that has a local ATA chapter to provide logistical support. Finally, we look for cities that have a lot of food and entertainment options and are attractive destinations for the membership.

ATA Annual Conferences are generally held in large, relatively expensive cities: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, etc. Have we considered holding conferences in cities with potentially lower hotel costs, such as Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Omaha, or Memphis?

First, we do consider all types of potential locations for conferences. The larger cities you mention are relatively rare. In the past 15 years, we have only held the conference in New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles once. We have not been in Miami since 1985. However, we have found that larger, more popular locations generally attract more attendees. And greater attendance often means more session proposals from which to choose. We have held the conference in many less costly cities in the past (e.g., Nashville, St. Louis, Phoenix, and San Antonio), and we have typically had lower attendance.

Smaller cities, like the ones you mention, also have several complicating issues with them. They often are not easily accessible by air and, more importantly, the hotels in those locations are often unable to provide the meeting space and facilities we need. Portland, Oregon, comes to mind as one of the places that was recently considered but did not have a hotel that could meet our needs.

Can you describe the financial arrangements we make with the hotels? What do we pay for specifically, and what is included as part of an overall package?

We typically negotiate a deal through our representative at Experient, where the hotel will provide the meeting space, seating, etc., free of charge in exchange for ATA filling a minimum number of rooms (i.e., the “room block”). We pay for pretty much everything else. ATA covers all of the audiovisual equipment and the food and beverages during the meals and coffee breaks. We pay for the labor costs associated with the audiovisual equipment, the registration area, etc. If we do not fill our room block, we can be charged an attrition fee, which is based on a negotiated formula (e.g., percent of profit per unoccupied reserved room). The penalties can vary depending on the hotel.

Have we considered holding the conference in a venue that is not a hotel?

We have discussed holding the conference in other venues, including convention centers and universities. We are typically too small for a convention center. In order to make a conference in a convention center affordable, attendance needs to be in the range of 5,000+ attendees. A good conference for us includes roughly half that many attendees. At a convention center, we would be responsible for paying for all of the space as well as all of the chairs, tables, podiums, lighting, and labor costs that a conference hotel typically covers. The cost for the conference registration fees would skyrocket. People would also be responsible for arranging their own accommodations, which would not necessarily provide any cost savings or might be much farther away from the convention center. There would also be no focal point for the after-hours activities and socializing.

Hosting at universities has been discussed, but most universities and colleges are in session when we host our conference. University settings are also relatively inflexible in terms of providing the right mix of large and small spaces for 175+ sessions and other activities. Attendees might have to walk to different buildings to attend sessions. Arranging food and beverages for 2,000 attendees in those venues would be very difficult as well. Hotel accommodations might be quite a distance from the university, and again, there would be no focal point for the after-hours activities.

Selection of Conference Sessions
What considerations determine whether a particular session is included or excluded from the conference lineup?

Each proposed session is reviewed by the leadership of a related division or committee and by the conference organizer and ATA Headquarters staff. The division leadership provides feedback as to whether the session would be of interest. Headquarters provides feedback on the quality of the speaker based on past evaluations. The conference organizer makes the final decision to either accept, reject, or place a session on hold.

About how many sessions were proposed for the Chicago conference, and how many session slots did we have available?

We had over 400 session proposals and fewer than 180 slots. This meant that more than half of the sessions had to be rejected. It was a very difficult selection process.

When you have to decide between sessions that offer both good topics and good speakers, how do you choose?

Well, if the topic is good and the speaker is good, the decision is easy–accept the proposal! But then if all of the slots are taken, we try to vary the speakers and topics as best we can. It is a nerve-wracking exercise!

Do you have a specific number of sessions allocated to each division or subject area?

No, not necessarily. Our primary concern is to offer good sessions. We do not necessarily accept a poor session just because a track does not have anything in it. It is better to have no sessions in a particular track/division slot than to accept a poor session. It reflects poorly on the division and the Association. Accepting a poor session might also mean a good session gets rejected.

Are different considerations applied to the inclusion or exclusion of a preconference seminar?

There are slightly different considerations for the preconference seminars since attendees are paying considerable fees to attend them. The quality of the speaker is often very important. The topic may be very interesting, but if the speaker cannot present the material properly, the session may not be well received. As for all of the conference sessions and seminars, we typically look for sessions that have a clear focus and practical benefit to the attendees; where people feel that they gained a particular skill or information. We like the preconference seminars to be relatively hands-on.

Selection and Funding of Distinguished Speakers
How is funding allocated for distinguished speakers?

There is a set structure for the distinguished speakers in terms of covering registration, hotel, and travel. It is proportional to the amount of time the speaker is presenting at the conference. Typically, we ask distinguished speakers to present two one-hour sessions or one three-hour preconference seminar. The honoraria that are provided are intended to help defray the costs of attending the session but may not necessarily cover all of the speaker’s expenses.

If I am not mistaken, distinguished speakers used to receive full coverage of their travel plus a small honorarium. Why was this changed?

The old system was very difficult to manage financially. Speakers had their airfare covered, but there was no cap on the cost of the ticket (and therefore no incentive to look for cheaper tickets), and speakers often would not request compensation until well after the conference, which made bookkeeping difficult. With distinguished speakers coming from over 25 divisions and committees, it became unsustainable. A new system was implemented where distinguished speakers are offered a conference fee waiver, one to four nights in the conference hotel, plus an honorarium to help cover the cost of airfare or other incidentals based on their location and the number of sessions they offer. The idea is not to have distinguished speakers make money off the conference, but to share their expertise as professional colleagues.

Presumably there is a limited pool of money available to fund distinguished speakers. If the number of speaker requests exceeds the available funds, how do you determine which speakers to fund and which to deny?

We generally budget for at least one distinguished speaker in each division. However, we do not always accept the proposal from the suggested distinguished speaker, not for financial reasons, but usually because their proposed session is not particularly strong or relevant.

2016 ATA Conference page
How to Write a Winning ATA Conference Proposal (Free Webinar)

Author bio
Jennifer Guernsey is a Russian>English translator specializing in medicine and pharmaceuticals. She has a degree in Russian language and literature from the University of Michigan. She began her career by translating technical monographs and patents while working Russian-related “day jobs” involving Soviet refugee processing and, later, biological defense. After more than 25 years in the translation field, her specialization has narrowed to medical and pharmaceutical translation. She also assists life scientists at area universities with editing and grant proposal preparation. Contact: mailto:jenguernsey@gmail.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

How I got off to a fast start as a freelance translator

How I got off to a fast start as a freelance translator

By Linda Kramer

After being employed for over ten years, I longed for more freedom in my life. During my maternity leave (which here in Sweden is a whopping 18 months) I decided to take the plunge and become a freelance translator. And I’m not going to lie, it was scary. Thoughts of how I would survive without the security of a steady paycheck kept me awake at night. But I longed for something more. I longed for freedom—the freedom to choose where, when and who I work for, the freedom to say yes or no to a project, and the freedom to decide how much or how little I want to work.

Now I have been translating for one year and I have a steady stream of work I enjoy in my area of expertise, I have a strong network, and I have a solid foundation and potential to continue building my translation career. Upon reflection, there are some specific things I did that I felt made a big difference in getting off to a good start and helping me to find my niche in this diverse industry. I’ll share some of my thoughts with you and hope you will find them useful.

Build a network

Although you might find some jobs bidding on online job boards like Proz without leaving the house, I suggest you start working on expanding your network and find someone who can serve as a mentor. Before I even landed my first client, I was lucky enough to be introduced to David Friedman. He was kind enough to sit down with me and answer the numerous questions I had about being a freelance translator. He also introduced me to other local translators so I could get more support, input, constructive criticism and encouragement as I started out. This definitely made me feel more confident as I dove into the translation world. David and the other established translators I met shared some of the mistakes they made in their early days, in the hopes I would not have to make the same mistakes. I still made some, but I definitely got the feeling that I managed to avoid several potential mistakes and establish myself fairly quickly.

I joined my local translators association, the Swedish Association of Professional Translators (SFÖ), as soon as possible and immediately started volunteering to help organize events such as the International Translation Day event in Lund. I realized that being a part of an industry association and getting involved in its activities is a great way to build your network for several reasons.

First of all, you meet other people who know your business, who can answer questions and who might even serve as a mentor. Secondly, established translators inevitably get requests for projects they cannot do on their own, either because they are too busy or because they are unable to (if it falls outside their area of expertise or is for a different language combination). A lot of times, these translators prefer to recommend a suitable translator to their client, as making a good referral builds their own credibility and reliability. So the more translators that know you and what you are good at, the greater the chance you will get useful referrals.

Know your strengths

I went into the translation business with the mindset that I could translate anything. Just give me a text and I will sort it out, being a resourceful gal that knows how to do online research. However, I quickly discovered that I’m not really cut out to handle all texts. My test translations for translation agencies were either hit or miss depending on the type of source text. And I really did not enjoy translating legal or technical texts one bit. But I aced all my marketing tests. I could draw on my own professional marketing background, and they were fun to do! So know your strengths and what specializations you should emphasize to your clients. Face it, nobody wants an all-round handyman to renovate their kitchen – everybody wants the kitchen specialist.

Establish an online presence

Before I even started my freelance business last year, the first thing I thought was “I need to get a website”. More and more people look for products and services online than ever before and most people have come to expect that any professionally run business will have a website. You don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of money to get a fancy website. I created my own for free by just spending a couple of days learning how to create my own WordPress site from a free template. And the time I spent on it has paid off, as I can see from the statistics that a lot of new clients visit my website before they contact me.

Not only does having a website signal to potential clients that you are a professional, it is helpful in other ways too. It is an advertisement for your business that is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And it can answer a lot of the questions that clients might have regarding your language combinations and areas of specializations. A short simple website can serve you well in the meantime, even if you would like to have a fancy website with lots of bells and whistles in the long term.

This has been an exciting first year and I still can’t believe I’m fortunate enough to be able to do this for a living. I hope that you will find my thoughts on starting out useful and wish you the best of luck.

Header image credit: Picjumbo
Header image edited with Canva

Author bio

Linda KramerLinda Kramer is an English to Swedish translator specialized in marketing and e-commerce. In the past she has worked as a marketing coordinator and a project manager for online companies in the fashion industry. She has an M.A. in marketing from Växjö University. She is currently based in southern Sweden, but she has lived in both Irvine, California and Liverpool, UK. You can visit her website at: kramertranslations.wordpress.com. Twitter: @lindakkramer

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.

Buddies Welcome Newbies at #ata56

By The Savvy Newcomer Team

If you’re a newbie to the American Translators Association, or to translation or interpreting in general, and you’re thinking of attending the ATA conference in Miami this November, then this post is for you – so read on!

The Savvy Newcomer Team would like to tell you about an event that was a huge success its first year and grew by leaps and bounds its second year (2014) – attracting over 300 attendees! I know, you’re thinking to yourself, “Clearly, this is the place to be!” Well, Buddies Welcome Newbies is back again this year, and here’s the scoop.

Led by Helen Eby and Jamie Hartz, with the support of lots of volunteers, this program is designed as an ice breaker for those attending the Conference for the first – or even the second – time. The ATA Annual Conference is the biggest T&I event in the US, and walking around without knowing anyone can be a bit overwhelming. Think of us as your Fairy Godmothers, who will help you to be fully prepared and make the most of your time in Miami.

The plan is simple:

  • Attend the opening session of Buddies Welcome Newbies on Wednesday of the conference (Nov. 4).
  • After the wonderful presentation, which will be jam-packed with cool tips for getting the most out of the conference, Newbies will be paired up with Buddies (the final ratio of Buddies to Newbies will depend on the number of participants in attendance).
  • Newbies and their Buddies make their own plans to attend a conference session together, have a meal together, etc. The number of activities and frequency is up to you.
  • Attend the wrap-up session on Saturday Nov. 7 for even more great information on what to do next and to hear presentations from guest speakers.

Although we often advertise this event as a great session for Newbies (and the benefits for them are apparent), the real stars of the program are the Buddies. We just can’t do it without their help, dedication, and willingness. A big shout-out to all our Buddies! If you’ve been to an ATA conference before – and remember how scary/confusing/overwhelming your first conference was – then you’re an ideal candidate to be a Buddy!

Haven’t registered yet? Here’s the link: http://www.atanet.org/events/newbies.php (Buddies can sign up here too!). And in case we haven’t convinced you already, here are some of the concerns that other Newbies have told us are reasons they’ll be attending the Buddies Welcome Newbies sessions (and our responses in the right column):

Learn new skills Skills take time, but you will find lots of sessions that get you started thinking about how to do that! You may even find training programs represented in the booths!
Meet people That’ll be easy! We’ll set you up with a ready-made conference Buddy and you’ll meet lots of other Newbies, too.
Network Go to the Division dinners, the Résumé Exchange, the Brainstorm Networking right before the Business Practices happy hour, and see how you can connect with others!
Learn more about my field 175 sessions… Need we say more?
Tips from a friendly colleague on choosing sessions Your Buddy will be awesome for this! Buddies are there to help you break the ice with this scary crowd for a couple of days. Maybe you will even stay connected even after the conference ends, who knows!
I’m introverted Most of us are more introverted than we care to admit… Good thing you admit it! Just assume that others are also looking for a friend. Your Buddy can help you at the opening banquet.
How to make the most of the conference This is our specialty! We are awesome at this! We not only give you tips about this very thing, we also set you up with a Buddy. And later on during the conference, you can just grab anyone with a re ribbon indicating that they are a Buddy, since they are the friendliest bunch in town!

What you get out of the Conference is up to you, and your Buddy will be a friendly face who can provide general guidelines as to what to do, how to navigate the Conference, and perhaps share a tip or two about the trade. Your Buddy is just a friend who can help you feel less anxious about the conference.

So, get your notepad, tablet or whatever gadget you use for writing stuff down, and get ready to make the most of your conference experience.

Questions about how to prepare for the conference ahead of time? Did you know there’s a free webinar for that very purpose? Check it out: http://www.atanet.org/webinars/ataWebinar116_first_timers.php. We also invite you to join the Newbies listserv, a forum where Newbies to the 56th ATA conference can post their questions and concerns: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/atanewbies56/info.

And don’t forget to leave us your comments below to tell us about your experience before or after the Conference!

Promoting Your Practice in 60 Seconds or Less: Mastering the Elevator Speech

By Lillian Clementi
Reblogged from ATA Chronicle with permission

Promoting Your Practice in 60 Seconds or Less: Mastering the Elevator SpeechSo I’ve made it to the networking event—I’ve even remembered to bring some business cards—and I’m starting to peek out from behind the potted plant when a friendly stranger makes eye contact and asks, “So what do you do?”

Or I’ve settled into my seat at a business gathering and suddenly the moderator says, “I’d like to go around the room so that we can all introduce ourselves.”

Now what? Enter the elevator speech.

Short and Sweet
An elevator speech is a brief summary of who you are and what you offer as a professional, so called because it is concise enough to be delivered during a 30- to 60-second elevator ride.

A good elevator speech is only about 90 words long. It’s a succinct, readymade introduction that you can use at business gatherings and networking events—and at dinner parties, at the bus stop, on airplanes, or in any other encounter when you only have a few seconds to make a connection.

Here is my elevator-speech-in-progress:

“I’m Lillian Clementi, and I help people over the language barrier. I’m the principal of Lingua Legal, a translation practice specializing in French and German. I provide translation and foreign-language document review to select clients in law and business.”

And here is another translation-specific example:

“Hi, my work makes your business shine in Spanish. My name is Maria Esposito, and I’m the owner of Esposito Translation. I specialize in transferring English business materials into clear, readable Spanish to help you reach your target audience.”

Elevator Operator
As I have begun experimenting with my own elevator speech, I’ve identified at least four benefits:

1. It keeps me focused on essentials. I can spit out the most important information about my practice even when time is short. Even when I don’t have to deliver the whole speech, having it in the back of my mind enables me to describe what I do clearly and quickly.

2. It keeps me from talking too much. I am so passionate about my work that I get carried away easily. Stopping after 60 seconds saves me from getting lost in translation.
It also gives the other guy a chance to tell me about his business and ask about mine.

3. It makes networking more effective. When I can give other people a clear, succinct idea of what I do, it’s easier for them to help me make connections. One of the best elevator speeches I ever heard included a sentence along the lines of, “Our ideal client is a small business three to five years old, with five to 50 employees.” That saves everyone a whole lot of time.

4. It calms my nerves. I hate networking functions: they make my skin crawl. An elevator speech is a security blanket. I always know what to say, and I don’t have to waste energy reinventing the wheel every time I open my mouth.

Getting in on the Ground Floor
There are so many theories on elevator speeches that it’s easy to get lost, but a few best practices emerge clearly from the chaos.

1. Focus on the listener. I asked Peter Baldwin, a marketing coach based in Alexandria, Virginia (see “Building Your Client Portfolio” at the end of this article), to identify the most important thing about elevator speeches. His answer: “Make sure you’re sharing something that benefits the listener—not what you do, but what they get out of it.” So you might have different versions depending on what sort of events you attend. For example, at a chamber of commerce function, I might say, “I help people over the language barrier,” but at a bar association function, I might say, “I help law firms take the pain out of foreign-language documents.”

2. Use a vivid image. I once attended a chamber of commerce breakfast where everyone gave an elevator speech. One lady said, “I’m with the Allergy and Asthma Network. We save lives.” I immediately pictured a child with a peanut allergy going into anaphylactic shock. Cheap sensationalism? Maybe. But that was more than two years ago, and I still remember the lady and her elevator speech. (As it turned out, she had an unfair advantage: I learned later that she was Peter Baldwin’s wife.)

For a translator, the vivid image might be: “I make your business shine in Spanish.” “I help businesses tap into global markets.” “I help non-English speakers get the medical care they need.” If all of these strike you as hooey—and they might—find one that works for you.

3. Keep it brief. The shorter, the better. Peter Baldwin again: “If you’re asked for a 30-second elevator speech, make it 10. I’m trying to slim my own speech down.”

4. Relax. Don’t worry about making it perfect: write the best imperfect elevator speech you can and start using it. You will quickly identify what works for you and what doesn’t. A certain amount of trial and error is inevitable: that’s fine. Just get started.

Once you have your elevator speech on paper, make the most of it. You may be surprised to discover just how versatile it can be, and how many doors it will open. For example, veteran translator Chris Durban recently experimented with using an elevator speech at an event for rail industry professionals. “When I simply introduced
myself as a translator, with no elevator speech, I could sense a brush-off coming. But when I led with, ‘I make texts sing,’ people were curious and started asking questions,” she said.

Practice, Practice, Practice
Say your elevator speech aloud until you can deliver it comfortably in any situation. There are plenty of opportunities to practice: with a friend, a family member, the dog; in your car on the way to a networking event; in the shower; while you cook dinner; during a stroll in the park. Peter Baldwin recommends practicing your elevator speech “until you own it.” Getting your mouth around it helps you get comfortable, and makes it easy to recognize anything that feels wrong. “I always practice mine out loud right before a networking event,” he adds. “You can’t over-practice.”

Tux or Tee?
In many places, it is increasingly common for everyone to be asked to introduce herself to a group at business functions, from chamber of commerce roundtables to women’s breakfasts. In formal situations like these, the elevator speech really is a speech. But in less formal settings—chatting with someone at a conference, for example—speechifying is inappropriate. Worse, it will probably make you feel phony and stupid. In these situations, keep your key points firmly in mind, but work them in as part of the conversation.

Inquiring Minds
Here is a secret I stumbled on about six months ago, which Peter Baldwin confirmed when I interviewed him. In informal settings, the first line of my elevator speech is “Tell me about your business.”
Counterintuitive, I know. The elevator speech is supposed to tell the listener about me and my business, right? Absolutely true: but in an informal setting, asking the other guy about what he does is an easy way to kick off a conversation. And since most linguists are incorrigibly curious, asking a question feels safe and familiar.

Stranger Than Fiction
But what happens if the other person starts talking and you never get a chance to talk about you? Believe it or not, in the six months that I have tried this, not one of the people I have talked to has failed to come back to me—in pretty short order—with the question, “But what do you do?” Then I respond with an informal version of my elevator speech. Peter Baldwin says that he does the same thing, and it always works. People love to talk about themselves, he explains, but when you show genuine interest and curiosity, they reciprocate by asking about you.

Going Up
A fine-tuned elevator speech is only one component of the marketing toolkit I need when I venture into client territory, but it has definitely gotten me out from behind the potted plant. I feel less terror when introducing myself to a group, and the time and thought that went into developing an elevator speech have clarified my approach to other aspects of marketing. I now have a clearer vision of who I am and what I can offer clients
—and at last I know exactly what to say when the elevator goes ding.

Building Your Client Portfolio
This article is part of ATA’s Client Outreach Kit, a new initiative designed to help you attract the clients you want by positioning yourself as a resource for translation buyers and users. The kit consists of a fully customizable PowerPoint presentation that you can use when speaking to potential clients, plus a set of practical, standalone skills modules to help you make the most of it. Skills modules include writing and delivering an elevator speech, improving public speaking skills, and handling audience questions effectively. The PowerPoint presentation is free and can be downloaded by ATA members in minutes; the skills modules are also free and are available to everyone.

When you use the Client Outreach Kit, you can score a triple win—promoting your own practice, helping potential clients become better-informed translation consumers, and raising awareness of translation as a profession.
If you are interested in becoming a more confident networker and public speaker, visit www.atanet.org/client_outreach  to find out what Client Outreach can do for you.

More on elevator speeches
• ATA’s Client Outreach webpage includes a module on elevator speeches. Visit www.atanet.org/client_outreach/skill_writing_and_delivering.php  to learn more.
• Peter Baldwin, the marketing guru quoted earlier, is chief marketing coach with The Advisory Board Program in Alexandria, Virginia. He can be reached at pbaldwin@theadvisoryboardprogram.com.
• Browse samples of elevator speeches for many different professions at www.expressionsofexcellence.com/sample_elevator.html.
• For ideas on what to include in your elevator speech and how to edit it, visit www.speech-topics-help.com/elevator-speech.html.
• Learn practical strategies for joining and exiting conversations at www.susanroane.com/articles/conversationskills.html. 

ATA to Launch Client Outreach Newsletter
In early 2010, ATA will launch a complimentary e-newsletter for consumers of translation and interpreting. Building on the success of Getting It Right and Translation: Buying a Non-Commodity, this new publication will appear four to six times a year and will be available by subscription and on ATA’s website. Each issue will feature practical tips and best practices on a specific aspect of translation or interpreting: planning ahead, listening to your linguist, budgeting wisely, and using computer translation tools safely, to name just a few.

Triple Win
Like ATA’s Client Outreach Kit, the newsletter is designed to score a triple win, benefiting translators and interpreters, their clients, and the language professions.

By offering lively, accessible content to current and prospective clients, the newsletter will make the profession more visible and help consumers avoid common pitfalls, leading to more successful translation and interpreting projects for all involved. Over time, translators and interpreters will benefit from a more sophisticated clientele, but you will be able to use the newsletter right away to strengthen your position in working with clients. (“As a matter of fact, the American Translators Association just published a newsletter on this very point. Let me e-mail you that PDF: it’s only one page, it’s very readable, and it may help solve our problem.”)

Got a Pet Peeve? A Clever Solution?
Active contributors to each issue will be acknowledged by name, and organizers hope to include a wide range of perspectives and to get ideas from as any many ATA members as possible. Put on your thinking cap: is there a question you have to answer over and over again? A problem that you encounter repeatedly? A practical solution you have found for a recurring client problem? A tip you would like to share? If so, drop us a line at pr@atanet.org.

Lillian Clementi is a member of ATA’s Public Relations Committee and principal of Lingua Legal, a translation practice based in Arlington, Virginia. She translates from French and German into English, specializing in law and business. Contact: Lillian@LinguaLegal.com.

From ATA’s Divisions: The Portuguese Division

PLD_logo

By Mirna Soares
Member of the PLD Leadership Council

It took me many years to join a community of translators. When I started, I was unaware of best business practices, I missed all the interesting conferences and I never got any specialized feedback. Everything seemed to happen very slowly. Looking back, I realize I could have taken some shortcuts. I wasted so much time reinventing the wheel!

There is no substitute for experience and hard work, but we don’t need to rely solely on our personal experience to grow professionally. We should build on the work that has been done by others, so we can benefit from it and then offer our contribution and complement their efforts.

I joined the ATA Portuguese Language Division (PLD) in 2010. I already had experience as a translator, but I was new to the United States. It was just the right timing to attend the PLD 14th Mid-year Conference in Alexandria, VA. There was a line-up of great presentations, and I learned more about what Portuguese translators and interpreters were doing in the U.S. I didn’t know then that many of these new colleagues would become my friends, talk to me on a daily basis, visit me in Washington, D.C., invite me to their homes and exchange referrals.

I joined the PLD for three broad reasons and I hear these same reasons repeated by other Portuguese translators and interpreters: to congregate, learn and advocate.

Congregate

We are an upbeat crowd! We have a history of enthusiastic and devoted administrators who keep us engaged and welcome members who are excited to help.

Our dinner party and welcome reception at the ATA Annual Conference consolidate what we do all year through social media – we are on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – and through our very active listserv. There has been a consistent effort to create visibility for our members by publishing their profiles and talking about their experiences, and also to connect translators and interpreters virtually and personally. The point of all this is to create a community of professionals who, despite being a very diverse group, have a lot in common.

Networking is, of course, a big part of this community. The more we learn about each other’s expertise and personalities, the easier it is to find a mentor, offer a substitute to a valued client when we are on vacation, hire a reviewer for that difficult gas and oil project, find a booth buddy for a medical conference, work with a translator to adapt a text to another Portuguese variant or even find a compatible business partner.

Learn

Newcomers will be amazed at how many years of combined experience we have! Back in the ’90s when I was starting out, I would have loved to belong to a group like this.

Newbies to the T&I profession can expect a varied group of people from different countries and with different backgrounds. This wealth of knowledge is explored in the PLDATA, our quarterly newsletter. From interviews to book reviews and useful technology tips to articles, this publication is a great source of information for Portuguese linguists.

In the past couple of years, some of our experienced translators and interpreters have offered online webinars, and this initiative has shown a tendency to grow. Every year at the ATA Annual Conference there are PLD speakers covering topics of interest to Portuguese translators and interpreters: literature, subtitling, terminology, legal language – and this is only a small sample of the presentation topics. And this year, as in some previous years, we have a distinguished speaker who will also give a pre-conference seminar.

All this makes the PLD a rich place to grow as a professional.

Advocate

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I am a member and volunteer my work and time because there is a big world out there to be conquered, but individual efforts are just a drop in the bucket.

The translation market, as we know, is changing very rapidly, with the emergence of new players and new roles. This might seem overwhelming to those new to the profession, and it is certainly daunting to many old-timers as well. But by working together, furthering our professional development and having a unified voice, we guarantee that we’ll be part of writing T&I history.

 The PLD keeps Portuguese language translators connected, up-to-date, in touch with the familiar and open to the unfamiliar. I have been a member for only three years and so many of my professional activities are tied to this group. It has been a source of motivation and knowledge, and keeps me connected with my native language.

Our members join because they want to network, keep up with the changing industry, become better translators, promote the profession and the language, and, of course, have fun!

See for yourself. Check out our website (http://pldata.net) and read our testimonials, talk to people and ask about their experiences. I’ll conclude with the words of PLD member Patricia Fonseca, which sum up the benefits of ATA and PLD membership:

“Joining the ATA was my first step toward becoming a professional translator. I have learned a lot from the other members at meetings and via webinars. I am quite happy to see an active Portuguese division. A professional translator needs to keep up with the industry and her working languages, and networking is key.

——————————

About the author: Mirna Soares is an ATA-certified translator from Portuguese into English and from English into Portuguese. She currently lives in Washington, D.C. and works for the Organization of American States as an in-house Portuguese translator and reviewer. Mirna is also the founder and co-owner of Corpora Translations (www.corporatranslations.com), a T&I company in Fortaleza, Brazil. Find her on Twitter @corporatrans for translation-related news.