11 Tips to Get More Out of Your Next Conference

This post was originally published on the Copyediting.com website on August 19, 2016. It is reposted with permission of ACES, The Society for Editing.

Conference Session Etiquette and Strategy

Conferences offer multiple sessions, so you have many options for interesting topics! Several tracks filled with good presenters sometimes makes choosing what to attend quite difficult. Here are some session etiquette tips and strategies.

  • It’s ok to skip a session. If nothing really appeals to you, or you’re worn out from running around, it’s perfectly all right to take a break.
  • It’s ok to leave a session if it isn’t what you thought or isn’t useful after all. Just slip out without making a big fuss.
  • Don’t be afraid to sit up front! Too many people crowd into the back of the room and don’t take up the front-row seats. Presenters don’t bite! Some sessions fill up and are left with standing room only. If there’s room to stand, then do so if it’s comfortable (or sit on the floor if you need to).
  • Ask questions of the presenter! Especially when they pause and invite questions. Ask thoughtful, insightful, specific questions and really listen to their response. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification.
  • Do not use the Q&A time to tell a twenty-minute story or argue with the presenter. Give others a chance to ask questions, too.
  • Talk to the presenter after the session, introduce yourself, and invite them to connect. Don’t monopolize their time if others are waiting to talk or if the room is being set up for the next presenter; respect the start and end times of the session.
  • Reach out to the presenter afterward via email or social media if you want to have a longer conversation, or find them at a social event and talk briefly.
  • Can’t get to a session because there are two or more that appeal to you in the same time slot? Find a conference buddy, strategize what sessions you will attend, then compare notes. Please don’t stop by a session you won’t be staying in, grab a handout, and then leave.
  • Tweeting during a session is usually allowed, unless the presenter asks you not to. Be sure to use appropriate hashtags, tag the presenter correctly, and quote them accurately.
  • Leave honest, constructive feedback about the sessions you attend. Many conferences have evaluation forms. Please make the effort to fill these out, as they are quite important for future conference planning.
  • Take notes. It’s tempting to think you will remember everything, but during a full conference, you’ll absorb so much information you can’t possibly remember it all.

Take Action

Take two index cards, a blank document, or the first page in a notebook and create two lists: “Great idea for NOW!” and “Good idea for LATER.” On these lists, scribble quick items about what you learn that you want to implement right away or a bit later. Just one line or thought—enough to remind you of what you want to do and that you have more detailed notes on it elsewhere. Consider this your “hot list” of action items. If you keep a readily accessible short list, you won’t have to go digging through piles of material afterward, trying to remember that great thing you wanted to do. These short lists also make a great starting place for strategizing as you travel home from the conference!

Review those cards and your notes and figure out how you will start implementing your new ideas. New file-organization systems, technology tools, online communities, books to read, time-management techniques. . . Start putting these things in place while your energy is up and your excitement is high (or after you’ve recovered but still clearly recall what you learned). Put your enthusiasm to work!

Author bio
Laura PooleLaura Poole
Director of Training
Laura Poole is a scholarly nonfiction editor and the founder of Archer Editorial Services, Inc.; the Editorial Bootcamp training events; and co-founder of Pilcrow Group, Inc. She is the director of training for Copyediting.com.

ATA59: Making the Most of my First Conference

I finally found the perfect opportunity to attend the ATA’s flagship event, the ATA Annual Conference: ATA59 in New Orleans. It was everything I had hoped it would be and more!

As you think ahead to attending your first conference, I thought it might help to learn a bit about how I prepared for, attended, and followed-up on my first ATA Conference. I’m sharing some of what I did to ensure it was a wise professional investment and not just fun.

Conference Preparation

Understanding What to Expect

I wrote to or spoke with at least a half-dozen colleagues to ask them about their experiences and to ask if they had any advice for me. A few tips I got a lot: 1) plan your conference ahead of time, 2) don’t try to do everything, and 3) stay away from enormous events. I followed tips 1 and 2 but chose to attend the massive Spanish Language Division Dinner with 200 other people, and it was great. Already, on the walk over, I bumped into two Texas interpreters I had been meaning to connect with but didn’t know would be at ATA59.

I also listened to a few podcasts about the event. One was the official ATA Podcast, hosted by Matt Baird. He conducted several interviews with candidates running for the board and led an informative episode with ATA President-elect Ted Wozniak about anything and everything to do with the conference. The Speaking of Translation Podcast, hosted by Corinne Mackay and Eve Bodeux, also has episodes dedicated to the topic of ATA conferences. They discussed making firm plans with anyone you want to meet well in advance, mentioned that the CAT tool companies offer their best discounts at the conference, and recommended choosing your shoes very wisely.

Goal-Setting

My ATA Mentor (you can read about my ATA mentoring experience here), former ATA President Dorothee Racette, CT, suggested I think long and hard about what my main goal for the conference was and to plan my conference experience accordingly. She suggested reading about sessions and events with my goal in mind, but also encouraged me to allow enough flexibility to miss a session or two in order to spend time in the Exhibit Hall or to continue a great conversation with someone.

Pre-Networking

Two of the best connections I made while at the conference came from reaching out to people I knew beforehand who connected me to others they knew. These two new connections were a wonderful and professional agency owner, as well as a veteran conference attendee who became my unofficial conference mentor, inviting me to join his group for a few meals, and introducing me to a number of his colleagues. Both of these connections made a huge impact on my experience; I treasure the wonderful insights they shared about their working life and was pleasantly surprised that these interesting conversations even led to some work offers after the conference.

Translators and interpreters are a nice bunch, so if there is someone you have noticed on ATA forums, or whose writing has caught your eye in the Chronicle or on the Savvy Newcomer blog, or that you’ve heard about somewhere else, reach out and start a conversation before the conference.

At the Conference

Events Attended

I thought it might be helpful to see how much you really can pack into a few days, so here’s a bit of what I did while at ATA59.

In addition to thought-provoking educational sessions (there were 180 to choose from during 12 slots), I also attended the Buddies Welcome Newbies events held on the first and last days, the Welcome Reception, the Exhibit Hall, the Mentor-Mentee meet-up, the Annual Meeting of All Members, the Law Division lunch, the Spanish Language Division dinner, the Career Fair, and I even was able to enjoy the “Breakfast with Board Members” by sitting at a table with a number of board members.

Meeting people at these events was not only fun, but talking shop face-to-face in informal settings gave me great knowledge of what others in my field are doing. It also led to fantastic conversations with Savvy Newcomer leaders Jamie Hartz and David Friedman, which ultimately resulted in me writing this article. You just never know what might happen!

Follow-Up

The Buddies Welcome Newbies event offered on the last day of the conference had a lot of great tips about following up. Helen Eby, one of the Buddies Welcome Newbies leaders, tallied up the cost of attending the conference, both in terms of actual travel and conference costs and the opportunity cost of not working on those days. Helen asked what we would spend that kind of money on and then just throw away, never to think about again! This obviously highlighted the importance of post-conference follow-up.

I did personally follow-up with a number of people I met, and that has led to many interesting conversations. That being said, have I made the most of the momentum I felt after I returned from New Orleans? I have not thrown away the experience by any means, but I will admit that I have not done as much as I could to incorporate new business skills I learned, for example. I also recognize that I could do more to strengthen connections made.

Next time, I will probably pre-write a to-do list of what to do after I return and pre-schedule those tasks into my calendar before I leave for the conference, so that when I return, I can head to my office and let my calendar remind me to do everything I know I need to do.

Conclusion

My best advice is to recognize that your conference fate is really in your hands, and it is up to you to figure out exactly what you want out of it and to make a plan for how to achieve that. I hope my experience can give you food for thought about how you can make that happen for you. Attending the ATA Annual Conference was a wonderful investment in my career and business, and I am ecstatic when I think about all the conferences in my future. I hope to see you there!

Author bio

Jessica Hartstein is an ATA-Certified Translator (Spanish>English, French>English) and a Texas Master Licensed Court Interpreter (Spanish-English). She holds a 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. E-mail: jessica@jessicahartstein.com, Website: http://www.jessicahartstein.com/

Linguist in the Spotlight: An Interview with David Rumsey

Following our most recent “Linguist in the Spotlight” interview (with current ATA President Corinne McKay), we could not be happier to have had the opportunity to speak to immediate past president of ATA, David Rumsey. A Swedish-, Danish-, and Norwegian-to-English translator for nearly 30 years, David has a wealth of knowledge about the profession (which, by the way, he fell into by accident!) that he graciously shares with us. Read on to hear his perspective on what it was like to translate pre-Google, why translators should invest in their education, what he has gained from his involvement in professional associations, and the value of venturing out from behind our computer screens. He also reveals some underutilized CAT and Outlook features for organization and productivity.

His “accidental” introduction to a nearly 30-year career

 Like many translators my age, I actually got started by accident. I was a graduate student working in Scandinavian history, and a translation agency contacted the department looking for somebody who could translate a document on a Danish garbage-disposal system. I found the translation projects fun and challenging, and ultimately more financially profitable than pursuing my PhD. Since that point in 1990, I never looked back.

Vodka and heavy-metal music: Some of his most memorable projects over the years

 In the mid-1990s, when single-malt whiskey became a fad in the US, I translated documents from a large alcohol company that had a strategic plan to create a line of premium vodkas, even though they knew that there was actually no difference in terms of the distillation process. Sure enough, a few years later, a whole host of “premium vodkas” arrived on the shelves. Another interesting project was the history of Swedish heavy-metal music. Not that I’m a fan, but it was a very interesting project!

A few of his favorite things about a career in translation

The flexibility cannot be beat. However, the fact that each project is unique and the profession provides ongoing learning opportunities. I love learning about new developments in the field of energy and technology.

A piece of advice for new translators: Never stop learning

Invest in your education and continue to learn about subjects that interest you so that you can write clearly about them as a translator. Being a translator or interpreter is a lifelong learning practice.

What it was like to translate before Google, and a lesson learned

I learned early on, within the first year of my career, not to accept projects that I did not feel comfortable translating. At the time, I felt pressure to accept any and all projects, even in fields that I was not conversant in. There was a lot of “guessing” in terms of the terminology in that case. But this was long before there was even Google. The results were, shall we say, less than satisfying for the customer. I was very grateful that the project manager provided the feedback and was understanding. A lesson learned: if you don’t feel like you have a good understanding of the document, don’t accept it.

Visibility: The value of networking and association databases

At this point, most people either find me through referrals or through various association databases. I still get lots of projects from the ATA database.

Getting out from behind the screen: The benefit of meeting colleagues in person

Being involved with the ATA has helped me to network with people who can provide support and augment my own skills. Even before I became part of the ATA Board of Directors, I attended the ATA Conference and Nordic Division activities regularly. I learn so much from other translators about how they run their business, how they approach translation challenges, and tips for terminology and technology resources. Meeting your colleagues in person is so much more valuable than online, behind the screen. I always come away from the ATA Conference so energized about my profession.

Unexpected lessons learned through membership and participation in professional associations

Obviously I have been involved with the American Translators Association the most. In addition to being a board member and president from 2015 to 2017, I was also involved in the certification program and the Nordic Division, and was a regular conference attendee. Besides the contacts and professional development opportunities in terms of translation, my volunteering at ATA also fostered new skills unrelated to translation that I still use. These can include leadership skills, conflict resolution skills, interpersonal communication skills, time management skills, and even website skills, etc.

I am also a member of the Swedish Association of Professional Translators (SFÖ). I enjoy attending their events because it helps keep me up to date in terms of my Swedish language skills.

Oft-overlooked tools: The power of term management, plus some Outlook hacks

In terms of CAT tools, I think that terminology software is severely underutilized. Although we might not benefit from a high level of repetition between projects from various clients, we might benefit enormously from a detailed terminology program that we can use with regular word-processing programs and not just translation programs.  My MultiTerm database is quite large and I can keep it open separately when working on all kinds of projects. At the very minimum, it’s important for translators to start to collect and manage terminology.

In addition, I really enjoy working with Microsoft Outlook, which allows me to flag messages in different colors to indicate whether they are in the bidding stage, confirmed, or overdue. I can schedule them on a calendar with reminders.  Outlook also allows you to create specific autoreplies and to move messages with specific keywords or from specific people and place them in specific folders or perform specific actions on them. Outlook is an incredibly powerful tool if you work with it as a mail client, and even as an online webmail program.

David Rumsey is the immediate past president of the American Translators Association (2015-2017). Since entering the profession in 1990, David has worked on all sides of the language industry: on the agency side as a project manager at two US-based agencies, on the client side as a project manager in the localization department at a large software firm, and always as a freelance Scandinavian>English translator in the fields of energy, technology and medicine. He works from his home on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada. He can be reached through www.northcountrytranslation.com.

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.