The first month of this year has almost ended. While January generally is a quiet month when it comes to translation conferences, the season for them is now approaching fast. This week the first translation conference of 2016 is to be held in Austin, Texas (USA). From next week on there will be non-stop conferences until the summer months, when it becomes relatively quiet. Then, from September until November the conference flow returns.
Read how to make the most out of translation conferences in this blog post.
The benefits of attending a translation conference
Translating generally is a silent job. Many of us do not regularly meet clients or colleagues in daily life. At the same time it can be difficult to cope with all the changes in the industry or simply have a fresh view on what you’re doing or using day after day. Visiting a translation conference can be a good idea then.
Translation conferences are often organized by enthusiasts who love their jobs and want to bring industry professionals together. That results in sparkling conferences at interesting venues with great themes and topics. Translation conferences offer you opportunities to meet like-minded colleagues from all over the world – all with their own passions, specialisms, interests and views. To make the conferences as exciting and interesting as possible, speakers with a view are invited to share that during presentations, in meetings and during forums. Organizers only select speakers that really have something to say, so often you can expect dazzling presentations from innovative or thought-provoking perspectives.
As the conference often takes two or more days, there are a number of sessions, combined with some great relaxing opportunities. So there’s always something to take home for every participant: if you don’t like one presentation, it is compensated for by another.
And then there is the networking part of conferences. During conferences you’re drawn into discussions with forum members, fellow participants and providers of industry-leading software or tools (who in many cases sponsor the organization of the conferences). There’s a chance to speak to colleagues that work in the same language pair, native speakers from your target language, former citizens of your country who went overseas and much more. So don’t forget to take your business cards and networking apps, and exchange your details. I was even witness to a totally new collaboration between two different translators last year in Warsaw.
How to prepare for translation conferences as an attendee
Conferences often cost money: €200 to €300 is not unusual for two-day conferences. So in order to make the most of it you should do some preparation at home. Some simple tricks can make the conference really pay off right from the start.
Choose the conferences you love
In my overview of translation conferences in 2016 I mostly list translation conferences that are dedicated to professionals. However, the field of linguistics is quite broad. There are conferences for translators only, for interpreters only, for both, for academics and so on.
All conferences are equally interesting, but some have more status than others. Furthermore conferences that aim at academics often do not have any practical sessions on business, CAT tools or other aspects of translator’s lives.
Chose the conferences you’re interested in and leave the others: conferences that are specially aimed to translators often offer the best results in terms of value for money.
Set your goals
Not required, but sometimes helpful is to set goals for a conference. Do you want to learn specific things, like mastering software tools or approaching new colleagues without fear? Write your goals down and have them with you during the conference, so you can make sure that you remember them. It’s easy to forget your personal objectives in the buzz of new information…
Make a selection of the presentations you want to attend
Translation conferences often have two or even three ‘tracks’. These are separate programmes in different rooms each with their own topics and related presentations. Of course you don’t need to stick to one track for the whole conference: tracks are often used to make the conference interesting to as many attendees as possible. As a result, sometimes two interesting presentations are held at the same time – and you can’t split yourself up. It is therefore best practice to make a selection of presentations at home, based on your interests, your learning, professional development goals or whatever other criteria you might use. An overview at hand can help you to avoid queues in front of conference rooms or making last-minute decisions, although you don’t need to stick to the schedule if you simply don’t like the presentation when you get there.
Try to engage with other participants via social media
Many conferences are presenting themselves on social media, like Facebook and Twitter. To make life and preparation a bit easier, they invent their own hashtags, like #tlconference for the Translation and Localization Conference and ATA57 for the ATA Conference. By using these hashtags you can also easily find other attendees upfront, making it simple to share the excitement, discuss topics and keynotes, or make an appointment close to the conference.
This also lowers the bar when you’re at the conference: you can remember someone’s face from Facebook and it is a bit easier then to approach attendees and say ‘I know you from Twitter.’
Using social media websites can also help you during the conference to stay in contact. I’ve been at conferences sharing insights from presentations with other attendees while keeping an eye at the same time on streams from attendees that chose the presentation in the other track. That way you can continue the excitement, keep track of what others do, and help other professionals that were unable to join the conference – I’ve followed hashtags of conferences I was unable to attend and thus kept a bit up to date…
Prepare for networking
Networking is also (a huge) part of conferences, which often offers explicit networking opportunities, like dinners the nights before and after the actual events. Make sure that your contact details are up to date, that you have enough business cards not to run out of them (which is regarded as unprofessional), and that you’ve installed the LinkedIn app on your smartphone so you can easily connect with colleagues that you meet.
Are you not a networking professional, shy or not quite comfortable in the language spoken? Networking is not a requirement, so you can stand back. If you still want to join discussions, simply try to overcome your feelings and talk with your colleagues. You’re a professional in your language pair, not necessarily in the most important language of the conference.
Make sure to visit the city where the conference is held
A translation conference offers a great chance to visit another city – even another country. In order to visit a conference, you should take two or more days off – a great chance then to visit cities and important places around the venue or in the country to which you’re travelling. Sometimes organizations offer guided tours in the city of the conference, like the Business and Practice Conference in Zagreb this year. That way you can relax, learn and network at the same time.
I used my visit to Warsaw last year to take some great pictures…
Guard yourself with knowledge in your field
Of course you are a professional translator, whether specialized or not. No doubt you have knowledge in your field and tonnes of practical experience. Use it at the conference!
Use your knowledge to share best practices, to discuss interesting points of view and to challenge others to share their own views. That way you can promote yourself as a serious translator who has some authority on the topic. That is always much appreciated.
At the same time last year I visited a conference where one attendee interrupted the speakers almost every five minutes with questions that should be common sense for every translator. Remember, no question is wrong – but professional translators expect at least a minimum of knowledge from each other about the topics that are being discussed.
Try to avoid acting as if you know better on every topic. You’re invited to discuss and challenge ideas, but the speakers are invited for their knowledge in the field. Sharing your opinion at every occassion and always correcting others is regarded as unprofessional and irritating. I once visited a conference where one translators stole the show in this way – both speakers and attendees were annoyed.