Lessons Learned from ATA 56th Annual Conference

Wynwood Walls in Miami
Wynwood Walls in Miami // Image mine

This year I attended the American Translators Association (ATA) annual conference after a three-year gap. This post is a quasi-debriefing of what I thought went well this time and what I need to concentrate on in the following years. By its nature, the list will be specific to me and may not reflect everyone’s priorities and experience. I am sharing it here for any colleagues who may find it useful. I will be happy to hear your perspective and compare notes.
Some background is in order. The first time I went to ATA was in 2011, when I was a graduate student in translation. I couchsurfed and had to commute to the venue and missed a few sessions as a result. I was also unaware of the external networking opportunities, which I will cover in this post. This time, I feel I took better advantage of the conference for the following reasons.

Ideas That Worked

Stay Close To The Conference Venue

This was a pivotal decision that enabled me to seize the other opportunities I am going to describe in this post. The hotel where the conference was held charged a hefty sum — especially for a single room — which I found too steep. However, I was able to stay close by without the expense at an airbnb 10 minutes away from the hotel. While it did not provide the same level of convenience and privacy as a hotel room would have, it offered a more affordable rate without compromising proximity to conference events and informal networking opportunities.

Participate In Events Hosted By External Organizations

Before the actual ATA conference, I signed up for the SDL Roadshow, which took place in the same hotel one day prior. Not only did I catch up on the latest developments in SDL products, but I was also able to meet several ATA attendees in a more casual atmosphere, before the conference started. I also attended dinners hosted by Transperfect and Wordfast, where I was able to meet their teams and other fellow translators in an informal manner. A nice perk of these events is that dinner is usually on the host.

Take Time To Network

networkingRather than run through the exhibition hall once, like I did at my first conference, I made a point of visiting it multiple times, taking the time to talk to people and making a note to come back when a person I was interested in meeting was busy. Apart from meeting new prospects and learning about new organizations and technologies, it gave me a chance to reconnect with people I already knew — classmates and colleagues working in the industry.

Things To Improve Next Time

Arrange Meetings In Advance

As recommended on the ATA Savvy Newcomer blog, it’s a good idea to reach out in advance to people you know will be attending to arrange a meeting. While I did meet with one of my translation supervisors at her initiative, my goal for next year is to go through the list of attendees and connect to other people I have not met yet.

Participate In Division Events

dinner plateWhile I found the company-organized networking to be extremely useful, I ended up not attending any informal division events — dinners, tours, etc. I did, however, attend two division meetings and was able to learn about their activities that way. My goal for next year is to become more engaged with my divisions.

Pick And Choose Conference Activities

I was generally pleased with my choice of events and sessions. I skipped some activities that I didn’t feel were relevant to me at this point, such as board meetings. Next time, I would like to participate in some of the events I missed this year, such as TweetUP, and perhaps take a break during some of the events I did see this year, e.g. the closing session.

What are you lessons learned from this year’s conference?

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