This Monday morning, many translators across the U.S. are either heading home from the ATA conference or are already at home, clearing out the inbox and following up on contacts made at the conference.
As someone who a) is not a Disney fan and b) hails from a city that is the cultural opposite of Orlando, my expectations of this conference were fairly low. Now, I’m thrilled to report that while the conference was of course infused with a measure of Disney-ness (meet you at the golden Mickey in the hotel lobby!), the sessions were really outstanding, the logistics were top-notch and it was very pleasant to renew connections with other translators under the Florida sun.
Jill Sommer and I presented a preconference seminar on “How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator,” which went very well; a great co-presenter is a real asset in a three-hour session! On Thursday, I did a solo presentation on blogging, which was well-attended and seemed to get a lot of people thinking about the possibilities that Web 2.0 offers translators. Michael Wahlster graciously came up to the podium for an impromptu overview of Twitter as well.
A number of this conference’s sessions stand out in my mind as particularly noteworthy, from the absolutely enjoyable (FR>EN translator Sandra Smith’s conversation with Lucinda Karter about the “story behind the story” of Sandra’s award-winning translation of Suite Française) to the intensely motivational (SFT President Chris Durban’s session on developing a base of direct clients) to the highly amusing (François Lavallée’s readings of his modern-day fables in the style of La Fontaine; François is also the founder of Magistrad, a continuing education school for translators in Quebec. I also left the conference in awe of some of the presenters’ knowledge of their areas of specialization (Karen Tkaczyk‘s session on chemical terminology for cosmetics translation).
The logistical aspects of this conference were also really well done (thanks to the ATA HQ staff!). Last year in San Francisco I’ll admit that I felt a bit hermetically sealed in the conference hotel, and the food and beverage service were not, in my opinion, up to standard. This year it was really nice to have breakfast and coffee breaks outside by the pool, a half hour between sessions so that you didn’t have to sprint from one conference room to another, and a centrally located Exhibit Hall that was fun to explore during breaks.
In addition, I’ll note that while many people comment about “how expensive” the ATA conference is (and unless it’s in your home city, there is just no getting around the flight, hotel and meal expenses), I think it’s important to look at the potential return on your investment. First, compare the registration fee to other translation/localization industry conferences, some of which cost more *per day* than the ATA conference costs for three days. Then, let’s say that your total expenses for attending the conference come to maybe $1,500. Plan your schedule so that you will learn enough to increase your income by at least $1,500; and in my opinion, this isn’t at all unrealistic given the quality of some of the presentations that are offered. To be honest, I think that many translators who work primarily or exclusively for agencies could probably double their incomes by applying the direct client marketing tips offered in several of the presentations.
In sum, this was one of my top two favorite ATA conferences, New Orleans being the other one. Next year’s location, New York, promises to attract a variety of high quality presenters too; see you there!