With the 57th annual ATA conference coming up next week, I’m excited to report that we expect over 1,800 attendees (this will probably be our second-largest conference ever, after the 50th anniversary conference in NYC), the exhibit hall is sold out, and many of our Advanced Skills and Training Day sessions are sold out as well. If you’re attending ATA57, here are a few resources and tips that might be helpful:
If you are attending your first ATA conference, definitely check out our first-time attendees page. There you’ll find three things you should take advantage of: Jill Sommer’s free webinar on how to make the most of your conference, information about the Buddies Welcome Newbies program, and the ATA Newbies listserve. I also recommend The Savvy Newcomer, ATA’s blog for newcomers to the profession. All of these resources should help you navigate the conference a little more successfully than I did as a newbie in 2004, when I knew so few people, and was so afraid to talk to anyone, that I spent one evening going to the movies alone. Don’t do that…get in there and make the most of your investment in attending the conference.
Also, remember this: the “for newbies” events don’t just save you from ending up in the wrong room at the wrong time at the conference. They allow you to connect with other first-timers, who may be great contacts for you. One question I get from tons of freelancers is, “How do I find a translation partner/editor/someone I really click with to share projects/someone who works in my specializations but in another language/someone who works in my language, but in different specializations?” Attending the newbies events at the conference can be a great way to do that.
Greek translator Catherine Christaki wrote a great blog post on learning from your mistakes to make each conference better. This post is from 2011, but it’s still a must-read for those attending the conference. Catherine is admirably honest about her newbie mistakes (bringing printed copies of her six-page resume, not following up with people she met at the conference), and offers some great suggestions for how to learn from your own mistakes as well.
To round things out, here’s an excellent post from The Muse, on how to make the most of professional conference in general. They offer some common sense but often-overlooked advice, like putting away your phone and actually talking to people, connecting with speakers on Twitter after the conference, and “paying it forward,” by sharing the knowledge you gained at the conference.
A few closing tips from me, based on 12 ATA conferences:
- Bring plenty of business cards and don’t be afraid to hand them out. If you are actively looking for agency clients, make sure to attend the Job Fair on Thursday evening, bring paper resumes, and have a complete profile in the ATA57 app.
- Do not work during the conference. You’re making a big investment of time and money to be there, and a lot of what you’re investing in is connections. If you just want information, there are lots of webinars you can take advantage of. You’re coming to an in-person conference to take advantage of the fact that it’s in person, so be there in person.
- Please, please, please do your session evaluations in the ATA57 app. Even if you use the app *only* for that purpose, please use it for session evaluations. When you use the paper evaluation forms, an ATA staffer or temp has to enter every single one (including deciphering your handwriting…) into the evaluation database. It’s slow, and expensive, and there’s the potential for human error or indecipherable handwriting. The app avoids all of that, and your ratings are instantly populated into the database.
- Remember that this year the sessions are not being recorded. Do not go to Alcatraz and plan on listening to the recording later. Be there! If you’re interested in multiple sessions during one time slot, pair up with someone, take notes and exchange them afterward.
- Along the lines of “be there,” be mindful of your phone and social media habits while you’re at the conference. First, you’re making a big investment in being there, so be there. Second, respect the presenters’ intellectual property. Never photograph slides or record the presentation without the speaker’s permission; it’s fine to ask whether the speaker can make the slides available afterward (I’m planning to post mine on my blog), but some speakers will not, and that’s their prerogative. Then take really good notes.
- Even big-name speakers really appreciate knowing that you loved their presentation. You may think, “they’ve heard it a million times,” but it still means a lot when someone takes the time to write an e-mail saying something specific about a presentation. I make a point of e-mailing at least three or four speakers whose presentations I particularly liked.
- Lastly: shoes. You cannot network effectively with blisters. Bring at least two pairs of good shoes that allow you to be on your feet all day. I’m a big fan of Lifestride and Crocs (their dress shoes, not the rubber clogs for a conference…) because they’re cute, comfortable, and vegan, but whatever your shoe preference, just don’t risk limping around San Francisco in pain.
And with that, on to ATA57, and I’ll see you there!