The ATA conference is back, in 3D!
It was a real pleasure to attend the 63rd annual conference of the American Translators Association, held from October 12-15, 2022 in Los Angeles. I’ve now attended every ATA conference since 2004 (yikes!), but this one was particularly special as the 2020 conference was entirely online, and the 2021 conference was hybrid, but the in-person component (which I did attend) was a lot smaller than usual. This year in LA felt like the first “normal” (whatever passes for normal these days!) conference since COVID, and I’m really glad that I went.
Attendance at this conference was about 1,100 people, pretty close to pre-pandemic levels. Having done the job myself back in 2015 and 2016, I can say that ATA’s current President-elect and conference organizer, Veronika Demichelis, did a great job balancing tradition and innovation, which is always a challenge when you’re organizing something that’s been done (literally) 62 times before.
Most of all, it was fabulous seeing so many colleagues in real life after such a long time apart during COVID. It was almost impossible for international attendees to come to the US last year; a major damper on any language-industry event. Additionally, I was really impressed by the quality of the sessions this year; it was like everyone saved up their best ideas during COVID and presented them in LA! I was also honored that current ATA President Madalena Sanchez Zampaulo selected me as one of two new ATA honorary members, the other being outgoing Executive Director, Walter “Mooch” Bacak.
On Wednesday, I presented an AST seminar on direct client marketing, and also attended Michael Schubert‘s AST seminar on working in the premium translation market. I’m a firm believer that as a freelancer, either you’re growing or you’re stagnating, and I came away from Michael’s session with some new ideas for working with high-end clients, some reinforcement of what I’m doing well, and some ideas of things to change. If any other associations are looking for a presenter on this complicated topic, I highly recommend Michael! I think my AST session went well, and it’s always enjoyable to each a three-hour workshop on a topic I love.
Really, every session I attended was worthwhile. My main focus right now is growing the interpreting side of my business, so I mostly focused on the interpreting sessions, and I also presented a session on how to prepare for and pass an interpreting exam. I feel like the interpreting session offerings at the ATA conference have really increased in quality and quantity in recent years. I attended and really enjoyed:
-How to be a better simul partner, presented by Celine Colvin
-Deliberate practice for simultaneous interpreters, presented by Gabriela Siebach
-Interpreting international arbitrations, presented by Tony Rosado and Maria Propato
-Interpreting for the Tokyo Olympics, presented by Rony Gao and Jessie Liu
The non-interpreting sessions I attended were just as good:
-The elusive inclusive (on gender-neutral French), presented by Isabelle Meurville; one of the best French-track presentations I’ve attended in recent years
-How to work with top law firms, presented by Paula Arturo Klammer
-Time flies and you’re the pilot, presented by Ingrid Holm
I felt like this year’s sessions were all a great mix of theoretical and practical information, and honestly, “there were no duds,” as another attendee commented.
This year’s conference hotel, the Westin Bonaventure, was well-suited to this type of conference. The rooms all had enough space for everyone (including enough seats at breakfast on the days I went!), and the lobby was a good place to hang out and talk. I can’t say that the conference made me want to move to LA (I had been looking forward to beach weather and it was cool and cloudy and even drizzling a bit while we were there), but I did dine at some excellent restaurants with colleagues, and there were some excellent food options in the area.
The only thing I didn’t love about this year’s conference was the pre-recorded speeches from the election candidates. Personally, part of what I use to evaluate a candidate for the Board is their “stage presence,” and how they present themselves in front of a fairly large crowd. I felt like the recorded speeches detracted from that, but I’m also glad not to be organizing that aspect of the conference anymore, and I think it’s always tricky to decide how to allocate the time during the fairly lengthy plenary meeting sessions.
This was my first real conference as a civilian, after serving for seven years on the ATA Board, then attending remotely in 2020, then attending the enjoyable but relatively small conference last year in Minneapolis. Honestly, it was a great feeling to not have any responsibilities during the conference and just do whatever I felt like doing, including going to a rhythm and blues yoga class instead of taking care of official responsibilities! Huge congratulations to Madalena and Veronika and the whole ATA63 team on a really wonderful conference, and I’m already looking forward to next year in Miami!
Corinne McKay (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the founder of Training for Translators, and has been a full-time freelancer since 2002. She holds a Master of Conference Interpreting from Glendon College, is an ATA-certified French to English translator, and is Colorado court-certified for French interpreting. If you enjoy her posts, consider joining the Training for Translators mailing list!