I spent most of last week at the 64th annual American Translators Association conference in Miami, Florida! TL:DR version: it was great! With 1,300 attendees, it really felt like “the beforetimes,” after a fully virtual conference in 2020, a hybrid conference in 2021, and a smaller in-person conference in 2022. It feels like the ATA conference is back!
Longer version: I posted some photos on LinkedIn, and here’s a wrapup of how things went:
- I arrived in Miami on Tuesday evening and taught a three-hour AST (Advanced Skills and Training, which happens the day before the conference) session on Wednesday. The topic was, “How to prepare for (and pass!) an interpreting exam,” and I think it went well. I’ve taught this twice as a two-hour online class and twice as a one-hour conference presentation, so it was nice to have the extra time to go into more depth on some topics and actually practice the interpreting practice techniques that I talk about in the presentation.
- The main conference ran from Thursday through Saturday, and I presented another session (Aiming for six figures as a freelancer), moderated the Presidents’ Panel (featuring the presidents of the other T&I associations represented at the conference), and participated in a panel with Jessie Liu, Rony Gao, and Robert Holloway, on getting started in T&I. I was happy with how all of these sessions went!
- Then, amid the many opportunities to socialize with colleagues (some of whom I hadn’t seen in person since before COVID), I managed to attend a few sessions! I like to mix things up at ATA, because there is such a huge variety of topics. I went to a couple of interpreting sessions, and a couple of literary translation sessions (my back-burner idea for my third iteration as a language professional, after I someday retire from commercial translation and interpreting). My favorite was probably the panel on bidirectional interpreting (interpreting from and into your native language) featuring Robert Holloway, Laura Burian, and Celine Browning.
- Miami is an excellent city for a conference. The hotel’s specific location (at the intersection of multiple busy streets) isn’t particularly scenic, but it backs directly to the Miami river, and you can easily walk to the more scenic waterfront, or to multiple hip neighborhoods with a lot going on. Miami is definitely a food town! I didn’t have a bad meal while I was there, including at the hotel restaurant!
- As mentioned above, people really came out in force for this conference. Considering the lingering COVID situation, economic uncertainty, people’s fears about AI incursion into our work, etc., I think that 1,300 attendees was a great turnout. Huge kudos to conference organizer Veronika Demichelis, ATA President Madalena Sanchez Zampaulo, and the entire ATA team for all of their work to motivate people to come.
- The ATA conference model may be changing. Personally, I’m almost always pro-change, or at least pro-innovation, so this issue (discussed at the Annual Meeting of all members) didn’t freak me out. That being said, it’s the case that while ATA conferences are usually planned around five years in advance (the timeline required by many large conference hotels), the only conferences currently on the schedule are Portland 2024 and Boston 2025. Current ATA Treasurer John Milan fielded a question about this at the Annual Meeting, and said that while the current conference model is successful, it’s also very expensive, and ATA (like probably all established professional associations) faces the issue of how to attract and retain new and younger members, who may not be as interested in a four-day conference at an expensive hotel. There’s no decision yet on what a different conference model might look like. Just in terms of data points, NAJIT does a hotel-based conference but it’s a lot shorter than ATA’s (preconference workshops on Friday, conference Saturday and Sunday); some of the European associations do conferences at a university in the summer, with no host hotel at all; or who knows what other options might be discussed. Point being, if you want to attend an ATA conference that uses the traditional model, make plans for Portland or Boston, because things may change after that!
I’m really glad I attended ATA64, and it was also great to see so many Training for Translators class participants there!!