One of the things we do as translators to keep ourselves up-to-date with the industry is attend translation conferences.
Before the Conference
If you want to take complete advantage of your attendance at a translation conference, the most important thing you can do is prepare before you ever get on the plane or in the car on your way to the conference.
Why is this?
By preparing before you even get there, you won’t be roaming around wondering what to do while you’re at the conference and instead make the most of your time.
Understand the kind of conference you’re going to be attending.
Is it a translation conference focused mainly on education?
Will you be improving your translation skills? Or will you instead be learning ways to improve your translation business?
Is the conference mainly a chance for you to network with fellow translators or with businesses in your area of specialization?
Answering this question is the first step you should take because this will guide the rest of your preparation for the conference.
Make a list of people and/or organizations that will be in attendance.
It doesn’t matter what kind of conference you’re attending, you still need to take advantage of the opportunity to rub shoulders and make contact with potential colleagues, peers, and clients.
It’s nearly universally agreed upon in business that the more people you have in your business and industry circles, the more opportunities you’ll be presented with.
Unfortunately, most people tend to do the whole ‘networking’ thing the wrong way. They assume that all they need to do is merely show up to an event where there will be people, and then just go around the room trying to introduce themselves to as many people as possible.
This is an incredible waste of time. Especially when you only have a few days at a conference and need to make the most of your time.
Which is why before you go to the conference, figure out who is going to be there that you want to meet.
And how do you figure that out?
Well, many conference sites list attendees or business sponsors. Look for profiles on sites like LinkedIn or Twitter that mention their attendance at the upcoming conference.
Once you have an idea of who’s going to be there that you also want to talk to, it’s time to make an actual list of those people.
Don’t do this in your mind. Don’t do this in your head.
Actually get out a piece of paper and a pencil and make a list. (If you want to do it on your phone, that’s fine, too.)
The reason you do this is because of the next step.
Write down potential questions to ask.
Once you have a list of people you want to speak to, it’s time to break out the index cards. On the top of each card, write down the name of the person you are interested in talking to.
Below the name of each person, write a list of questions that you think you might want to ask
Use index cards to write down potential questions you might want to ask of each person, or things you may want to bring up to the person.
This goes with any mentors you might want to contact as well.
While you’re flying to the conference, make sure to take some time and review the names of the people you are interested in meeting, as well as the questions or things you want to talk to them about.
Have enough current business/contact cards
During the Conference
OK, so you’ve landed at the translation conference and are ready to get learning. If you’ve spent a good amount of time preparing before the conference, this part should be pretty easy.
Seek out the people you were interested in talking to.
Don’t put this off or wait until the last day thinking that you’ll get a chance to talk to everyone.
In my experience, if you wait until the last minute, you won’t have a chance to get a minute (or more) with any of the people you hoped to meet up with.
Instead, seek out opportunities to meet with the people you wanted to. Invite them to lunch. Treat them to a cup of coffee. Walk up to them and introduce yourself as soon as you know who they are.
After you’ve had a chance to meet with a person, take a few minutes to write down answers to any questions you might have asked, or write down a brief summary of your meeting with the person. This will come in handy for after the conference.
Take notes the right way.
In addition to actively seeking out contacts, make sure you take notes on the conference sessions and things that will help you improve your translation business.
Here’s the thing about taking notes, though.
Go in to each session with a plan.
Before each conference you attend, you should know which sessions you are going to attend that will help you become a better translator/networker/business owner, whether you are a freelancer or an in-house translator.
During each session, make a list of things you learn that you can implement right away to improve yourself or your business.
When we take general notes during a talk or lecture, we’re not really internalizing what is being said and how it can relate to our own lives. However, if you extract specific action items from the lecture and write them down accordingly, you will then have a list of specific things you can implement on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.
After the Conference
OK, so you’ve done your prep work before the conference, you made it to the meeting and were able to talk to most everyone you wanted to, and you took some excellent action-item notes.
Before you get too far removed from your attendance at the conference and forget everything that happened, it’s important to take some time and solidify everything that you’ve
Review your notes.
On the flight back home, make some time to really look over your notes. Look at each of your action items and commit to how you will accomplish them.
For each item, decide if you are going to implement it on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
It’s especially important to write down your plans because let’s be honest. You won’t do them if you don’t write them down and look at them everyday.
For example, let’s say that you learn some new marketing techniques at the translation conference you just attended. Instead of telling yourself that you’ll do those when you get home, take some time and write down how you will implement those new techniques.
For example, once a week, you’ll send out three emails and make three phone calls to potential clients in your local area and market your translation/editing/writing services. That is a specific action that you can write down and subsequently track to see how you are doing.
Maintain contact with new acquaintances.
This is an important thing to do every time you get back from a conference or any type of gathering where you have met people. The great thing about doing this now as opposed to having to do in when I was just starting out in the translation field is that it is so much easier with social networking tools and apps.
You can get keep in touch through Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, or a number of other social media tools.
Of course the reason you should stay in touch with all these people is because while most might think that translation is typically a solo career with no contact with other translators, the reality is that the more connected you are, the opportunities you have for success. You never know where your next job or next translation opportunity is going to come from. The more people you know, the better off you’ll be.
Plus, I also believe in Karma. The more willing you are to help others in their translation journey, the more likely it will be that success finds its way back to you.
Thank the organizers.
I can’t stress this enough. There are too many people in this world who fail to acknowledge the work that other people do on their behalf. Sure, maybe you had to pay to attend the conference, but the people who put on the conference worked really hard to make sure that you and all the other attendees had a positive experience.
If you had a good time, let them know. They will appreciate it tremendously. I have been on the organizing end before, and it was rather disheartening after the conference when my co-organizers and I received exactly zero compliments for the effort we put into it.
Most of the participants had a good time it seemed, but afterwards, nobody said anything. It would have been easy for someone to reach out and offer some simple thanks.
We got none.
Every since then, I’ve made it a point to thank people for anything they do on my behalf. They put in the effort, and we should acknowledge it.
You should, too.
What about you? What is the number one thing you do to optimize your attendance at a translation conference?