From New Orleans to Paris: The Unexpected Places Your (First) Presentation Will Go


As we grow within our professional careers there comes a time to not be shy to comment, or fearful to change, but to open one’s arms and share the knowledge we acquire by presenting it to those who wish to hear our voices. Professional conferences are where we can shine! I invite you to live the moments of first time presenting at a professional conference through the words of Hélène V. Conte.

Roxane King

ATA ID Content Blog Editor



By Hélène V. Conte

“What a fascinating presentation! You’ve inspired me to do a segment on this topic! Can you send me your PowerPoint?” This is Muriel Gilbert—French language expert, author and national French radio host—speaking to me at the end of the presentation “Slang in the Judiciary” that I delivered in French during ATA59 in New Orleans. Two weeks later, true to her word, she was doing her bi-weekly radio segment from their Paris studio (which you can read/listen to here), based on the content I had presented that day.

I WAS STUNNED. Not only because I admire and enjoy Muriel’s work, but also because I never expected my topic to generate such enthusiasm from her and the other attendees. I was even more surprised since it was the first time I had presented at the ATA conference and, in fact, anywhere at all.

Giving a presentation for my professional community had never entered my mind, until one day, my colleague Silvia said to me, “Hélène, I can’t believe you’ve never presented before. You have so much to share!”

A little seed was planted. Yet I wondered what I could possibly speak on. Not because few topics spark my interest, but precisely because too many do. Indeed, not a week goes by that I’m not trying to read three different books, keep up with an online course, or delve into some obscure topic I encountered while translating or interpreting (I know many of you can relate!).   

The idea of speaking on slang in the judiciary came rather spontaneously and stems from several deep-seated interests:

  • Language and its many facets.
  • French (my native language) and its intricacies/oddities, history and evolution.
  • The necessity and difficulty for judicial interpreters to accurately interpret any type of register, and the specific ethical considerations that arise from it.

As far as presenting in French, the rationale was twofold: 1) After attending ATA conferences for the past 12 years, I began to see the need for more speakers to present in languages other than English (LOTE). For the foreign-born interpreters and translators living in the United States, it is a daily challenge to keep up with our native languages, so having subject-matter experts offer educational sessions in LOTE is very valuable. 2) It would have been awkward for me to speak on the topic of French argot (including its functions, origins and evolution) in any language other than French.

If you are thinking about presenting for your colleagues but are not sure how to go about it, you are like me roughly a year ago. So, here’s the advice I can pass on to you:

“A little seed was planted. Yet I wondered what I could possibly speak on. Not because few topics spark my interest, but precisely because too many do.”

  1. Pick a topic that fascinates you (or, at the very least, for which you have a very strong interest/liking). When you speak about it, you will draw in your listeners not only with your words, but also with your tone of voice and body language!
  2. Take your time gathering data. Always be on the lookout for a diversity of information on that topic, even—or especially—from the most unlikely sources. Once you have all your data, organize it methodically. (You will probably notice that data collection could go on forever!)
  3. Do some research on how to make a good, solid, attention-grabbing PowerPoint presentation, before you even open your computer program. Making a quality PowerPoint presentation is time-consuming; make sure you give yourself enough time before the event so as not to rush it or stress yourself out. (You will know at least 4 months before the ATA conference if your proposal was accepted—plenty of time to start early.)
  4. Have various people review your presentation—including colleagues who specialize in different fields—to examine your content and point out potential misunderstandings (something that might be perfectly clear to you might not be to someone else). They will critique your work in a way that will improve it, and they might also catch typos and spelling mistakes that you didn’t notice even after going over it 100 times (my case!).   

If your goal is to specifically present at the ATA conference, you will also need a solid 100-word abstract and a bio of the same length. In your abstract, be methodical when explaining what you intend to cover during your presentation and make sure your sentences are well-formed, clear and to the point. This is your opportunity to explain the ‘what’ and ‘why’ not only to the Conference Committee, but also to your potential attendees should your proposal be accepted. I have the same recommendation when it comes to the bio; select only the information that best describes you and your work in a concise manner. 

In conclusion, if you’ve never presented before and want to, my best advice to you is to have faith in yourself (not always easy) and in what you have to offer to your professional community. Choose a topic that fascinates you, study it hard, and, more importantly, have a blast preparing and presenting it.

And remember—you never know who might be in the audience, listening to and enjoying your content… and the unexpected places your presentation might go.



[Helene V. Conte]Hélène V. Conte is an ATA-certified English>French translator with over 10 years’ experience in the T/I industry, specializing in the medical, judiciary and technical fields. She is certified as a judiciary interpreter in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. Hélène is part of the small and carefully vetted team of translators currently contracted by the U.S. State Department for the EN>FR language combination. She currently serves as the President of NOTA, her local ATA chapter. Born and raised in the South of France, she has been living in the U.S. for more than 20 years and currently resides in Northeast Ohio.



Photos with permission from Anne Chemali, Everton Morais and Olga Shostachuk.

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