Almost show time!

Can you believe the Annual Conference is less than 24 hours away? We can’t wait to see you tomorrow at 4:45 in the IBR West Room at the Washington Hilton. But before taking off to D.C., we thought we’d touch base one last time.

In the last couple of days, we’ve received a few emails from people who are unable to make it to tomorrow’s opening session. Though we may not be able to pair you with a Newbie or Buddy at this point, we have a couple of suggestions:

  • For Saturday-only first-time attendees, we will have a table at the hotel’s continental breakfast marked “Newbies” and you’re more than welcome to join us there. Breakfast is from 7:30am to 8:15am at the International Terrace.
  • Our wrap-up session will be on Saturday at 12:30, at the IBR East. Even if you couldn’t make it to the opening session, our debriefing will be packed with useful information to help you process and organize all the information and contacts you’ve made in the last few days.

Also, please keep in mind we might not be able to answer questions via email. We will not be monitoring our email as often during the conference, but we’ll be sure to get back with you next week.

And finally, before closing your suitcase, don’t forget to include:

  • A tote bag or backpack to comfortably carry any handouts, brochures, pen, notepad, tablet or small laptop, and personal items during the conference. A water bottle and granola bar or similar snack would also be good additions to your bag. But above all: Be sure to travel light! Please remember conference tote bags have been retired.
  • Your business cards, and copies of your résumé or any other business material you’d like to distribute to your new contacts or to potential employers.
  • Comfortable shoes.
  • Loads of enthusiasm and a positive attitude!

This is our last post before the conference, but we’ll be back next week with some post-conference thoughts before this blog goes into hibernation until next year!

Over and out.

Helpful Tips from the Slavic Division

Excerpt from How to Tackle an ATA Conference by Natalie Mainland (Reblogged from the Slavic Division blog with permission)

[…] I have to admit, I wasn’t sure about attending the 2016 ATA conference. I have a degree in translation and have been translating for a few years now, so I didn’t know how useful it would be, and I am—like I think many translators are—extremely introverted. Given the choice between getting a root canal or chatting up a room full of people I don’t know, I’ll take the root canal, please. However, I keep in touch with my former classmates, and not a single one of them has said that attending the conference was a waste of time or resources. I wasn’t sure if going would be helpful, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.

What next? Well, my personal philosophy is to always have a plan. Once I’d decided to attend the conference I immediately started planning so I could get the most out of it. I had a look at the first-timer’s guide in the ATA’s “Savvy Newcomer” blog, downloaded the conference app, and immediately began organizing my schedule. By the time I landed in San Francisco, I had each day planned for (supposedly) optimum effectiveness.

Educational sessions held throughout the day are organized into subject-specific tracks and are a major part of the conference. I’m trying to expand my business, so I planned to attend sessions in the “Independent Contractor” track. These were great, and I picked up tips and tricks for getting more work and running my business smoothly, but by the second afternoon I was feeling burnt out…so I decided to change things up. I went to a few medical sessions, even though they focused on language pairs other than mine. Were they helpful? You bet! Although the target language examples didn’t apply to me, I still learned strategies to improve my medical translations. Overall, I’m pleased with how much I learned, and in the months after the conference I even put that knowledge to use when I worked on a large medical project.

The other major part of the conference is networking, and that’s the part that worried me. I went to the Welcome Celebration on the first night, where everyone from the ATA divisions can mingle and learn more about one another, and I honestly felt a bit like a deer in the headlights. However, the whole process became markedly easier when I realized one obvious thing: everyone else is here to network, too!  They want to meet new people and talk with them, and all the people that I spoke with were wonderfully welcoming. After making it through that first hectic evening, everything else—such as talking to agency reps in the Exhibit Hall—was no problem at all.

Now for the big question: do I think going to the conference was worth it? I absolutely do. I picked up new skills and met other people working in my field. This profession can be a solitary one, and having actual, face-to-face contact with other humans was, for me, one of the best parts of the entire experience.

So, now that I’ve (hopefully) convinced you to go, what are my suggestions for your first conference?

Go. I was on the fence about going, but I’m glad I did. Although I’m no neophyte, I still learned a lot of things that will help me improve my craft. I also met a multitude of wonderful and interesting people, and found new prospects for my work.

Leave. Just because you’re at the conference doesn’t mean you need to attend every single event. In fact, that’s a good way to wear yourself out. At the conference in San Francisco, none of the early morning events made my ‘must-do’ list, so every morning I took a walk along the bay instead. Not only did I get fresh air and exercise, I also got a chance to take a break from being ‘on’ all the time. This helped me recharge and gave me the energy to do all the other things that I wanted to do.

Participate. If you’re introverted, never fear! There are plenty of ways for you to make connections without having to walk into a crowd of strangers and start cold. I signed up for the “Buddies Welcome Newbies” program, which partnered me with an experienced translator and conference-goer (hi Jen!) who showed me the ropes. She answered my questions, introduced me to people in the division, and was a very welcome familiar face in a sea of strangers. I also attended division events. The great thing about this is that people in the division know each other and know that you’re new, and they really do go out of their way to be welcoming. My worries of being the silent person standing awkwardly in the corner never materialized.

Ditch the plan. Or rather, be willing to ditch the plan. I had my entire conference schedule laid out before I stepped off the plane. Yet, some of the best experiences happened when I deviated from that schedule—skipping a mass networking event to go to dinner with some newfound colleagues, for example.

All in all, my first conference was a resounding success. I’m glad I went, and I would encourage anyone else to do the same.


Excerpt from How to Survive Your First ATA Conference by Jen Guernsey (Reblogged from the Slavic Division blog with permission)

[…] Actually, you aren’t going to SURVIVE it, you’re going to LOVE it! Below are some tips that will make it a little easier for you to hit the ground running. […]

So, prospective newbies, here is your pre-conference to-do list:

1) Register for the conference BY OCTOBER 6 to take advantage of lower rates. [This date has passed but it’s not too late to still register for the conference!]

2) Download the conference app. I find it very helpful for planning my conference and finding event locations. You can input your resume and other profile info to help both colleagues and prospective employers find you.

3) Review the conference program to get an idea of the sessions and events you’d like to attend. A list of presentations in the Slavic languages track and by SLD members can be found in the SlavFile Preview.

4) Join Buddies Welcome Newbies to be paired up with an experienced conference-goer who will show you the ropes. Many newbies mention this helpful program, scheduled for Wednesday 4:45-5:30 (Debriefing Saturday 12:30-1:30) […]

And while at the conference:

1) Wear your pink First Time Attendee ribbon with pride. It will spark a lot of conversations…kind of like wearing a “Please Welcome Me” sign on your forehead…but more comfortable.

2) Come to the Welcome Celebration. It is huge! It is crowded! It is loud! It is daunting! Never fear—just seek out the table marked SLD [or another division you’re interested in]. You will encounter some familiar names, soon to be familiar faces, and introduce yourself. Plus, hey, free food and a couple of drinks. Wednesday 5:30-7:00 […]

9 Things You Can Do Today to Get the Most out of #ATA58

By Anne Goff (, reblogged from The Savvy Newcomer with permission from the author

This October, some 2,000 language professionals will swarm the Hilton in Washington DC for the 58th Annual ATA Conference. They will push through crowds of people to find the next packed presentation room, will sit in a sea of unfamiliar faces, will spend their entire waking day taking in new information and trying desperately to remember the name of the person they met two seconds ago. It’s overwhelming. It’s exhausting. It’s also exhilarating.

Even the most introverted among us feel a thrill being around people who understand our career and share our interests. In the chaos, it is easy to miss opportunities and come away from the conference feeling disappointed. Below are nine ideas for how you can prepare to get the most out of ATA 58.

1) Double-check your marketing materials

Update your resume and triple check for any mistakes. Do the same for your business cards and order extras now.

Find something extra to bring to help you stand out. This could be a personalized name badge, a lanyard—something pretty, crazy, or specific to your specialization, stickers or pins to show your language or specialization… Anything that encourages others to approach you about something you are interested in is helpful.

As you update your marketing materials, write out previous jobs and relevant experience. What stands out? What are you most proud of? What might be funny (and positive and professional)? What showcases your talent, knowledge, and drive?

Add to this list any time you take on a new job, and always note why the job is important. (A challenge you overcame, an impressive client, new information learned, etc.) If you don’t have a lot of job experience, consider classes you’ve taken, volunteer work you’ve done, research you are excited about. Review this list before the conference so that you will have specific, positive, professional responses when people ask you about your experience.

2) Research the presentations… and the presenters

Does the presenter have a website? Social media accounts? Find what information they’ve made public. Look for common interests, common languages, and anything you would like to ask about. Write all of this down and review it before the presentation. After the presentation—introduce yourself!

If you’re really excited about a presenter or a topic, feel free to send them an email in advance sharing your excitement, asking a question, or pointing out a shared interest. Everyone likes enthusiastic people in the audience. And while we’re at it, why wait until after the conference to follow them on Twitter?

3) Research the companies at the job fair and the exhibit hall

Look for specific things to discuss with any company you are interested in. What skills are they looking for? Why are you a good match? Why do you like this company? Research can make you stand out in a busy job fair. If you can find out who will be representing the company, why not drop them a line today, and tell them how much you’re looking forward to meeting them?

One easy way to start this now is with the ATA Conference App. During the conference you can use it to keep track of the schedule and stay up-to-date, and you can use it today to look through the list of represented companies as you start your research.

4) Reach out and make friends

Whether you’ve met fellow attendees in past or only know them online, a quick social media post or a brief email to let people know that you look forward to seeing them or to plan a coffee together can go a long way.

5) Research the area around the conference

A little research saves a lot of time and stress during the conference. Find a place you can recommend for lunch or coffee. Find a place you can slip away, where others can’t see you, for some quiet time. Find cultural places in the area specific to your language/specialization/interests. Look up a few practical places around the conference: ATMs, drug stores, phone stores for chargers, etc.

6) Set specific goals

Goals give focus and clarity in the midst of chaos. Set a goal for each presentation: “I want to meet two people who translate in this field into my B language,” “I want to learn X, Y, Z.” Don’t assume it was a bad presentation if it didn’t cover your specific question. Asking your question at the end of the session is a great way to meet people.

7) Prepare for questions

If you feel awkward when asked the standard conference questions, prepare for them now. “Why are you here?” “Did you come last year?” “What did you think?” “Are you enjoying the conference this year?” “How did you become a translator?”

“Last year I was just too overwhelmed and intimidated to come,” may be true. But it might be better to try something like: “I’ve been developing my business this year, learning about the profession, expanding my client base, and I’m so excited to be here!” Focus on what you’ve learned, what you look forward to learning, what excites you, how it fits with your work or a new avenue you are interested in exploring. Be honest, positive, and professional.

8) Post to social media

Everybody recommends this, but I’m going to be the one negative voice here. Posting to social media that you are going to be traveling on specific dates is a potential safety risk. You don’t have to do it. However, if you’re comfortable with it, it can be a great way to connect with people before the conference and can make it easier to plan coffee dates, lunches, trips to cultural sites, etc.

But remember, you can do much of this via email, phone calls, and private messages if you prefer not to post about it publicly. Where appropriate, you can also contact favorite clients to tell them that you will be attending a presentation pertinent to their field.

9) Schedule time after the conference

Immediately following the conference, you will have so much to go over, you will have work that’s piled up, and then there’s the laundry… If at all possible, schedule a few days after the conference to catch up and recharge before diving back into your routine. Otherwise, you may never get to your post-conference to-do list.

After the conference is the time to post to social media about what you learned and who you met. Write an article or two… Blog…  follow up with the people you met. This is the single most important thing you can do. Send emails, private messages, tweets. Connect on LinkedIn and Twitter… And be prepared to do it all again in a week or two.

This is where you will really stand out. So prepare for it now.

If you plan to mail cards after the conference, buy them now. Address them if possible. Write up ideas for what you might say. Streamline your social media. (Link your accounts so one post will go to multiple accounts, learn to schedule your posts, etc.)

The key is to be intentional and organized about what you want out of any large conference. After all, you are setting aside time and money to be there. Why not make the most of it?

Ordering Business Cards

One of the main items you will want to have on hand at the upcoming ATA conference in Washington D.C. is business cards. These can be as complex or as simple as you’d like, but they are important to have! A business card is your calling card; this is how you will be sure to connect with the people you meet after the conference is over.

A business card should contain the following information: your first and last name, email address, phone number, and job title. If you want, you can also include other information, such as your location or address, your website URL, any certifications you may have, your business name, your professional photograph, or your logo. If you don’t have a job title yet, or you’re a student, or you’re just getting started and aren’t sure what to write, you can write your language pair(s) and your current job or status – e.g. “Graduate Student in Translation – English>Japanese”. There’s no rule that you have to keep these cards forever, and since they’re a relatively low investment you can always make new ones later.

The card does not need to be too fancy – in fact, we suggest that you be sure to leave some blank space on the card so that people can make a note in pen after they’ve met you in order to give themselves a reminder of who you are. For example, if they met you at the Brainstorm Networking event and connected with you over a scenario you discussed regarding medical interpreter ethics, they may jot down, “Brainstorm Netw. – medical interpreter ethics. Interesting perspective.”

Your cards can be uniquely designed by you or a designer, or you can use a template found at one of the many business card designing sites online. Two we’ve used in the past include Vistaprint and Moo. If you want people to be able to write on your card, be sure to make the side with blank space matte and not glossy finish. It shouldn’t take too long for these cards to be delivered to you, but be sure to order them early just in case there is a problem!

Below are some examples of freelancer business cards:


While we’re on the topic of business cards, here are a few examples of situations in which you might want to swap business cards with someone:

  • You had a nice chat with a fellow attendee sitting next to you before a session started. You’d like to follow up with them later and thank them for making you feel welcome.
  • At breakfast you met an agency representative who is looking for freelancers in your language pair, and they said the best way to get in touch with them is to share your business card and they will follow up with you after the conference.
  • You ran into someone on the elevator that works in the same lesser-diffused language as you do, and you’d like to be able to connect with them for future collaboration later on.
  • You talked to a speaker after one of their sessions and they promised to send you their PowerPoint slides so you can enjoy the resources they recommended after the conference is over, and they asked how they should get in touch with you.

Don’t forget that it’s never too early to start planning for the conference! Comment below if you have questions or additional thoughts about creating business cards, or if there are any topics you’d like to see covered on this blog. We’re looking forward to getting to know you!

Budgeting for the ATA Conference

Now that you’re convinced that you need to attend ATA58, you’re probably asking yourself how much it’s going to cost. What do you need to budget for? What are some ways you can save money? Here’s the basic layout of an attendee’s budget for the ATA conference – be sure to also take into account the fact that you may lose out on some income since you won’t be working during these business days. Based on numbers from this blog post, you are potentially missing out on an average of $185/day for four business days, for a sum of $740. Let’s examine some of the other expenses involved and consider how the ATA conference just may be an investment that pays for itself!

Item #1: Conference registration


Be sure to do your math… The early registration fee (which ends 9/15) is $540 for ATA members, versus $715 for non-members. ATA membership dues for one year cost $285, so if you’re considering joining the Association, make sure you do so before the conference in order to receive the discounted rate! Rates for all attendees increase starting 9/16 and then again starting 10/6, so the earlier the register, the bigger the discount.

Item #2: Transportation


Depending on where you’re traveling from, travel could be a big expense. Coming from the East Coast, you may consider driving (in which case you’ll need to pay for parking) or taking a bus or train. From anywhere else in the country or world, you will probably want to fly into either DCA (Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport), IAD (Washington Dulles International Airport), or BWI (Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport). Regardless of your origin, remember that you will most likely need to factor in the cost of an Uber, taxi, or bus from the airport or train station to your hotel.

Item #3: Accommodations


The Washington Hilton is the host hotel of ATA58 and offers special rates for conference attendees. However, these rooms fill up quickly and you may need to search elsewhere for a place to stay. You can look for a roommate or roommates to split the cost of accommodations by visiting the ATA Roommate Finder. Some conference attendees opt to stay at other hotels or even Airbnb in order to save on money and experience more time outside the conference hotel.

Item #4: Food


Depending on your food preferences and schedule, you can choose to take advantage of the low-cost options that will be available through the conference, from free continental breakfast at the conference hotel to evening receptions that include hors d’oeuvres. On the other hand, if you want to truly experience the city of D.C. and enjoy spending time with new and old contacts at local restaurants, your budget needs may be a little different. Some ATA divisions offer dinner receptions at an additional cost to conference attendees, so be sure to sign up for any you may be interested in and calculate these expenses into your budget as well.

Item #5: Miscellaneous expenses


Remember that while you may have travelled a long way to attend the conference, you’re also in a beautiful city with a deep and rich history. It’s a great idea to get out of the conference hotel and take in some of the sights of D.C.; the Smithsonian Zoo, White House, and George Washington University are a quick mile and a half walk or taxi ride from the Hilton and you’ll be glad to get a breath of fresh air.

I’m sure you’ve been adding up these costs as you read and you’re asking yourself if it’s all worth it. I can tell you unequivocally that for every year I’ve attended an ATA conference, it has paid off not only in terms of meeting new clients but also making great contacts, learning invaluable skills and lessons, and getting the intangible yet invaluable sense that I am part of a larger professional community of translators and interpreters. Don’t be afraid to invest in your career by going to the ATA conference; you’ll be glad you did!

What are some ways you’ve thought of to save on conference expenses? We’d love to hear them!