Monday, November 23, 2015

There’s No Place Like the ATA Annual Conference

Photo by Jeff Sanfacon,
 ATA Staff Photographer
Once again, the American Translators Association (ATA) pulled off another fantastic Annual Conference. This year’s 56th Annual Conference was held in Miami, Florida from November 4th through November 7th, and Celina Gonzalez-Posse and I had the honor of attending the conference and representing the Georgia ATA Chapter (AAIT) at the event. There were more than 1,600 attendees who traveled from 52 countries, over 175 sessions covering countless language pairs and practical topics for both translators and interpreters, and plenty of opportunities for networking and/or reconnecting with colleagues and friends. There were also more than 75 exhibitors (including a large number of language service providers, translation and project management software companies, interpreting equipment companies, etc.).

“Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
  - L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The conference officially commenced at the welcome reception on Wednesday evening, and from that point on, attendees were hurled into a whirlwind of information and networking opportunities. As a representative of AAIT, my mission was three-fold: 1) to gain skills and knowledge on ways to better serve our Chapter, 2) to represent AAIT at our Chapter table in the exhibiting hall and 3) to attend the most rousing sessions in an effort to scout potential speakers for future AAIT events.

I kicked off the conference early by attending a several-hour long chapter and division leadership workshop the day before the conference began. During this workshop, we had roundtable discussions with other ATA Chapters on common issues that all Chapters face, and we each shared our successes and areas for improvement. Topics covered during this workshop included ‘Going above and beyond core services’, ‘Sourcing content for blogs or newsletters’, ‘Organizing workshops’ and ‘Finding speakers’. BTW – the AAIT is the first Chapter to ever organize and host a Job Fair. Everyone was very impressed with the idea. We’re trend-setters! This workshop was a wonderful opportunity for us to learn different strategies to better serve our membership and become better leaders.

“Knowledge is the best and safest treasure to acquire.”
  - L. Frank Baum, The Lost Princess of Oz

I do not envy the ATA’s conference organizers. It’s quite a daunting task to fulfill the needs of ATA conference attendees when our industry is so vast and encompasses so many different languages, skill levels and fields of expertise, but every year they manage to offer an extensive array of sessions that target even the most specific subsets of our industry. Given the broad scope of sessions offered during the same time slots every day, it was physically impossible to attend every session, but below are some of my personal favorites from the sessions I attended:
  • Jan Fox, a four-time Emmy award winning reporter/anchor for ABC and NBC, presented on Speaking boldly. Her inspiring presentation focused on how to improve your public speaking skills and make a bigger impact when speaking to anyone (but especially to clients and in presentation settings). She provided numerous useful and easy-to-implement tips to make you a better speaker.
  • Grant Hamilton, a distinguished French < > English translator and owner of the translation company Anglocom, delivered a very practical presentation on how to improve your style and vocabulary to differentiate yourself as a remarkable translator rather than a run-of-the-mill translator. As the translation industry is fragmenting into a low-cost bulk market and a high-paid premium market, this topic is especially relevant to ensure you are in the latter and not the former.
  • Michael Farrell, a freelance technical translator, presented on IntelliWebSearch, a magnificent tool that he created, to a crowd of attentive translators. This tool (which has a freeware version and a modestly-priced paid version) enables translators to highlight a term in any platform they’re working in (Word, Trados or any other CAT tool, an online translation platform, etc.), type a shortcut (Ctrl + alt + B) and automatically search all of their favorite electronic terminology databases and glossaries at the same time. This tool is a huge time-saver for perfectionist translators such as me, who like to search a term in five different databases before settling on le mot juste. I emailed myself a reminder to purchase the paid version of this program before his presentation even ended. Here’s the link to it if you’re interested:
  • Jennifer Bader, a former US and French attorney turned freelance translator, presented on challenges in translating French Initial Public Offerings and other securities offerings. She explained the main differences between the French and US regulatory frameworks for IPOs, described the IPO process for both countries and discussed pitfalls that translators face when translating French IPOs into English. As a financial translator, I love hearing other people's thoughts on this particular field.

“Everything has to come to an end, sometime.”
  - L. Frank Baum, The Marvelous Land of Oz

I have attended three ATA conferences in the past five years, and despite the fact that I am a much more seasoned translator now than I was five years ago, the ATA conference never fails to disappoint. You can make invaluable connections during these conferences, the sessions are thought-provoking and inspiring at any stage in your career, and for desk-bound translators working at home, it’s quite refreshing to get out of the house and interact with other human beings for at least a few days every year, even if you dread it before you go (I’m a hermit, I know the feeling). This year, I left Miami with countless ideas and goals, but one I’d really like to stick to would be this: going to the ATA conference every year. I’ll be following the yellow brick road to San Francisco come November 2-5, 2016.

Want more info on the ATA’s 56th Annual Conference?

Sessions from the 56th Annual Conference

Video Recap

ATA Election Results

ATA 57th Annual Conference in San Francisco Teaser
Photo by Jeff Sanfacon, ATA Staff Photographer


  1. It was so great, wasn't it? Thanks for this lovely summary. And the dance was the cherry on top--lots of fun! Wish we could have danced all night.... :) See you in San Francisco!

  2. Yes, the whole thing was so much fun! Thank you for reading! See you in San Francisco!

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