Looking Ahead to ATA 2016

The ATA conference in San Francisco starts tomorrow! The conference is really the highlight of my year in terms of networking and professional development. In my last two conferences I connected with what are now my star clients, met and befriended some wonderful freelancers, and successfully took the ATA certification exam. So what does this year have in store for me and my career?

Meeting Clients

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as I ramp up my freelancing, it’s that you have to have a personal connection to get your foot in the door with potential clients. Although I have managed to secure a couple clients through email recommendations, my most lasting and rewarding client relationships have come from in-person meetings in the Exhibit Hall at ATA. I work primarily with agencies, so meeting a representative in person gives me an internal contact at the company, which is so much better than just emailing info@lspname.com and hoping I get through. Of course, agency reps are swamped at the conference by people just like me, trying to make that personal connection. So I’m going into this knowing that out of 40-50 contacts that I hope to make, only one or two might pan out into a real working relationship.

I would be very excited for the Job Fair, but it mostly conflicts with my division dinner. Hopefully, I can drop by briefly, but if it’s anything like last year’s Resume Exchange, the reps there will be too busy for me to really connect with them in the short time I have.


Now that I’m ATA certified, going to sessions at the conference has an additional benefit: accumulating continuing education points. But even if that wasn’t a factor, I would still be going to as many sessions as I can. This is my chance to hear some new perspectives on everything from business practices to legal terminology to a new specialization. Everyone can probably find a few sessions for their particular interests, and here are a few I’m really looking forward to:

Got any interesting sessions you’re excited about? Recommendations welcome in the comments!

Networking with Other Translators

What I discovered last year is that learning at the conference doesn’t just happen in scheduled sessions. I learned a lot from chance encounters with various attendees, particularly translators in my language pair. I’m planning on making the most of breakfast, the KSU student and alumni lunch, downtime between sessions, and passing conversations in the halls. In this sense the conference is really a unique opportunity to meet with new contacts and old friends face-to-face before getting back to our respective offices and communicating only through computer screens.

Getting Involved with the Slavic Language Division

As a subset of the previous point, I’m planning on making the most of events hosted by my division: the Newcomers Lunch, the division dinner, the annual meeting. These are events where everyone there has some common ground by virtue of being in the same division, and since our division is relatively small, there will be a lot of familiar faces. Strengthening those relationships is at least as much of a priority as making new ones and expanding my network. Plus, maybe this year I’ll finally find a good way to contribute and be involved in the division during the year, to keep channels open to other translators and project managers working with similar language pairs.

There are lots of ways to make the most of the conference, so I’m curious to hear what other people are planning on. What’s your strategy for the conference? What are you looking forward to or excited about?