Once again this year, the American Translators Association hosted its successful 55th annual conference (ATA55) in Chicago with an audience of 1,842 of the smartest linguist in the world! With approximately 190 educational sessions, it was an incredible opportunity for professional development, thereby polishing my skills as an interpreter.
If you are a visual person, view the conference highlights; I’m famous! However, networking with colleagues affords learning from extraordinary people. Let us not forget the value of the inspiration that comes from being in the same room with them.
ATA55 was full of events and chances to interact and make new friends as well as catch up with old ones. This year, I discovered a great way to introduce myself, have fun and make friends. Even the most advanced, seasoned wordsmiths often use emoticons to express themselves in electronic correspondence. Therefore, I reasoned, “Who doesn’t like stickers?” I purchased a selection of emoticon stickers. Using the three feet rule, I would begin the conversation by asking, “What is your mood right now?” Normally a puzzled look followed, and then I would show the stickers and allow the person to select the one which best fit his or her mood. The reaction was always a chuckle or giggle, followed by a very relaxed smile. As I placed the smiley-face sticker on the identification badge, we naturally developed rapport. I found it to be a simple, fun way to create friendship. During the event, people recounted that the emoticons prompted colleagues to query each other if they knew me. It struck me curiously that such a childish little thing influenced all these mature, serious language professions revert to a childlike state of mind for a few brief moments.
The next tool I used to meet people was taught to me by Holly Behl of Preciso Language Service. ATA scheduled a breakfast event called Tweetup Meetup. Everyone interacting on Twitter gathered for breakfast for face-to-face conversation. Last year, Holly printed Twitter handles on labels. This was a great way to recognize people by their Twitter name. For ATA55, I offered to print labels. Almost 40 people signed up. Throughout the conference, I personally interacted with each of them. They came looking for me! Using the two previously mentioned methods, I never had that awkward alone moment in that crowd.
Buddies Welcome Newbies was another great event. I had the privilege to welcome and mentor two wonderful young ladies new to the professions. It was their first time at the conference, and for the first day, they settled in my nest. Soon, they were comfortable and spread their wings. I love building relationships with the future great language professionals of our craft. They appreciated having a new friend as well.
The Welcome Reception begins Wednesday evening, prior to the conference. It is followed by division open houses. I typically find the Interpreters Division and the Spanish Division. These are the colleagues that share my specialization.
Thursday morning, I was present for the introduction to the candidates running for the board. My voting member status became active just in time, on October 3, 2014. ATA has over 10,400 members. Of that number, around 2,000 are voting members. The conference attendance totals 1,500 to 2,000 professionals. This year, over 400 ballots were cast. The voting members are the ones most serious about the professions of interpreter and translation. If you want to network and meet the crème of the crop, you need to be in that room. On a side note, if you are not a voting member, get off your lazy virtual butt and click here! ATA’s streamlined online peer review process is painless. Also, voting members who won’t be at the conference can easily vote online by proxy.
This year I truly desired to go to some evening events such as the resume exchange or speed networking. The quandary is that I also love an intimate dinner with division colleagues. Additionally, I love delicious food. Either way, there was ample opportunity to meet great people!
Zumba: Sleep deprivation occurs from attending division dinners and rising at 5:30 a.m. to arrive on time for 6 a.m. Zumba. My fellow Zumba participants are my friends. They are disciplined, early risers who exercise. Cris Silva is our humble leader, since she isn’t really a Zumba instructor. These linguists are most likely very efficient at their work, excellent collaborators. Also, Zumba accelerates heart pumping and wakes me up so that I could get the most from the conference.
The board meeting is another great place to happen upon people. First, every single ATA member is welcome to sit and listen to the meeting! During the board meeting break, you can meet every one of them in person. They greatly appreciate members who invest their conference attendance by observing the important work done. Second, any other colleague sitting in on that meeting is probably someone you should meet.
But that’s not all; Saturday night has a wicked good dance party. You know it’s going to be memorable when the room is full of happy people from every language and culture. This is how I imagine the world should be. Instead of hatred and prejudice, you see joyful dance. Everyone embraces all cultures and differences, celebrating the unique diversity. If you are not into dancing, you should mingle. Find someone else who doesn’t dance and have meaningful, relaxing conversation!
The primary conference goal is professional development. However, take keen notice of these other offerings that turn it into a memorable, cherished, and enjoyable event. Next year, ATA56 will be in Miami at the Hyatt Regency. I can’t wait!