I know this blog has been silent for quite some time and the reason for that is everything leading up to and following a three week trip to Europe where I spoke at two different conferences: the Business Practices Conference (BP16) and the Wordfast Forward Conference.
One of the reasons I get so excited about conferences in general is that they give me a chance to treat myself to some time off my regular routine, to go somewhere I’ve never been before, and to meet new people. Because I live in the most southernmost country of the American continent, it’s not always easy to just pick up and go. For those of us in the developing world, going overseas is quite an investment. Currency exchange rates combined with tax and other government restrictions don’t help much either. So going to Europe sets you back several tens of thousands in your local currency. Naturally then, when looking back, one of the first questions I ask myself is whether or not it was actually worth the investment. So here’s my evaluation of each event.
BP16 in Franz Kafka’s Native Prague:
At BP16, I attended Chris Durban’s masterclass on building high-end client portfolios; and that, in itself, made the trip worth it. By the end of the masterclass, I was able to identify several areas of my business that need improvement; develop a strategy for improving them; and identify a market niche I had been neglecting simply because I did not know how to use my connections and competitive advantage in that niche. Now I do. I will report on the actual results at the end of the year.
As far as the rest of the conference, here’s my take:
1) Organization: A++. The conference was so well put together it’s hard to believe it’s an independent event.
2) Venue: A+. I really liked the hotel. My room was very comfortable, with all the essentials and then some. Hotel staff was always friendly and helpful. The hotel was located right by a tram stop and subway station; so after the conference, I was able to quickly get to all the sights I wanted to see in Prague.
3) Dinners: Another A+. I really enjoyed all conference dinners. The food was great. The restaurants were lovely. The service was wonderful. There was a little mishap with one of the restaurants one night and we ended up eating outside on a beautiful terrace with the most magnificent view of the Vltava River and Charles Bridge. I’m sure you can appreciate why I have no complaints, despite that little mishap.
4) Tote bag and goodies: A+: I really liked the tote bag design. Inside the bag I found a practical little notepad, candy, and a complimentary copy of 101 Things a Translator Needs to Know.
5) The people: A+++. I’ve said this before, and I will say it again: Translators rock! One of the reasons why I love translation conferences is because I get to hang out with other translators, and translators are great people. At the conference, I got the chance to meet many of my favorite online people in real life, and that to me was priceless!
6) Sessions: B+. When it comes to content, I’m picky and demanding. In his blog, Simon Berrill argues that we need to start picking out the e-wheat from the cyberchaff when choosing what to read online. I think Simon’s idea applies to translation conference sessions as well. So, in addition to Chris Durban’s masterclass, here’s the wheat:
* Cécile Charlier’s session on using EUR-Lex. I left early because I wanted to check out another session that was scheduled in the same timeframe, but I thought it was a good introduction for inexperienced users.
* Jonathan Downie on public speaking for translators. If you’re going to speak about how to speak in public, then you have to be a great public speaker; and Jonathan is, indeed, a great public speaker. I enjoyed his presentation a lot.
* Konstantin Kisin’s “opening talk show.” Konstantin was a wonderful host and moderator, with an extraordinary capacity for keeping both the audience as well as panelists on topic. Plus, his witty and intelligent sense of humor kept everyone engaged throughout both sessions.
I was in one of the panels alongside Erik Hansson, creator of TTNS, and “life coach” Christelle Mainagn. Finally meeting Erik in person after “e-knowing” him for so long was wonderful. I rather enjoy how Erik’s group brings humor to serious discussions affecting our profession. The other panel consisted of Chris Durban, who needs no introduction, mad patent translator Steve Vitek, and efficiency expert Gaby Nagy.
I regretted missing Tiago Neto’s session on voice recognition, Alison Hughes’ session on managing your CPD and marketing budget, Joy Philiphs’ session on MemoQ (though, in all fairness, I’m not a MemoQ user), and Kyle Wohlmut and Ellen Singer’s joint session on idiomatic expressions. I heard wonderful things about those and wish I hadn’t missed them.
Going back to my initial question: Yes, it was worth it! I would probably go to another BP conference if I had other reasons to travel or conferences to attend in Europe around the same time. This conference was only two weeks apart from Wordfast Forward, and being able to go to both events with one single trip over the Atlantic was a plus for me this time around.
Wordfast Forward in France’s Sunny Cote d’Azur
The second conference was Wordfast Forward. I am a Wordfast user, as were all other attendees, which is how I found out about the conference. Because we were all Wordfast users already, it was obviously not a sales conference, which added a lot of value to each session. There was no blatant publicity, nobody using their sessions to try to sell anyone anything, and no chaff. Now, I know what some of my readers might be thinking, “how much are they paying her to say that?” Not a dime, actually. Other than using their software, I am not affiliated with Wordfast in any way. So this is my opinion as an attendee/speaker with no conflicts of interest. And, as such, I can honestly say that Wordfast Forward was the best conference I attended since ATA56.
1) Organization: A. The conference was well-organized, despite a ten-minute delay in all sessions due to issues that seemed to be beyond the organizer’s control.
2) Venue: B. The hotel had the most amazing view with a nice reception/conference area. It was conveniently located near the Port of Nice. Hotel staff was nice and friendly. But… the rooms were far too austere and lacked basic amenities, such as blow dryers. My shower (which didn’t have a soap dish or shampoo rack) was so tiny that every time I reached for anything, I’d accidently shut off the hot water. It’s not the kind of hotel I usually choose when I travel, but it was OK enough not to ruin the whole conference experience.
3) Dinners/lunches: A. I really enjoyed all lunches and dinner parties, especially the gala dinner. I absolutely loved the food at the Plaza Hotel’s restaurant. However, throughout most social events, I felt bad for vegans, vegetarians, and people with other special food needs. They had to wait excessively long to be served, despite the fact that the restaurants in question had been dully warned by the conference organizers about these guests’ special needs.
4) Tote bag and goodies: not applicable. We didn’t get actual tote bags, but we did get some nice flip-flops, a Wordfast pen, and a couple of other souvenirs.
5) The people: A+++. Unlike BP16 where I knew many people online before the conference, I didn’t know anyone at Wordfast Forward. However, I met the most amazing people there and by the end of the conference, I felt like I had known some of them my entire life.
6) Sessions: A+++. As I mentioned before, I’m picky and demanding when it comes to sessions. Wordfast Forward was all wheat, no chaff. I learned something new at every single session. As far as content, which is what conferences really should be about, it was the absolute best. Even the session about Machine Translation had an intelligent and responsible approach to the topic. There were several sessions in which we had the chance to talk directly to the developers and tell them what we need/expect from their software. In turn, they did an excellent job at telling us about what features they’re currently developing and how to use the existing ones more effectively.
This is a conference I intend to attend at least every other year or so to stay updated, especially if they organize advanced workshops for developing specific skills.
All in all, my 2016 European Tour was very productive. I learned new things, visited three of the most beautiful cities in Europe (including a week in Rome in-between conferences), expanded my network of colleagues, and even made a couple of new friends. I came back motivated and eager to put all the things I learned into practice to keep growing and improving my business.