Is holding so many conferences good for the translation industry?

Every year there appears to be more translation conferences to choose from, often with many of the same speakers and similar sessions. When I first started in the profession I attended a few of these conferences full of hope and after attending various sessions and networking with my fellow translators, I came away promising myself I was going to work hard on marketing my services, refuse to lower my rates, and undertake continuing professional development. However, within a couple of days reality had set in: potential clients were still refusing to work with me unless I lowered my rates and I was still struggling to differentiate myself from other translators with the same language combinations.  I turned my back on translation conferences, regarding them as a waste of time, promoting translation as an insular, secretive profession. I started attending events in my areas of specialisation and since there were few translators at these events I had increased opportunity to learn about these fields and market my services as a person with not only an expertise in languages but an in-depth knowledge of my specialisations. Thus, slowly but surely, I got better clients. However, I soon started to miss the opportunity to shares stories and ideas with fellow translators which translation conferences provide. I started to attend translation-specific events again and now appreciate their role in my professional development. However, I only attend one such event per year while I attend as many specialisation-specific events as I can.

While many experienced translators will stress the importance of attending non-translation events to new entrants to the profession, I still cannot help wondering if there are too many translation conferences. Maybe we should concentrate less on holding so many translation-specific conferences and work more on promoting the professionalism and skills required for translation to professionals from other industries. One option would be to hold joint events with other industries or to make translation events open to other professions. For example copywriters, proofreaders, editors or designers were invited to the recent TweetUpAlba launch in order to expand professional networks. Conferences are expensive to attend, especially if you are just starting out. Therefore you have to make an informed decision about which ones to attend in order to maximise your chances of acquiring new clients so perhaps events which combine translation with other industries are the way forward.

 

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7 Comments

  1. Lloyd Bingham

    Interesting insight, Louise. I wouldn’t say that there are too many conferences in general, rather there are too many similar ones. You’re certainly right about the same speakers and the same presentations on the same topic over and over again, and I feel some conferences are held for the sake of having a conference. Each conference needs to have a unique purpose – which many lack.

    The audience for each conference shouldn’t be ‘translators and interpreters’. It would be better to target specific audiences, perhaps according to language, specialism or location. Of course, it’s great to have a conference for all of us professionals in general, but there are too many and the range has become too diffuse. I guess we need to encourage a wider range of people to submit a paper, rather than leaving it all to the career presenters.

    Reply
    1. Louise Souter (Post author)

      I wholeheartedly agree Lloyd.

      Reply
  2. Marie Jackson

    What a fab article! I agree that there is a place for different types of events in your CPD calendar, and would also agree with Lloyd that variety is key here. Paying thousands of pounds a year to simply hear about same tired topics is just a waste of money. That being said, I have got the feeling this year that change is afoot in the industry and that we’re becoming more open. I guess it’s simply a case of ‘to be continued’!

    Reply
  3. Claudia Blanco

    Dear Louise,

    I’m very happy to share information about specialisation related conferences, events or fairs.

    We share a specialisation in Finance.

    Lovely to know that the situation is slowly improving for you.

    By the way, I read also your article about the University of Alicante Conference, very interesting, hopefully they will do it again in the future. I really regret to have miss it, especially the part related to Financial translations English into Spanish what to take into account and ways and 10 types of specialisation.

    Reply
    1. Louise Souter (Post author)

      Thank you for your kind words, Claudia. Please do let me know if you hear about any specialisation-specific events.

      Reply
  4. Claudia Blanco

    I also agree that in general, tourist texts are very badly translated in Spain as they are usually done for Spanish speakers and sometimes they aren’t event translators but someone’s friend or cousin!

    Reply
  5. Tanya Quintieri

    Interesting. I just saw your post (thanks to Au) on Facebook. The DVÜD is planning exactly such a conference for Oct. next year. And that is also what the MYT (meet-your-translator.com) events are about. Just like you, I think that we should have a healthy mix of in-industry and outside-industry events. And I really like your 1 + x approach. As in 1 xl8-related event + as many other events as possible. I’ve been in the xl8 business since 2002. My first visit to an xl8 event was last year, so after 11 years of being in the business. 😀

    Reply

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