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.