The ATA Conference Preview

By Sarah Llewellyn

With the 2007 ATA Conference taking place in San Francisco for the first time in 10 years, the event was an obvious choice for the theme of the September 15th General Meeting. Take a panel of past convention-goers sharing experiences and advice, throw in a free conference pass as a door prize, and you’ve got all the makings of a lively and informative get-together.

Before Yves Avérous called the meeting to order at 1:45 PM, board director Naomi Baer sat down with a small group of new NCTA members to conduct a half-hour orientation session. When it came time for association business, the focus, needless to say, was on the conference. Yves Avérous requested resources for print material, Paula Dieli asked for contributions to NCTA’s conference “wiki site,” and Naomi Baer solicited volunteers to sign up for shifts at NCTA’s conference table.

The General Meeting began at 2 PM. Yves welcomed the panel—Renate Chestnut, Robert Killingsworth, Paula Dieli and Karen Tkaczyk—and introduced each member with a summary of their respective biographies.

The veterans’ perspective

First to share her conference experiences was Renate Chestnut, the panel’s self-confessed “conference veteran.” Renate is a German freelance translator who attended her first ATA conference in 1988 and has been attending alternate years ever since.

A specialist in medical/pharmaceutical translations, Renate now enjoys most of all the social aspect. However, she was keen to stress the opportunity for making industry contacts. And she should know: one of the first contacts she made outside her freelance business was at an early ATA conference, and ultimately led to a position at the esteemed Monterey Institute of International Studies. Renate recommended attending as many sessions as possible and also praised the Job Exchange, which she said was a good way to see other people’s resumés and pick up tips.

Next to offer conference advice was Robert Kllingsworth, a freelance French-to-English translator who specializes in financial and business texts, and who will be presenting a session on “Getting the Terminology Right in Financial Translations” at this year’s conference. Another regular conference attendee, Bob attended his first ATA conference in 1996 and has missed only two since.

While little direct business has come Bob’s way from the conferences, he has found them enormously beneficial in terms of getting to know fellow translators. Of the contacts he has made over the years, many have been translators he had interacted with only in online forums. Bob also reminded audience members who are ATA certified that the conference is a valuable way of accumulating continuing education points.

For Paula Dieli, this year’s conference will be her fourth. Paula’s background is in IT, and at the time of her first ATA conference she was considering leaving her job as a software engineer to become a full-time translator. She therefore viewed the conference as a chance to explore the field of translation before deciding whether to go into it permanently.

By her third conference, Paula was working full-time in translation. Her advice to first-time delegates: be prepared for some serious networking, have plenty of business cards and resumés, practice a 30-second self-introduction in front of the mirror, and introduce yourself to as many people as possible. She also recommended sitting in on sessions that are “different.”

Thoughts of a newbie

Last to share her thoughts on attending the conference was Karen Tkaczyk, who translates from French into English in the highly specialized field of chemistry and its industrial applications, and whose experi¬ence comes from last year’s event in New Orleans.

The New Orleans conference met some of Karen’s expectations, failed to meet others, and exceeded some she didn’t know she had! The orientation and general business advice sessions were particularly helpful, she found, and the opportunity to network with colleagues was an excellent way to build relationships. Like the other panel members, Karen enthused about some of the sessions she had attended that were outside her area of interest.

Q&A—and a winner!

Before beginning the Q&A session, a ticket was drawn for the door prize of a free conference pass. The lucky winner was Norma Kaminsky.

The Q&A session turned out to be an opportunity for audience members to share their own tips, such as checking to make sure publicized sessions are still going ahead (cancellations and substitutions are not uncommon) and not being afraid to walk out of a session if it does not live up to expectations.

Before the meeting wrapped up and Naomi reminded everyone of the events NCTA would be organizing during the conference, each panel member was presented with a fancy box of Joseph Schmidt chocolates. The ATA conference: how sweet it can be.

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