ATA, Conferences

Unwinding:Mastering the Conference Schedule

By Marilyn Luong, with Karen Tkaczyk and Andrea Bindereif

Which session to attend? How can I be in three places at once? I don’t have time for that lunch! … Sound familiar? Here’s a way to take the stress out of a conference.

Into the chaos of the multi-story complex I darted, ready to tackle the 48th annual ATA conference. Then I stopped; stopped to look at the map, stopped to decide which session to attend, stopped to breathe, and stopped to relax. The ATA conference has a lot to offer, but to take advantage of those offerings, I realized that I needed to focus, and, more importantly, that I needed to be calm and relaxed, alert and awake. So, instead of rushing to another session, I rushed back to my room. To take a nap!

When we are refreshed, we can absorb more from the sessions, we can sound more coherent when networking with our colleagues, we can be more convincing when discussing a business strategy with a potential partner we meet at the conference. But, in the hustle and bustle of all the meeting rooms and exhibit booths, where is there a reprieve? The answer is hidden in the corner of the exhibit hall, where you’ll find the massage corner, offering free massages. It is okay to take a few minutes from the activity filled day to forget about finding more translation business. The business will always be there; better to address it when you are relaxed from a massage!

On the move

Another way to ease the burden of a busy schedule is through exercise. The morning yoga class at this year’s conference has now become a regular, annual feature. As the instructor in previous years was not able to be present this year, a freelance French-English financial translator, Stephanie Tramdack Cash, took over the program, called it “Stretch, Move, & Breathe,” and offered a very pleasant morning wake-up call. Rather than being a pure yoga class, it was more diverse, taking the best of Ms. Cash’s experience with yoga, Martha Graham modern dance technique, ballet, and Qi Gong: sore feet were surprisingly well taken care of! The classes were well attended, with the available space pleasantly full, which made the attendees full of energy for the day ahead.

Still another exercise activity that relaxes you is taking a walk. To get through three long days of workshops, training sessions, panel discussions, and networking—three days of being exposed to artificial light and air-conditioned rooms—a walk does wonders!

So it was no surprise that about 15 people were eagerly awaiting the second walking tour on Saturday evening, right after the conference officially ended and before everybody got ready for dinner or other entertainment. And the tour was well chosen: Marilyn Straka, a knowledgeable guide who showed a true passion for the lesser-known beauties of San Francisco’s business district, gave the group a well-rounded view of the area. After a brief introduction to the history of the City, she took the walkers to the parrots of Telegraph Hill and showed them some of the spectacular fountains and little squares, always sprinkling historical facts with interesting anecdotes, and sharing quirky stories and little oddities. The group then went on to the art deco murals of Rincon Center, the market shops of the Ferry Building, and finally a walk on the pier at the Embarcadero. Fortunately, the weather was rather warm and the group enjoyed a beautiful view of the Skyline at sunset. Our visitors from out of town were clearly impressed and seemed to have fallen in love with our City. A huge thank you to Naomi Baer for organizing and coordinating this popular activity!

Finally, to relax at the conference, when we meet someone new we don’t need to talk only about  translation; we can unwind by talking just as friends. This is a good way to remember what is truly important in life. So next time you face a hard translation project, or a tough interpretation assignment, or even the daunting schedule of an ATA conference, remember the techniques of unwinding that are available from meetings such as this one. Relax, gather, and compose yourself. Stretch. Take a walk. And a nap. And loosen up with colleagues.

Only then will you be ready for the chaos.