Translators need to step outside their comfort zone

One of my resolutions for this year was to step out of my professional comfort zone and try new ways to connect with potential clients. So when I learned that the second annual conference of the Colorado American Marketing Association would take place in Denver at the end of February, I seized the opportunity and signed up for my first professional conference outside of the translation industry: REV UP 360º.

For a marketing translator and student of integrated marketing communications, this event was a natural fit. It was a one-day, local affair – perfect to ease my entry into this new world. Sure, I had attended conferences held by the American Translators Association and the Colorado Translators Association in the past, but this was a completely different ballgame. I wasn’t attending as a translator among fellow translators. This time, I was attending as a marketing professional.

Not knowing what to expect, I attended the conference without any specific goals. I spent the day observing and learning, letting the event carry me along for the ride. I met several interesting people, learned about trends in the marketing industry, and even found a potential new client for my translation business – by pure chance. It was a great day.

So for anyone who’s been thinking about taking the plunge into non-translation conferences, here is a list of 8 reasons to go for it:

1. To rub elbows with industry professionals

First things first: If you go to any industry conference with the specific goal to gain new clients for your translation business, you’ll likely end up disappointed. Instead, think of yourself as an industry expert, one of “them” – if you’re a translator who specializes in the field, you are. Don’t approach people with the expectation of finding a new lead. Nothing stops a conversation faster in its tracks than introducing yourself with, “Hi, I’m a translator looking for new clients.” Instead, join conversations about the event and get to know the other people at the conference. Try to blend in. Observe how peers talk to each other. Establish connections that are based on your mutual area of interest. If you feel like a fish out of water, maybe you need to immerse yourself more into your subject of expertise.

2. To boost your expertise

If you are a specialized translator, you need to stay on top of current developments within your area of specialization as much as those who work directly in the field. An industry conference allows you to learn about new developments and provides a perfect opportunity to brush up on your terminology. Obviously, it wouldn’t make sense for a marketing translator to attend a conference of the American Bar Association. But it might for a legal translator. Find the conference that makes the most sense for your specialty, and soak up as much information as you can.

3. To connect on social media

In today’s day and age, most conferences have their own Twitter hashtags, which is good news for social media savvy translators. Join the conversation about the event on Twitter, and you’ll pop up on the radar of other attendees who are following the hashtag. You’ll also be able to find out who else is attending, allowing you to identify potential business prospects. Then, connect with those people by following their updates and replying to their tweets. You’ll likely gain some new followers that way – followers who may just turn out to be interested in your translation services down the road. At the very least, you’ll get your name out there to a very specific crowd of people.

4. To see how other industries do conferences

We translators are spoiled. The annual conference of the American Translators Association, a three-day event, only costs about $400. Events of similar magnitude in other industries often cost more than $1,000 to attend. In fact, even the one-day REV UP conference set me back $266 – twice as much as the registration fee for our two-day annual conference of the Colorado Translators Association. How’s that for perspective?

5. To get out of the house

Many, if not most, freelance translators work from home. A conference is always a welcome opportunity to put on our fancy business suits (which are gathering dust in our closets) and meet people face to face. Getting out into the real world every once in a while is important – not only for our social skills, but to avoid burn-out. From time to time, we need to remind ourselves that we are successful business professionals rather than lonely home-office-nerds.

6. To educate others about the translation process

As far as I know, I was the only translator at the REV UP conference. Many of the people I talked to had no idea what my job entails and why a translator would attend a marketing conference. While translation is an important part of the marketing process, the details of how we work aren’t well known to those outside of the translation profession. I enjoyed telling people about the translation process and explaining to them why good translations are vital if you want to achieve international marketing success. In the age of Google Translate and the commoditization of translation, it is up to us professional translators to make sure people are aware of the added value we provide.

7. To meet new clients

I put this at the end of my list, because this is, at best, a potential added benefit rather than a given. At the REV UP conference, I got lucky: I was talking casually to another attendee about his business when he asked me what I do. I told him I’m a translator specializing in marketing and PR. As luck would have it, a woman passed by us right then and overheard our conversation. It turned out she was a marketing sales manager at a local company who had recently started working with some new companies in Germany and was in need of a good translator for press releases and marketing material. She asked for my business card. Sometimes, it’s better to let things happen naturally than to try to pursue specific goals.

8. To get swag

Need I say more? I mean, you can never have too many water bottles.

About the author - Marion Rhodes

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