Voluntary engagement in the affairs of your industry is a matter of give and take. In fact, the giving and taking are often so intertwined that they become indistinguishable from each other.

At STP, we believe it’s important to embrace language industry events and associations. And we do like our associations!

We are members of (draws breath): Association of Translation Companies ATC, European Language Industry Association ELIA, Globalization and Localization Association GALA, Translation Automation User Society TAUS and European Translation Companies Association EUATC.

I’m actively involved in ELIA, our Executive Chairman, Jesper Sandberg, is the Chair of GALA, and our Learning & Development Manager, Raisa McNab, has just been elected full Council member of the ATC.

That’s a lot of volunteer hours shared between us, and we do it for all the business reasons listed below. But also because it’s fun and we thoroughly enjoy it.

So, since online media loves numbered lists, I will share with you my eight reasons for getting involved in language industry events and associations:

1: It gives you time and space to think, away from your desk and your team.

2: It helps you put your views into perspective. Meeting so many others who are doing the same thing you are doing makes you realise that you may not be as smart and unique as you thought.    Or, it may confirm that you are actually pretty exceptional and revolutionary. Going out there acts like a mirror, it enables you to see you as the world sees you.

3: It helps you to think more like a business and less like a craftsman – which is a risk for many SME owners and managers.

4: It gives you a chance to pick the brains of people who would never normally bother to think about your problems. You may even end up working on your issues in a workshop with competitors.

5: It forces you to push yourself, to stretch your limits, to get out of your comfort zone. Networking does not come easy to translators who are often natural introverts. But it is good for us.

6: All industry associations get revenue through membership fees, but most of them could not operate and provide the service they do on that income alone. Conferences are a source of revenue  that enables them to provide support to their members all year round.

7: Sharing your wisdom with newcomers, and those who know less than you, helps you sharpen your own thinking and adds to the collective industry expertise

8: Prominent conferences with high numbers of attendees give our industry a raised profile and more visibility in the eyes of the wider public, which often doesn’t even know we exist.

As far as conferences go, we at STP have been keen attendees at language industry events for over a decade. Yet, it is important to check the value of frequenting them at regular intervals. Do the benefits continue to justify the time, effort and money we put into it?

Let’s look at the ATC Summit 2017 that took place in London on 21-22 September as an example of what is currently on offer.

In 2016, the translation companies in the UK sold language-related services worth £1 billion, which makes STP’s home turf the second biggest language services market in the world. The UK Association of Translation Companies organises an annual industry event for the benefit of its members, and in recent years, the convention has grown from a national meeting to an international event that draws foreign speakers and visitors alike. STP has always played an active part in the life of the Association, and we have had a representative on the council for as long as I can remember. So, off to this Summit we went.

The key note speakers have got to be the main attraction of any conference. In London, we had the privilege of hearing Richard Mullender, a crime detective, experienced hostage negotiator and corporate trainer, who demonstrated how to glean information without asking questions, and how elite-level listening skills can be used to persuade, influence and negotiate. An impressive performance that left the audience begging for more.

At events, we also meet industry thought leaders face-to-face. We learned in London that the renowned translation guru, Renato Beninatto, has teamed up with Tucker Johnson and written a book. We will now all be rushing to add The General Theory of the Translation Company – the first user manual for the language services industry – to our Christmas reading lists.

Conference speakers can give us bite-size information about topics we may otherwise find too daunting to look in to, and they are obliged to do it in an entertaining way.

At the ATC Summit, Tony O’Dowd used the analogy of spaceships when digging into the intricacies of neural machine translation and how it differs from statistical MT. Alessandro Cattelan blew our minds with sheer numbers when explaining how his translation supplier database uses artificial intelligence for candidate assessment and automated selection. Kain Jagger definitely had our attention after demonstrating how little we knew about the concept of the ‘Great Firewall’ of China.

One of the gems of the ATC Summit 2017 was Konstantin Dranch’s report on the UK language services market in 2016. This detailed, transparent analysis, commissioned annually by the ATC, revealed common trends while also highlighting the financial figures and future plans of individual key players. In an industry where any market information is scarce, reports like this constitute a valuable membership benefit for associations to offer.

Combined with the hands-on workshops, personal meetings and general networking gains, I’d venture to say the takeaways from these two days of intensive participation outweigh the costs. The long-term benefits can only be measured by how well we follow up on the business opportunities and how skilfully we apply the new knowledge to our daily work. In any case, the organising committee is to be congratulated, and encouraged to repeat their success next year.

Current opportunities

All local and global LSP organisations constantly strive to provide their members with new services and opportunities. If you operate within the language services industry, it is worth you acquainting yourself with the following three examples of the latest offering, and contacting the associations for further information on how you could benefit from these initiatives:

  • The UK Association of Translation Companies has just launched a service helping its members gain certification to the ISO standards 9001 and 17100.
  • While the industry conferences have traditionally been the playground for company executives, the European Language Industry Association has started organising conferences for other translation company staff as well: ELIA now offers an annual tailor-made gathering for project managers, and another one for sales and marketing experts.
  • The Globalization and Localization Association is reincarnating their invaluable CEO forums by putting together a new CEO/MD programme. The ideas so far include regular group calls on the GALA Connect forum, webinars aimed at decision makers, and a series of CEO/MD interviews sharing lessons learned through experience.