Conferences – A Yawn or a Dawn?
Industry conferences make regular appearances in our calendars. In fact, STP has attended ten to date with another seven to attend before the end of the year.
But are conferences a headache or are they a valuable resource that we, as language service providers, could do well to embrace enthusiastically?
The ‘Yes’ camp and the ‘No’ camp
Here at STP, we are firmly in the ‘Yes’ camp. We love a good conference and attend as many as is realistic. And we encourage others to do so, too.
But there are those in the ‘No’ camp who lament that you don’t learn anything from a conference that you can’t find out with a few clicks of a mouse. The ones who say that conference presentations are often inspirational, but usually unactionable.
This is correct to a certain degree, but it ultimately misses the point of what a conference is all about.
A conference is a meeting of people who confer about a topic.
The key word here is ‘people’. Conferences gather like-minded, knowledgeable and influential industry figures under one roof where we can pick each other’s brains, sound each other out and develop and maintain connections we would never be able to do over email, phone and Skype.
STP’s Anu Carnegie Brown and Maria Lindley are seasoned conference goers, and are both convinced of the inherent value of conferencing.
Managing Director, Anu Carnegie-Brown, said she had learned a lot from conference presentations over the years. But the learning came from how she interpreted the presentation’s content rather than the content itself.
‘’The point of the presentations isn’t just to sit and take notes, it’s about hearing the ideas and exploring them in your own way. Adapting what you hear to suit your business model,’’ she said.
‘’Some translation industry speakers act as teachers; they share the factual details of what they have done themselves, or what has helped them, and they do it openly and generously. Others are more like motivational speakers.’’
Sometimes you learn the most useful information by chatting with your peers during breaks and at after-event social gatherings, according to Anu.
‘’Everyone shares more freely one-to-one, without the pressure of a large audience. It’s important to spend time with people; gain their trust and respect,’’ she said.
Although the social aspects of a conference are important, Anu stressed that a wise conference goer should never underestimate the value of the programme content.
‘’A committed professional will turn up at the early morning presentations regardless of how late they stayed up the night before,” she said.
STP Client Services Manager, Maria Lindley, sees conferencing as an invaluable networking opportunity and has a few tips for doubtful conference goers.
‘’Go into a conference with a clear agenda. You are there to see what the industry is saying and doing, and the presentations are a great way of doing that. Identify the sessions you will get the most out of and attend them, and spend the rest of the time talking to people. These conversations hold great value and opportunities can arise when you least expect it – from a quick coffee, a dinner conversation, even a brief chat in the lunch queue,’’ she said.
Maria said it was important for conference attendees to use the opportunity to meet new people.
‘’Try to meet a few presenters or other industry figures you know are attending, and take the opportunity to catch up with any clients that may be there. Arrange some meetings in advance, but also make use of the informal setting a conference offers. And always attend the conference dinner,’’ she stressed.
Whether you see a conference as a waste of time, a necessary evil or a fantastic business opportunity depends entirely on how you approach the concept.
And with that said, we look forward to seeing you at the ATC conference in London in September, ELIA ND in Bucharest, Tekom in Stuttgart, LocWorld35 in Silicon Valley and the NTIF in Helsinki.
Photo: Conferences can provide a host of business opportunities if you approach them with an open mind.