(Photo: Slator)

Effective menu planning is essential for a first-rate party, and the team behind SlatorCon London 2018 did a great job selecting recipes, shopping for ingredients and prepping the dishes for theirs. What makes Slator conferences special is that they don’t lay on a sumptuous five-course dinner of a conference that leaves the guests bloated – instead, they present a tantalising tapas menu where each dish is served at a speed tailored for experienced connoisseurs. The spread needs to be consumed fast, but there is ample opportunity afterwards to digest it along with the other guests.

Aceitunas by Florian Faes, Slator

In his opening appetiser, Florian demonstrated that the end market for localisation services remains buoyant. However, translation unit prices continue to fall and vendors who are slow to adjust are starting to feel the strain. We are in a buyer’s market, where most of the organic growth takes place in media localisation.

Patatas bravas by Benjamin du Fraysseix, Technicis

Patatas bravas is a classic dish, just like M&A is an inevitable topic at any translation industry conference. Benjamin, however, was a fresh speaker with an engaging story, and he is on an ambitious acquisition path, which is exciting. He talked about the mobilising power of private equity funding, the integration challenges of smaller companies whose business focuses on only a few clients, and his take on leadership: “An employee crying because they have had to work too hard is a personal failure of mine, the CEO.”

Percebes by Stuart Green, ZOO Digital

Goose barnacles are the most expensive seafood in the world – delicious but extremely hard to come by. They have that in common with ZOO Digital, a media localisation company in a niche market where the demand for high-quality services is currently growing faster than the supply. MT is yet to make its mark on the entertainment localisation market, where the content is often nuanced, contextual dialogue with plenty of humour, sarcasm and colloquial or jumbled-up grammar thrown in. Stuart’s company, powered by its own cloud-based technology, is experiencing 70 per cent year-on-year growth.

Paella mixta by Richard Glasson, Hogarth Worldwide

There are numerous takes on this dish out there, but they are all based on a crispy layer of rice. Richard took us back to the fundamental question of what the clients are doing. They need to get closer to their consumers, and that makes cultural relevance important. However, a global approach is also important – even essential – for them. Our task is to provide our clients with the engagement model they are looking for, because their marketing departments – operating in a world of increasing complexity – are longing for simplicity. Richard proposed we spend 10 per cent of our time on innovation work; if we don’t challenge our ways of working, someone else will.

Chorizo al vino by Michaela Bartelt-Krantz, Electronic Arts

EA inspires the world to play. Player engagement informs their decisions on what to localise, and their localisation cycle works concurrently with their development cycle. Michaela’s message for the audience was as comforting and filling as this gorgeously boozy and spicy dish: “We want our partners to have a tomorrow. We are competing for the attention of our players, and to engage them, we need our partners’ help.”

Albóndigas by Jean Senellart, SYSTRAN

A bit like NMT, the best thing about these juicy meatballs is that you can freeze them and then thaw them out later when you know what to do with them. Jean whizzed us through the three MT eras: Rule-Based, Statistical and Neural, and showed us how the latter is characterised by openness, fast-changing technology, a quest for data quality and a very quick transition from academia to industry. In his words, our current NMT experience is like groping for the elephant in the room whilst blindfolded; we are all feeling different parts of the huge beast and forming different ideas of what it looks like.

There was of course real food on offer as well. After four hours of presentations, SlatorCon catered for two and a half hours of pure networking, and the guests had time to exchange views on what they had heard. Nobu Hotel laid on a wonderous spread of Japanese-style delicacies to smooth the way, but I am not qualified to comment on that menu.

Here’s a selection of tasters from the menu: