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Report from the 50th ATA conference November 17, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in ATA, Random musings, Translation.

Opening Ceremony of the 50th ATA Conference

I have finally worked my way through all the mail, bills, errands, etc. that piled up while I was traveling to Myrtle Beach and NYC. It didn’t help that I immediately got slammed with work (not that I am complaining about that!!!) when I got back from the conference. I’ve had some time to mull things over, and I would like to share my impressions of the conference with you all.

The view of Times Square from my hotel room

The hotel bar

As I’m sure you have read everywhere else, this year’s conference had a record 2,300+ attendees. The hotel was located in the heart of Times Square, which was exciting, but also really expensive. In past years my fellow translators and I would hang around the hotel bar and network after hours, but with a beer costing $12 and a mixed drink at $16 there wasn’t a whole lot of hanging around being done. Also, the hotel didn’t have a lot of seating that encouraged you to hang around and catch up with friends and make new ones. The conference was spread out over four floors, so unless you already made plans and specified where to meet it was rather difficult to find people. There were quite a few attendees who I wanted to see but never did. Plus, I specified my cell phone number as my on site contact information, which never made it into the attendees list due to the sheer number of attendees that needed to be listed. I got home from the conference and had two calls on my answering machine from people looking for me at the conference.

Michael Wahlster presents the ins and outs of Twitter to a packed room

The presentations were without a doubt top-notch this year. With all the proposals submitted only 1 out of 4 proposals were accepted, so the presenters really were the cream of the crop. I did not venture much out of the hotel this year and only attended one clunker, which was held by an invited speaker who was clearly out of her depth. The highlights for me were Karen Leube’s presentation on German-English medical translation and Chris Durban and Lillian Clementi’s Up the Down Economy! Growing Your Practice with ATA’s Client Outreach Kit. Karen’s presentation opened my eyes to several translation methods I have immediately started implementing, and I had heard good things about Chris Durban’s presentations for years. I hope to use some of their ideas to branch into marketing to some direct clients this year.

Amanda showing off her double microphones and conference badge

My presentations were very well-received. As usual, they were held at the same time as presentations I really wanted to attend, like Renato Beninatto’s and Nina Sattler-Hovdar’s presentations. Maybe next year. Amanda Ennis and I presented the first session for new attendees for something like the fifth year in a row. We’ve got our schtick down and still hopefully manage to make it quite fresh and entertaining. We’re the Abbott and Costello of translation :-). We have props and everything. This year they filmed us, which was a little intimidating.

Tuomas at the start of our presentation

I was most excited about my second presentation of the conference, Making Portable Document Format Files Work For You, with Tuomas Kostiainen. Tuomas showed the attendees the ins and outs of Adobe Acrobat, such as editing PDFs, filling out PDF forms, and creating electronic signatures, and creating translation memories from PDFs using LogiTerm AlignFactory. I filled the second half of the presentation showing everyone how to create PDFs in Word and Excel and how to use optical character recognition tools to create MS Word files for translation in translation environment tools. I also briefly touched on formatting in Word. We received lots of enthusiastic feedback, which is always appreciated.

Chair massages complements of Bodyworks and ATA

The highlight of the conferences for me are the free chair massages that are available to attendees in the back of the Exhibit Hall. There is usually a bit of a wait, but I find if you wait until during sessions the wait isn’t as long. While you are waiting you can sit and massage your feet on an electronic foot massager. The massage therapists are always top-notch, and I enjoy slipping them a little tip as a thank you for giving me a little relaxation in the midst of all the craziness.

Presentation at the SDL Trados booth

The Exhibit Hall is also a central draw of the conference. Vendors such as tool vendors, universities, dictionary companies and translation agencies staff their booths to show us the latest and greatest in translation and interpreting. I usually buy a dictionary at the conference every year, but I never managed to get to the Intrans Books stand this year. I did stop at a couple translation agency booths to say hi to project managers with whom I have worked in the past and to reconnect with agencies who I have lost touch with when my project manager(s) left the company. I also walked through the Job Exchange at least once a day to make sure my resumes and business cards were replenished and prominently visible.

CETRA Reception

Last but not least, the networking. In addition to the blogger lunch I organized on Day 1 and the Kent State lunch on Day 2, I was invited to several private receptions for various translation agencies with whom I work. I enjoyed finally meeting one of my favorite project managers after talking with her on the phone for several years now. Plus, it is a nice opportunity to sit down and really talk with colleagues in a smaller, quieter setting.

View of the Chrysler Building from The View

I had planned to leave on Saturday afternoon, but decided to stay an extra night when a friend offered me her free bed for the night. Since I had driven to Baltimore and took the bus to NYC it wasn’t a problem to stay. I went out for a wonderful dinner at The View, which was the revolving restaurant on the top floor of the hotel. We sat in the lounge, enjoyed the buffet and even got to watch the fireworks from the World Series over the skyscrapers. Afterward we headed down to the conference dance and danced a bit before calling it a night. It was a great way to end the conference.

All in all I am very glad I went to this year’s conference. The presentations were interesting, and despite a couple minor complaints the venue was fabulous. I wasn’t feeling well, and some people noticed it enough to call me after the conference because they were concerned. I ended up being really sick the whole next week and am still not 100%. However, I still managed to meet what promises to be two new agencies, reconnected with some agencies and colleagues, met some really great new people, and got to hang out with my friends. And I got to see the Naked Cowboy 🙂



1. Ryan Ginstrom - November 17, 2009

Thanks for the report. I’ve never been to an ATA meeting, and it’s interesting to get a first-hand account of what they’re like.

2. Melissa Field - November 17, 2009

Very interesting post, and great photos! I’m sorry to have missed the conference and the naked cowboy. See you in Denver.

3. céline - November 17, 2009

Thanks Jill – from a “general perspective” point of view, what did you take away in terms of where the translation industry is headed and what its most exciting developments are?

4. jillsommer - November 17, 2009

I unfortunately missed Renato’s presentation, which actually covered this topic. He claims that the language industry is heading towards automation and crowdsourcing, but the translators I spoke with all said their clients haven’t really changed all that much. The point was made during the closing ceremony that the industry had grown 15% this year and was expected to grow another 15% next year and that there weren’t enough translators to cover the demand, so I have a feeling prices will be driven up in the long term as a result. Fingers crossed!

5. Tom Ellett - November 17, 2009

It was great meeting you at the conference, Jill, and I enjoyed the entertaining orientation session for first-timers given by you and Amanda. I hope it wasn’t me that gave you the (swine?) flu. Whatever I had after Day 1 of the conference was certainly a pig of a virus, and I’m only really starting to feel normal again this week. Still, I did my best to make the most of the presentations and networking opportunities, and although this was my first ATA conference, I’m sure it won’t be my last!

6. jillsommer - November 17, 2009

Hi Tom, I really enjoyed meeting you as well. No worries. I don’t think it was you that gave it to me. I was already feeling off Wednesday night. I look forward to seeing you in Denver.

7. Amanda - November 20, 2009

Hey Jill,

Sorry to hear you weren’t feeling so hot at the conference. I envy you your Naked Cowboy sighting! Glad that you’re feeling better and busy.


8. Charlotte - November 20, 2009

Hi Jill, Even though we didn’t really get to talk, thanks for letting me tag along- I had a great time and met some great people!


Charlotte - November 20, 2009

And meant to post that under the blog lunch post, if that wasn’t clear. Oops!

jillsommer - November 21, 2009

Hi Charlotte, I’m glad to hear you enjoyed yourself and met some great people. That’s kind of the point of the lunch… 🙂 Hope to talk to you next time!

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