Money-saving strategies for attending the ATA conference November 18, 2015Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in ATA, Business practices.
Every year people complain about the cost of the conference, but I find I can’t afford not to go. The new business and contacts it generates for me and the pleasure of being around like-minded people who get me make it one of the best weeks of the year. I was inspired to write this after reading a recent post on The Simple Dollar entitled 12 Strategies for Saving Money on Convention or Conference Trips. Here are my tips for saving money for or at the ATA conference, some of them inspired by the article and some from past experience at our conferences.
1) Get a roommate or several. I always stay at the conference hotel, because it allows me to go up to my room if I need a break and it is where a lot of my friends stay. Even if you stay at a hotel that is nearby, ATA offers a roommate referral service every year. I had booked a single king bed room this year when that was all that was left and was approached shortly before the conference asking if I would consider a roommate with a roll-away bed. Instead of paying $800 for my room, it only cost me $400. In past years I have also been known to have a couple roommates. The Kent State students always sleep 4 to a room. Having a roommate really saves money.
2) Save throughout the year. The conference generally runs me about $1500 including registration fee, hotel room, flight and meals. By putting a little bit of money aside every month it isn’t as painful. It also helps to register as soon as registration opens, book your flight a month or two later and then just deal with hotel and meals at the conference. By spreading out the cost it isn’t as painful.
3) Plan ahead and register early. This ties in with number 2. By registering by the Early Bird Deadline you can save some money, because the price spikes after the deadline. Also, flights are cheaper the longer out you book them.
4) Take advantage of the Welcome Reception, breakfast, and coffee breaks. The Welcome Reception always offers some food stations with nibbles and beverages (this year they cut it down to one, but every little bit helps). Even if you are staying at a nearby hotel as a conference attendee you are allowed (if not expected) to fill up on pastries, fruit and oatmeal every morning. Instead of hitting Starbucks or a nearby coffee shop make sure you hit the coffee breaks for a coffee or tea. I learned a tip from Marian Greenfield to bring my own ATA mug with me so that I can bring one to go into the next session.
5) Attend exhibitor parties and client dinners. Some of the software vendors, such as Wordfast, have parties which are quite popular. Back in the day, Trados also used to have a great desserts party. I even won a software package there once. Ah, the good old days… Pro tip: get there as early as you can to make sure you can get some food. Also, see if your clients are having a get-together for their vendors. Even if they are just buying a drink at the hotel bar that will still save some money. Plus, you will meet the people you work with in person, and that is invaluable networking.
6) Set a spending budget for your business. I used to always buy one dictionary a year at the conference. The conference is also a great place to save on translation software. Most companies announce their special conference prices ahead of time, so if you are looking to buy a new TEnT or upgrade an existing one this is the time to do it.
7) Ask for a refrigerator and consider low cost options for lunches and dinners. If you are on a special diet, have to refrigerate medication, like real coffee creamer, or have leftovers a refrigerator is a must. Consider buying food and keeping it in the room for affordable meals. The conference in Miami was located across from a Whole Foods, which many people took advantage of. The concierge also offered me a refrigerator when I checked in, but booking one ahead ensures one is available.
8) Buy beer or a bottle and have drinks in your room. I had never thought to do this before, but it makes sense. The best place to socialize at the conference is the hotel bar, but if you are on a budget consider inviting some colleagues up to your room for a get-together. I might do this one night next year. My roommate bought a bottle of wine, and we had a glass together the first night of the conference in our room, which was nice. Just be sure to bring a wine bottle opener if you do.
9) Pack a water bottle. I do this for every trip I go on, but it came in handy this year because water was not as abundant as it has been in the past. Not to mention that the in-room bottles of water the hotel “provided” for us were priced at $6.50.
10) Write out a packing list. This year I thought I had forgotten to pack my toothbrush. Luckily I was able to call Housekeeping for a new one, but I still had to tip the Housekeeper who delivered it. I found my toothbrush in my suitcase the next day. If I had packed it with my toiletries like I normally do I wouldn’t have had trouble finding it. So pack based on your list and be aware where you stow things. A checklist that you prepare a month or week or even a day ahead of time ensures you don’t forget anything when you pack your suitcase.
11) Pack redundantly. Always pack a day or two of clothes and toiletries in your carry-on bag in case your suitcase gets lost! Make sure you have necessities like medication and contact lens solution as well. I remember getting stuck in Chicago due to weather on the way home from Seattle and having to beg a fellow traveler for some contact lens solution to put in a Dixie cup for my contacts.
12) Pack carefully based on the location and predicted weather. In addition to being surprised by just how cold it was in our air-conditioned hotel, several people were surprised by just how hot it was outside in Miami this year. Bring appropriate clothes, but also remember a shawl or sweater for the conference rooms. Conversely, I was completely unprepared for the unusually cooler weather in Phoenix and had to buy several pants and long-sleeve shirts at a clothing store. In addition, try your clothes on before packing them in case you gained some weight this year. We sit a lot in comfy clothes and might not be aware that our business casual clothes might not fit anymore. Also, remember that it can get cold in November in colder climates and bring a coat.
13) Consider presenting a session. Presenters are usually given a discount on the conference registration. Every little bit helps, and you’ll be boosting your presence and sharing your invaluable knowledge with others as well.
14) Be happy our conference is so affordable. People always complain about the cost of the conference, but conferences in other industries are often double or triple what we pay. Even with the price going up so much this year due to the Board decision for the conference to be self-sustaining it is still worth it. Consider everything we get for the price of the conference: the preliminary and final programs and daily updates; the conference app; name badges and ribbons; language dots to identify your languages; breakfast and coffee breaks; ice water (whether in the session room or in the hallway); the Welcome Reception and a drink; networking events like the Networking Brainstorm, Afterhours Cafe, division get-togethers and Resume Exchange; the Closing Reception; the Conference Dance; the Exhibit Hall; 175 sessions to choose from and enough rooms to hold them; division meetings; audiovisual equipment for the meeting rooms and the main ballroom; recording services for the eConference DVD; free wifi this year (!); the on-site ATA staff to ensure everything is running smoothly and temporary workers to staff the Registration booths; and probably a bunch of other things of which we aren’t even aware. Not a bad trade-off for the $485 registration fee. I do, however, dearly miss the chair massages in the Exhibit Hall!!
If you have a money-saving tip or I missed something, feel free to add it in the comments.