ATA’s Annual Conference: A Gauge for Professional Growth

From the President

David Rumsey
Twitter handle: @davidcrumsey

Sailing in the open water can be both exhilarating as well as somewhat disorienting. Lots of people rely on the sun, the stars, or more likely on GPS equipment, to keep track of their location. But sometimes the best way to determine not only where you are, but also where you’re headed is to make sure that you come ashore every now and then.

When we think of ATA, one of the largest landmarks for the Association is our Annual Conference. The conference provides the opportunity for the Board and the membership to come together in a place of both celebration and collaboration. It’s an event that should be on every member’s calendar each year.

The conference attracts upwards of 1,500 attendees each year, with the 2009 New York conference attracting over 2,400 attendees, which was close to almost a quarter of the Association’s membership. ATA’s Annual Conference is one of the largest conferences in the language industry in the world, and attracts translators, interpreters, academics, agency owners, government officials, and people from the realms of technology.

With over 175 conference sessions tailored to both beginners and experienced translators and interpreters, there can be a lot from which to choose. (The Preliminary Program is included with this issue of The ATA Chronicle.) The conference is an excellent time for you to get your bearings in our own career, decide on any new directions you would like to pursue, and learn any tips and tricks of the trade to get you there.

One of the most important reasons attendees cite for returning to the conference is the opportunity to network. Many attendees find that meeting just a few key contacts and landing a large job or two can pay for the entire event. With such a diverse group of players you are certain to find people who not only share your language, but also your occupation, area of interest, and often your experience. Attendees looking to connect with potential clients can find them at special events such as the new Job Fair or in the Exhibit Hall. The Brainstorm Networking event combines both speed networking and the chance to share solutions to common problems that translators and interpreters may face. Many attendees are thrilled just to meet people who understand what it is they do for a living.

The Annual Conference is often described as a “family reunion,” where folks can reconnect with old friends and network with new business contacts. The conference is unique in that it offers special programs developed to help first-time attendees feel at home. The Buddies and Newbies program does an excellent job of matching veteran attendees with first-timers so that they can learn tips about the do’s and don’ts and the “must-attend” events at each conference.

One of the biggest “must-attend” events is the Meeting of All Members that is held on Friday morning, during which members can raise their concerns, ideas, and comments directly to the Board. The Meeting of All Voting Members is held on Thursday morning, where members have the chance to meet the candidates that are competing for positions on the Board. Three directors are added to the Board at each conference.

If you’re looking to see the Board in action, the Board meetings are also open to the public. The Board meeting is held on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. There is a special time at the end of the meeting for members to address their comments directly to the Board. At many conferences, there is also the opportunity to get to know a member of the Board more closely at specially marked tables at breakfast.

After three days of meetings, sessions, and merriment, attendees and members find themselves revitalized and their careers re-energized. ATA’s Annual Conference also provides the Board with a chance to touch base with the membership in person and to use the experiences and exchanges to help guide the Association forward on our journey.

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