From the President-Elect: Attending ATA59: An Investment in Your Professional Future

From the President-Elect
Ted R. Wozniak

Planning for ATA’s 59th Annual Conference—October 24–27, 2018, in New Orleans—is well underway, so now is the time to start making your plans to attend. Come meet with about 1,600 of your fellow translators and interpreters, agency owners/representatives, and exhibitors so you can learn, network, and be more successful in your profession.

But maybe you’re skeptical about the benefits of attending an ATA conference. Maybe you think the conference is too expensive or not worth the money, or just too big of a hassle to justify the time you’ll lose from actual paid work. Nothing could be further from the truth!

I remember that before attending my first conference in 2003 (ATA44 in Phoenix, Arizona), I had been very skeptical about the benefits of attending a conference, and even ATA membership. I couldn’t see a positive “cost-benefit ratio” or return on investment. I was wrong! The people I met there and the things I learned literally changed my life. If I hadn’t attended, I would never have developed into the successful translator I am today. I owe my career and livelihood to ATA, ATA conferences, and, of course, to my fellow ATA members.

But don’t just take my word for it. Check out the videos and read testimonials from past attendees at the conference website ( to learn how an ATA conference benefited them, professionally and personally. And be sure to book your hotel room early before the room block sells out. At $239/night, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better rate in The French Quarter (even at AirBnB due to new restrictions on short-term rentals imposed by the city). To get a sense of what’s to be gained by attending, make sure to watch some sessions from ATA58 to see just how good the learning opportunities at an ATA conference are. (You can find these on ATA’s YouTube Channel at

As for this year’s conference, we received 382 session proposals on a wide range of topics. Division administrators and assistant administrators, as well as other subject matter experts, are completing their review and rating of the proposed sessions. Unfortunately, we only have 174 slots available.

Rating session proposals is an extremely difficult task for volunteers. I reviewed 35 proposals last week and there was not a single one that I didn’t consider interesting and of potential value to our members. The range of topics offered by highly experienced and esteemed translators and interpreters tells me that ATA59 may be one of the best conferences ever in terms of professional development opportunities. It was no easy task to select just 16 of those 35 proposals. While I was doing my review, I was wishing that the conference were seven or eight days long so that I could accept every proposal!

By the time this column appears, the final selections should be completed and the preliminary program almost finalized. You’ll have no better opportunity to stay up to date concerning developments in your language pair, specialization, and other aspects of our profession then by attending ATA59. From advances in technology, such as neural machine translation and remote interpreting, to sessions on medical, patent, legal, and financial translation, or tips on dealing with peculiarities in your source and target languages, every day of the conference will be packed with learning opportunities.

Of course, there’s more to attending the conference than just professional development. There will be networking opportunities, where you can meet prospective clients and fellow translators and interpreters. To help you obtain work and meet new clients, the very popular Job Fair will be extended to two nights this year. That way, if you have a scheduling conflict with another social event such as a division dinner, you will not have to make the hard choice of choosing one over the other. (Speaking of division off-site events, while there are more restaurants in New Orleans than you can shake a stick at, it’s never too early to find a venue for your off-site event.) Also on tap again this year will be the popular Brainstorm Networking and Buddies Welcome Newbies events.

Whether you’re a relative newcomer or a seasoned veteran, attending the conference is an investment that pays dividends for years to come. From meeting your first client or “bagging the whale” that will give you thousands of dollars of work each year for years to come, to finding a colleague to collaborate with, to learning a tip that increases your productivity, every hour of every day at the conference is an opportunity to learn, grow, and advance in your career. Or maybe even find the love of your life! That, too, has been a “success story” from an ATA conference. I know—I was at their wedding recently.

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