From the President: The Board’s Annual Strategy Day

From the President
Madalena Sánchez Zampaulo
Twitter: @mszampaulo

As I make my way home from the summer ATA Board of Directors meeting and Strategy Day in Chicago, I find myself drawing connections about the many items the Board discussed over the course of three days together.

First, we met on Friday, August 5, for our Annual Strategy Day. This is a day where the Board discusses big-picture issues affecting the translation and interpreting (T&I) professions, buyers of T&I services, and the Association as a whole. We do this exercise to stay current about issues to keep in mind throughout the year, with a mindset on how we can be proactive and make improvements to areas like member benefits, the Annual Conference, the Association’s finances, and more over the coming years. This year, we discussed:

  • External and big-picture trends in the world that affect our professions
  • Booming areas of specialization in T&I
  • Membership retention and growth
  • The future of ATA and the Annual Conference

And while I don’t have the space in my column to go into these topics in great detail, I do think it’s worth sharing that the Board found several areas where we can support our members as we continue to see growth in specific areas of specialization, such as video remote interpreting (VRI), video game and app localization, subtitling and dubbing, multilingual copywriting, and user experience (UX) writing. This support includes putting more focus on our professional development and business practices programs to continue developing content and education on important topics related to specific areas and industries, skills-building, and the future of technology in our professions. We also discussed the continued importance of advocacy and public relations as we look to the future.

Our Annual Strategy Day is one of my favorite meetings with ATA’s Board, as it allows us to take a step back and look at the big picture, focusing on ways to address challenges related to our professions and the Association. Huge thanks to President-Elect Veronika Demichelis for planning our Strategy Day this year. It was one of the most productive I’ve experienced in my eight years on the Board. Watch for big things to come!

We were also in Chicago to tour two potential hotel venues for the 2026 Annual Conference. This coincided well with the Strategy Day topic of the future of the conference in general. We’re seeing increasingly smaller attendance at our Annual Conferences, even beyond the unfortunate effects the pandemic has had on our most recent two conferences. This parallels our slowly declining membership, which the Board is also taking measures to address. Above all, we must consider our finances, including the need to increase the number of attendees to cover the cost of holding our flagship event. So, the Board is discussing ways to offer members, sponsors, and exhibitors an elevated conference experience while trying to avoid raising the price of attendance.

It became clear that holding an Annual Conference in Chicago again would cost much more than any of our previous conferences to date. Much of this is due to the high cost of food and beverage and the union requirements in Chicago. With the goal of avoiding taking a loss on the conference and having membership dues subsidize the event, we’re considering other options for the 2026 conference and will report back when we’ve selected a venue. I’m pleased to see that our Board is willing to forego a popular and vibrant location to consider other options where we have more financial certainty. This doesn’t mean that ATA will be looking at smaller cities. In fact, the Board discussed that the Annual Conference has been most successful in major cities like San Francisco, New York, Boston, Miami, and Washington, DC. Therefore, we’re considering what rotating among these cities might allow us to do in terms of attracting more attendees while elevating the conference experience going forward. Stay tuned for more on this topic.

And while unrelated to strategy and conference locations, it would be remiss of me if I neglected to thank three individuals who have made a great impact on our Board and the Association. Our colleagues Cristina Helmerichs and Jamie Hartz are both finishing their terms as directors in Los Angeles. I think it’s fair to say on behalf of the Board that we’ll truly miss having them at our meetings. Cristina and Jamie have contributed greatly to the Board’s activity and ATA’s core programs over the past several years, and I’m sure we’ll continue to see great things from them. And finally, as you may know, our beloved Executive Director Walter (Mooch) Bacak is wrapping up 28 years of service to ATA. The impact he has made on our Association and the T&I professions during his time with us is significant, to say the least, and he will be greatly missed by all. We’ll plan to have a proper send-off and celebration for Mooch at ATA63 in Los Angeles!

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