Attending my first conference
Thread poster: Ian Kahn

Ian Kahn
Local time: 22:46
German to English
Jan 19, 2016


My name is Ian Kahn. I am 24 years old from the US living in Munich, Germany. For the last 5 years or so I have been translating as a freelancer on the side. Now that I have a few years of professional experience behind me working at online markeintg agencies in New York and now in Munich, I'm eager to take my translating to the next level.

My question is two-fold:
1. the BDÜ is located here in Munich. I think my first step should be to join and attend some meetings. Is this the right approach?

2. There is an very intriguing conference happening in Poland with some really interesting presentations. Does it make sense for someone like me (some freelance experience, no agency experience, no accreditations) to spend the money to attend with the intention of networking? Would this be a waste of money or a turning point in my business?

Thanks so much in advance for any adviceicon_smile.gif



Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:46
Italian to English
Never underestimate the value of networking! Jan 19, 2016

To me, networking in person is one of the most valuable things you can do as a freelancer. With the amount of social medial options now at our disposal, some professionals think that this allows them to forgo in-person meetings: while both are useful, nothing beats meeting potential contacts in person, and making a good impression.

So much depends on your own needs, how potentially useful each conference is, and of course cost! Conferences can be expensive, so make sure you think you will get something out of it based on you as a professional and what your goals are. These could be training, meeting colleagues, or meeting direct clients.

Also it's important to at least have a minimum of networking tools with you, at least a business card and ideally a website (some may not agree), or failing that, make sure your profile on ProZ or Linked In is as complete as possible.

Best of luckicon_smile.gif


Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:46
Member (2007)
+ ...
The value of networking #2 Jan 19, 2016

I totally agree with Fiona about the benefits of networking.

If you can afford the conference (and I imagine much of the cost will be treated as a legitimate business expense?) then I would definitely advise you to go, especially if some of the sessions are directly useful to you as a fairly new translator. I think it's unwise to depend on a conference actually having a 100% ROI within the foreseeable future, because then you might be really disillusioned. You will definitely get a confidence boost from being among more established peers, along with some tips that will save you some time and/or money. You'll also meet several of the major players in the profession, maybe on a personal basis. I've been to several conferences and I've learnt a lot from each one. In concrete terms, about €10,000 of orders definitely wouldn't have come my way if I hadn't attended them, but most of that has come from just a couple of sources. Whether every conference has had an effect on bringing me clients or not, or might do in the future, I'm not really sure, as we often have no idea what prompts a client to make their choice. I'm well pleased with the ROI anyway, especially as my husband travels with me so that we can combine my job with a short holiday in an interesting place.

As for the BDÜ, I'm sure that would be a wise investment too. Not only would you get another chance to network but you'd have their name behind you and you'd be in their register. It's a highly relevant membership for you.


Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:46
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Go northwest, young man Jan 19, 2016

Ian Kahn wrote:
2. There is an very intriguing conference happening in Poland with some really interesting presentations. Does it make sense for someone like me (some freelance experience, no agency experience, no accreditations) to spend the money to attend with the intention of networking?

It makes sense. I wouldn't expect your income to explode overnight as a result of attending, but I find conferences enjoyable, educational and inspiring. The networking angle may not immediately affect you but if you're persistent it may well pay dividends one day.

For example, there's a certain initiative taking place that involves Organisation A and Organisation B. One of the members of Organisation A, with whom I had been discussing certain business matters, suggested that he put my name forward as a candidate to get involved in this initiative. Might be interesting, I thought.

However, that proposal needs to be approved by a highly placed member of Organisation B. As it happens, I had already met the Organisation B person at a conference, where we had a long chat. So we got in touch with him, he responded positively and it all looks quite promising.

Now, in this particular example it may come to nothing, but it illustrates the fact that you never know where the connections you make at such events will lead you.

Don't go there to NETWORK in capital letters, just go there to meet your peers, learn something and have fun. Oh, and have some business cards made up and take them with you, with the intention of not coming back with any.



Ian Kahn
Local time: 22:46
German to English
All Signed Up! Jan 21, 2016

Thanks so much for your quick and supportive answers.

I'm officially signed up to attend and can't wait!



Susan van den Ende  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:46
English to Dutch
+ ...
Prepare and plan time afterwards Jan 22, 2016

Dear Ian,

Conferences are great!

Here's a couple of tips to help make your first one a success, in addition to what my colleagues already mentioned:

1: prepare yourself, even if it means you will have to say no to some jobs so you have enough time. It is an investment that will pay off.

- See if you can get your hands on a list of attendees beforehand, and research them. Any colleagues whose brains you'd love to pick? Any potential clients who might have work in fields that interest you? Business is personal, and people appreciate it when you make an effort. If any existing clients are going as well, make sure to approach them beforehand and make arrangements to meet them in person. Consider bringing them a small attention from your hometown, or something else that lets them know that you appreciate them as a client.

- prepare how you would like to present yourself. That means that your business cards, website and ProZ profile, and any other professional profiles such as LinkedIn, say what you want them to say before you pack your suitcase. Also consider what you want to wear. Conferences in the translation industry can be very informal, but you are relatively young, so resist the T-shirt temptation: there's a risk of looking like a student and then getting paid like one as well (this is more general advice that specifically directed at you; your profile picture gives an appropriately serious impression).

2: during the conference, try to listen more than you speak, and discreetly take notes so that you will remember afterwards who said what, which will allow you to follow up on that afterwards. An example: "Christina, met during Thursday coffee break, spoke on difference between UK and US English in financial translations - prefers LinkedIn over e-mail".

You will meet many new people and have many conversations, and if you are in any way like me, the notes will come in handy.

3: plan free time in the week after the conference, instead of using it translating "to make up for lost time". You will want to gather your notes from the conference presentations, read up on interesting new insights, as well as follow up on your networking. Send a personalised message to people you got to know, if possible delivering on a small promise to build trust ("Here's a link to that article on financial terminology in English"). Again, it's an investment because it means you are not spending that time translating, but it pays off.

Just going, showing up and distributing business cards is a nice start, but in my experience, you will get a lot more out of it, if you put a bit more into it.

Have a great conference!



Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 21:46
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Great stuff Jan 22, 2016

Susan van den Ende wrote:
much wisdom

Ian, Susan's advice is bang on the money, including her point about discreet notes. (Take you laptop and type them into Evernote or something - saves heartbreak if you lose bits of paper.)

If you receive business cards, go through them later and put a discreet date and the conference name on them somewhere. Saves you wondering where you met somebody at a later date. Then scan them into Evernote, of course.


[Edited at 2016-01-22 11:41 GMT]


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