A SMALL YET DIVERSE WORLD

Poolside breakfast to gear up for the workshops of the day.

Poolside breakfast to gear up for the workshops of the day.

The 2008 ATA Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida drew a diverse crowd and positive reviews from NCTA attendees. Poolside receptions, balmy weather, and great workshops were enjoyed by all. BY KAREN TKACZYK, FARAH ARJANG VEZVAEE, AND RENATE CHESTNUT.

Orlando Has Its Perks

November 4th—I arrived in the evening, and settled in to my comfortable hotel room. I was channel surfing wildly to see how the election results were shaping up. Later my roommate, Paula Dieli, arrived while Obama was giving his acceptance speech. Our memories of the election will always be linked with this ATA conference

There were fewer people attending the conference than last year in San Francisco, but that did not detract from the experience for me. I thought the ambiance was lively and positive, and the selection of presentations was appealing. The receptions and breakfasts were all held outside by the swimming pools. I really enjoyed that burst of warm weather, particularly because I had driven through a snow storm in the Sierras to catch my flight to Orlando.

Now, about that: the conference being held in Orlando. A lot of people said they were skipping this year’s conference because the location was unappealing. Attending the conference were people who clearly can’t stand Disney. However, there were also a number of attendees whose families were at the parks during the day as evidenced by preschoolers wearing princess tiaras and discussions about enjoying Epcot. I popped over to the shops once to buy souvenirs for my children, and that was the extent of my exposure to Disney. It is the case, though, that I didn’t eat as well as I did last year!

Professional development may be the main purpose for the conference, but half the fun for me is the time spent with people with whom I have something in common. Aside from the obvious multicultural living that many in our profession experience, there are smaller links that turn into lovely memories. One of the invited speakers for the French division, Sandra Smith (translator of Irène Némirovsky’s “Suite Française”), had taught the Diploma in French that I took while I was studying for my PhD in Cambridge. That was a real blast from the past, and we had a lovely time chatting about that university and city. I met two other chemical translators, which is always worth noting, as there aren’t that many of us! Then there were the ‘only at ATA’ conversations I had, like saying, “I’m from Scotland,” while swimming laps in the pool at 7 am, then the follow-up question being, “Do you work with Gaelic?”

I attended some of the ATA business meetings, and found them very informative. The amount of time spent on making the association work for the members by those who volunteer is rather impressive. There were no great political debates, but there was lively discussion on matters about which the members who raised them care deeply.

I’m a freelance translator, so that’s the angle I was coming from. Translation companies were well represented and I met potential clients. There were great educational sessions and, as far I could tell, sessions that suited a wide variety of attendees. There were many for those getting started and on tools for translators. There were others for translators who want to market themselves better and move up in the profession. The medical division seemed to have a solid set of high-level presentations, and I think there were quite a few for legal experts too. I was a presenter and was pleased to have an early slot so that by Thursday evening my job was done and I was able to fully relax. I do highly recommend giving a presentation. It’s an excellent marketing tool, and attendees are very grateful for the effort that presenters make.

One thing I am continually surprised by is the number of attendees who don’t even glance at the sessions for tracks for languages they don’t work in, or areas outside the scope of their daily work. LSP and teaching track sessions can provide valuable insight into what clients and bosses want from translators. Interpreting and literary track sessions are often very interesting, even if we have no intention of interpreting or translating a novel. The Varia sessions can be the most surprising: Sanskrit was represented this year. Personally I have enjoyed technical sessions the Japanese division provided in the last two years that were given in English.

So, it was exhilarating to be at the conference. I came home motivated, raring to follow up on all my new contacts and put new ideas into practice.

See you in Manhattan! KT

A Wonderful Spirit

I have attended ATA annual conferences for the past 7 years, every year except the 47th annual conference in November of 2006 held in New Orleans. This year the ATA conference was held in Orlando, Florida. In addition to the beautiful weather in Orlando and the Hilton poolside outdoor activities, this year I felt the conference was more fun and diverse. An eclectic group of language professionals from Europe to Africa, South America, Asia, and all over the world gave a wonderful spirit to the 49th annual conference in Orlando. I normally attend the welcome reception where I meet many new contacts as well as old friends and colleagues. This year it was even better as it was poolside and the weather was very nice.

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday are always packed with presentations and events; so full of happenings that I have a hard time to catch up and attend all the events I have already marked in my planner. Days go by quickly as there are presentations here, meetings with old friends there, attending the Exhibit Hall and checking the Job Market Place. Lunches and dinners are with new friends from China, old friend from Argentina, another colleague from Korea whose face is now more than an acquaintance as we have seen each other at so many language related conferences. I wish the conference was one week long, instead of three days, and we could extend the days beyond 24 hours.

Every year when I attend the ATA conference I am worried about missing many sessions and presentations that I like because too many good things are happening at the same time. Over the past couple of years the conference organizers have arranged recordings of many sessions on a DVD, so anybody, even those who couldn’t attend the conference, can listen to the actual presentations. This year every hour of listening to the presentations counts as one point of continuing education for active members of ATA. Conference proceedings are also available on CD. Both CD and DVD are available online at ATA’s website for purchase.

Another favorite part of the conference for me is always the Exhibit Hall. Here I can see many of the companies with whom I have worked for many years and have talked with either over the phone or through emails. They are nice and friendly and it is great to put a face to all the email communications. Most translation agencies offer a token of their gratitude to the translators with a pen, a gadget or a gismo of some kind that makes it more fun to start a conversation when you stop by their booths. Translation Memory software development companies whose numbers are increasing every year are the heart of the Exhibit Hall as they hold presentations and sponsor events here and there. This year I really enjoyed talking with all of them as I had thought about buying my second TM program.

The ATA Conference always ends with a dance which is a lot of fun. Unfortunately I could not attend the dance this year as I was extremely tired. After the last session on Saturday, I had an early dinner and decided to take a nap before going to the dance. Unfortunately when I woke up, it was past 11 PM and too late to start the evening. Half an hour later when I went downstairs to get a bottle of water I saw some friends were coming back from the dance party. They sounded quite jazzed up and they said they had a great time. I was still too tired to regret it at that moment but later on when I heard so many great things about the professional dancers and semi professional dancers with the great DJ, I regretted that I hadn’t set my alarm or waited one more night to rest. Oh well, there is always next year.

The 50th ATA conference is going to be in the heart of New York, Times Square. They are saying it will be the most wonderful conference of all time and the conference planners are expecting a high number of attendees for this conference. I am definitely going unless something out of ordinary happens. I am also preparing a presentation and am waiting to hear the final word as to whether my presentation has been accepted. So I encourage everybody to attend and if you have something to share with other fellow translators, don’t be shy, as the ATA conference is one of the greatest places to learn and to share about our profession.

There is a lot to say about the ATA conference but unfortunately we have limitations of space. The power of technology is in our favor and there is a lot to see on the ATA website about this year’s conference. Many great videos and pictures of events from morning yoga to the Round Robin Tennis Tournament and School Outreach Program are on the ATA website. Please follow this link http://www.atanet.org/conf/2008/ and see for yourself.

See you all next year in New York! FAV

Time Management Tips

The session at this year’s ATA conference in Orlando from which I benefited the most was a two-part presentation on time management, titled “Taking Control of Your Time: If Not Now, When?” The talks were presented by Dr. Thea Döhler, the invited speaker of ATA’s German division, and they were some of the best-structured, entertaining, and useful conference sessions I’ve ever attended. Dr. Döhler is a successful business consultant in Germany, and her connection to the world of translation-which helped her tailor her presentation to our community of continuously time-challenged freelance translators-is through her husband, a prolific English-German translator.

From the very beginning, it seemed as if Dr. Döhler knew about all of my very personal time-management shortcomings, but it quickly became apparent that the other attendees-and probably pretty much everybody else in business for themselves-were struggling with the same issues. Most of us seem to feel that there’s never enough time to deal with everything on our schedules, from paid work to administrative tasks to continuing education to housework, family, friends, volunteer work, exercise and hobbies. We may try to become champions at doing various tasks simultaneously (my longer phone conversations are always accompanied by some household chore, like ironing or pulling weeds), but there are more productive ways of managing one’s time.

In the ATA session, Dr. Döhler invited us to look at our personal time environment, at our roles and functions, as well as the demands and constraints we experience in our particular situations in the four areas of work/productivity, family/ other relationships, personal health/relaxation/hobbies, and personal growth/spirituality. When we know where we spend our time, and which parts we would like to change, we can establish goals that help us manage our time more successfully. Setting goals, and pursuing these goals in a rational manner-i.e., breaking tasks down into smaller parts, prioritizing (one of my main weaknesses), scheduling individual tasks, and then checking our progress and results-allows us to use our time more effectively.

We were reminded to pay attention to our individual biorhythms when scheduling particular activities-not everybody experiences the same peaks of “performance potential” in the morning or late afternoon. Difficult translations that require our fullest attention should, of course, be tackled when we are most alert, meaning that easier tasks-like reading and responding to e-mail, making phone calls or preparing invoices- should be scheduled for times when we feel a little slower, like after the mid-day meal. (This seems to be one of my big problems: “wasting” high-performance-potential time on simpler tasks.) Another important point is taking regular breaks-the suggestion was 10 minutes every hour.

One of the most challenging issues to deal with is the “time stealers”-the interruptions and distractions that keep us from working most effectively. Dr. Döhler encouraged us to keep a daily time diary for a while in order to identify these often very small, but disruptive, interruptions, which can have a much more detrimental effect on our effective use of time that we might imagine. Even a very short interruption (phone call, e-mail, a child’s or pet’s demand for attention) of, for example, some focused work on a difficult translation assignment, requires a subsequent “ramp-up” time to get us back to the previous level of concentration, and we lose a substantial amount of time. In addition to self-discipline (avoiding unnecessary browsing on the Internet, checking e-mail only at specific times), we can schedule “quiet times” for concentrated work, during which we turn off the phone and automatic e-mail notification, turn away drop-in visitors (even family) and close the door to our office, if necessary.

Other ways in which we lose time are: spending too much time and energy on non-essential or routine activities; attempting to do too much without clear priorities; lack of planning and clear idea of what each project entails; poor desk management and personal organization; procrastination; ignoring one’s internal clock and personal performance rhythm. Dr. Döhler reminded us about the Pareto principle, or 20-80 rule, that appears to apply to personal time management as well: 80% of all important work gets done in 20% of the time spent working. Effective planning of one’s use of time is therefore the most important time management tool. Of the various time planning methods mentioned, I remember the following main principles: write things down (to-do lists etc.); make realistic estimates of time requirements of projects; allow for time buffers; set priorities; 8 minutes of planning save 1 hour of time. Specific suggestions from Dr. Döhler were: delegate things that don’t make effective use of my time; learn to say “no”; deal with e-mails more efficiently (set specific times for reading and writing, filter incoming mail, keep e-mails short, use the phone for complex interactions), bundle tasks (e.g., write several invoices at one time, pay all bills at the same time).

This presentation offered me many “Aha!” moments-I had known before that my time management was seriously underdeveloped, but now I had a much better idea where my weak points lie. I left with a list of resolutions for my home translation business and my life in general, and I have been taking small steps towards better management of my time in the weeks that have passed. (No more reading every e-mail right when it comes in!) I know this will be a never-ending battle, but I’m glad I had this help in getting started. For those who would like similar help with their time-management skills, check out the books by David Allen, the “personal productivity guru” (as described on the cover of the previously sadly unread copy of “Getting Things Done” that I discovered on my very own bookshelf). Allen recommends very similar ideas for getting on top of your workload and achieving “stress-free productivity.” RC

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