Don't forget these 10 things if you are attending a conference

  • Sightseeing: If you’re traveling to a city you’ve never been to before, make sure to leave some time for sightseeing. Arrive a few days early or stay a bit longer. Research beforehand the places you want to see, which travel card or city pass is more suitable for you, based on the Points of Interest (POI) or attractions you want to visit. So yeah, sometimes I also research and plan for sightseeing, the rest of the times I barely see the new city I’m visiting…
  • Business cards: Review your business cards well before the conference. Maybe it’s time to update them or print a new batch of your existing cards. You should have at least 100 cards with you, more if you’re planning to attend several networking events or you’re a speaker at the conference. Most importantly, don’t forget to take them with you before you leave home!
  • Promotional material: By promotional material I mean flyers, brochures etc. about your translation business. Freelance translators don’t usually bother bringing such promotional material to big translation conferences, because there aren’t many direct clients there, but mostly translation agencies. The latter will be more impressed by a well-prepared resume than any other promotional material.
  • Résumé: Review and update your résumé. Make sure it’s not more than 1-2 pages and print it to check how it looks on paper. Then, choose a nice quality paper, preferably white or ivory, and print at least 50-100 copies. In ATA conferences, you put most of these in the Job Marketplace for potential clients to browse. Keep some resumes at hand in case you meet someone (probably a translation manager) who asks you for one.
  • Elevator speech: Read this article “Promoting Your Practice in 60 Seconds or Less: Mastering the Elevator Speech” by Lillian Clementi, and then prepare and practice your elevator speech, which will be indispensable during networking events.
  • Contact existing friends and clients: Find out if colleagues you’ve met in previous conferences or representatives from translation agencies you already work with are attending the conference. But how do you check if they’re attending? Sometimes people mention attending a conference in their social media networks and agencies might include it in a newsletter. The easiest way is to email all the colleagues you want to meet and find out if they’re going to be there. If you get an affirmative reply, arrange to meet them at a scheduled networking event, during the conference or for lunch, coffee etc.
  • Contact new people you want to meet: If you want to meet folks you’ve interacted with on social networks, a translation manager you’d like start working with etc. – arrange to do so beforehand. You can also check the full list of attendees, which you receive upon registration one day before or on first day of the conference.
  • Organize your time: The ATA conference offers an abundance of sessions and events. To make sure you’ll make the best of it, study the program sent to you by ATA well in advance and choose the sessions you don’t want to miss by creating an hourly schedule, along with backup options in case the sessions is canceled.
  • Clothing and accessories: Check the weather at your destination and pack accordingly. You’ll probably spent most of your day in the conference hotel, so bring an overcoat but don’t dress too heavily underneath because you’re going to be hot and uncomfortable. The ‘dress-code’ for the conference is business casual. You don’t have to wear a suit, but leave your flip-flops at home. Check if the hotel has a pool and/or a spa and if you’re interested, pack your swimming suit (the hotel usually offers everything else, such as robe, slippers, towels etc.). Bring your workout clothes and shoes for the Stretch, Breathe & Move sessions, offered during each ATA conference at 6:30-7:15 am.
  • Inform your clients you’ll be OoO: It’s next to impossible to work during the 3-day conference, so don’t forget to inform your clients well before you leave (at least 1-2 weeks) about your out-of-office dates. Also, write a nice OoO message to be sent to anybody that sends you an email during that period. If you have a smartphone, you’ll probably be able to check your inbox during the conference, but avoid spending too much time with your phone/tablet/computer when there are so many interesting things to learn and people to meet.

Have I missed anything? Is there anything else I should pack or prepare before attending another exciting conference and city? What’s in your to-do list to prepare for a conference?

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