Tips for the Upcoming #ATA58 Conference

BK Translation

Photo Credit: Christian Fregnan via Unsplash

It’s that time of year, dear colleagues: the 58th Annual ATA Conference is but a few days away. This will be my second year attending and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to meet up with old friends, reconnect with contacts from last year, and make new connections with this year’s attendees.

I think that new and seasoned conference-goers alike tend to feel a little overwhelmed at the ATA conference, and for good reason: there are few events that bring together so many language professionals, LSPs, and talented speakers for a whirlwind of talks, networking events, and other gatherings.

Ahead of this year’s conference, I would like to share a few tips for getting the most out of the conference without neglecting yourself, and I have added two quick professional tips for good measure, too.

On the personal side…


Trust me, you will feel parched. Even the best conference hotels can have finicky HVAC systems and dry, recirculated air. You will be talking to a lot of people. Your throat will feel dry and scratchy. A great way to stave off the feeling that your mouth is full of sand is to stay hydrated. Bring a reusable water bottle and fill it up at the many watering stations, in the exhibitors’ hall, or even in the bathroom. Your body will thank you.

Wash. Your. Hands.

In the same vein, don’t neglect your health while you are at #ATA58. Seriously, you will be shaking a lot of hands, and the CDC says that the best away to avoid coming down with the common cold is to wash your hands. So keep your mitts clean and germ-free, especially before you eat, either by washing them with soap and warm water or using an alcohol-based sanitizer. You’ll be less likely to bring a case of the flu back home with you or accidentally give your conference bestie the cold you picked up on your trip in.

Take time for yourself

I would venture to guess that most participants will admit that the day after the ATA conference ends, they feel like they spread themselves a little too thin. We don’t often get the opportunity to meet so many people and learn so much in such a short span of time, so we push ourselves to fit in as much as we can. It is a marathon of talks, networking and social events, drinks with colleagues, combined with less than perfectly restful sleeps in unfamiliar hotel beds. Remember to make time for yourself. Go for a walk outside, find a quiet corner to unwind, or take advantage of the amenities of the host city. I am planning a visit to the National Gallery of Art to see Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting, an exhibition that was the subject of a translation that I completed late last year.

On the professional side…

Business cards

After last year’s conference, I had more business cards than I knew what to do with. I’m not sure if seasoned conference goers just don’t collect as many, but it seemed like I had handful after handful. Call me crazy, but I believe it is a professional courtesy to accept someone’s card if they offer it to you, and to offer your own in return, even if that person has nothing to offer you. This means that you will collect some rather important cards as well as cards you will never need. In your bag, wallet, or pocket, put important cards on the top of your stack and less important ones on the bottom. When you have a few minutes of down time, jot down something that sticks out in your mind on the back of your important cards. If later on, when you’re going through your cards on the bottom, you can’t remember a single thing about the person who gave it to you, no one will fault you if you put it in the recycling bin. You will meet a lot of people and following up with each and every one might not be realistic.

Exhibitors’ hall

You are not obligated to go to every booth and talk to every exhibitor, nor should you. Some of the exhibitors will not pique your interest, and that’s OK. Still, last year I found that spending time in the exhibitors’ hall is fun and you never know who you are going to bump into by the SDL booth or meet while you’re milling around the coffee station. I met Percy Balemans last year during a conversation about Dutch swear words (don’t ask) while steeping tea at the snack table.


A week that we all look forward to all year is fast approaching. Make sure to get the most out of it by taking care of yourself and cutting yourself a little slack. For more great tips, check out 9 Things You Can Do Today to Get the Most out of #ATA58 from the Savvy Newcomer blog. If you see me at the conference (Jost Zetzsche and I are the tallest fellows there, I’m just a bit younger *wink*), say hi! And most importantly, if you have any conference tips of your own, please share them in the comments.

13 thoughts on “Tips for the Upcoming #ATA58 Conference

  1. Great tips, Ben! I get so much use out of my refillable water bottle when I’m at conferences. And I like to think I’m cutting down a bit on all the waste, too 🙂
    I would also add: snacks! I tend to get hungry at random times during the day, so I carry something in my bag. I opt for snacks I can eat quietly without disturbing others around me, of course!


  2. In my first few ATA conferences, I tried to attend as many sessions as possible and visit as many exhibitors as possible, which left me completely burned out by Saturday. Last year, I took a more measured approach: I attended only those sessions that really interested me, and I went through the list of exhibitors and decided which booths I wanted to visit. This left me with more free time to meet other translators and get out of the hotel a bit. I was still tired by Saturday, but left inspired rather than burned out!


    • Thank you for your insight, Deepti. I think picking and choosing the most interesting sessions is critical. No reason to fill every single time slot with something just for the sake of attending as many as possible.


  3. Hi, Ben, one tip I can offer that I discovered quite by accident is to visit the exhibition hall with a friend or colleague in a complementary language pair or specialization (for instance the opposite direction as the one you work in, or if you work in medical, someone who works in legal). A few years ago a friend and I were wandering through, and when the exhibitor expressed interest in one of her specializations, I was able to talk her up, and when it was one of mine, she highly recommended me. We hadn’t planned it that way, but it came very naturally. It was so much easier and more fund than promoting ourselves.


  4. I agree wholeheartedly. I have attended many ATA conferences and for years wore myself out getting to sessions and exhibitors, and networking. I, too, have come to the conclusion that quality ( time) is better than quantity and I will benefit more from picking, choosing, and absorbing more deeply what I experience.


  5. Hi Ben, It was nice to meet you in WDC and then discover your site. Well done!
    If I may add just a tip: while sorting through all these business cards, look at them from a neutral marketing point of view, especially if you are thinking about reprinting/updating yours. Which ones are particularly attractive and informative without being cluttered (ATA logo, colors) ? Which errors jump at you (tiny logo, colors)? Do you think that odd formats are a good idea? How about two-sided bilingual cards?
    Anyway, just a thought!


    • Anne, it was a pleasure meeting you as well! I really like this idea for crowdsourcing business card updates by looking at everyone else’s cards. I’m sorry I didn’t get a copy of your business card this time! It’s true that you look at some cards and go, “wow!” and with others, you cringe a little bit. I’m nearing the end of my stack, so I think an update will be in order soon. Thanks for reading my post and for your comment.


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