Are professional conferences and organizations valuable?
May 21, 2012 § 6 Comments
After the success of this weekend’s NAJIT conference in Cambridge Massachusetts, just like every time a big professional event takes place, many colleagues question the value of attending a conference or workshop. I must confess that I was not able to attend this weekend’s conference due to professional reasons, but I attended the American Translators Association conference this past October in Boston. It was one of the best conferences I have attended in my life, and believe me; I have attended many of them. For many years it has been my practice to attend at least the ATA, NAJIT, and other two or three conferences or workshops every year. I also attended the FIT conference in San Francisco last summer. To me, attending these conferences and workshops, and belonging to our professional organizations has tremendous value.
Despite the ever-increasing quality of these conferences, I have run across some colleagues who do not go to these events because they claim that these conferences are boring and have little academic content. They believe that the professional organizations do very little for their individual practice and therefore they are a waste of money. I would like to hear what you have to say. Are professional conferences and organizations a valuable tool for the interpreter, or are they simply an unjustified expense?
I think that, in general, professional conferences are great! I don’t go to them all the time—one a year on average—but I always make some valuable personal/professional connections, and I always learn more about how to be better at what I do. For example, at the Conference of Interpreter Trainers in 2010, I met Miako (Villanueva) Rankin. We happened to chat at a lunch table, and now she is one of my master’s thesis committee members. Another example: I attended a Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf regional conference in 1997 and learned some life-changing lessons about participant-presenter interactions that have stayed with me both as a participant and a presenter of workshops.
I also think it helps to find more than one reason to go to a conference. When I attended the 2006 CIT conference in San Diego, it was a chance to visit my parents and friends in the city I had moved away from two years before. When I attended other conferences, such as the National Association of Black Interpreters (NAOBI), I was there as a presenter but I reveled in the warm welcome I received even though I am not black and I loved the festive atmosphere and cross-cultural exchange.
A conference is what you make it. If you can network and make friends and/or academic/professional relationships, combine both learning and teaching, and enjoy the city your visiting, I think I conference can be a great boon to one’s career.
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Dear Tony and Daniel,
I couldn’t agree more. Professional conferences are part of my working life, both because of the networking opportunities they provide and because of the valuable information one gleans both during the formal sessions and during breaks and social events. Whenever possible I try to attend the AIIC General Assemblies and above all the seminaries and workshops organized in the various AIIC regions and sectors – as well as meetings organized by APIC in Sao Paulo! Is it expensive? Sometimes, but without our professional associations we’d be less professional!!!
I have seen so much advice from more experienced and senior translators indicating that professional conferences are essential if you intend on turning this into your career, but it seems to be more important to those who are goal orientated, organised and successful. I think that says a lot. This is excellent advice for those of us starting in the field.
I’d say definitely a valuable tool, Tony. I also agree with Daniel about “it is what you make it”. If anyone’s interested I have just come back from a conference in Caserta (near Naples, Italy) and blogged about the sessions here: http://wordstodeeds.com/2012/05/16/reporting-from-caserta/ and here http://wordstodeeds.com/2012/05/18/reporting-from-caserta-part-2/
I learnt that any conferences are valuable at least for one reason – you meet people in person. Even with the state-of-the-art technology your personal contact with others is invaluable! No matter what profession you have.