4/9 international conference, Rotterdam, Jun 2015

The conference was great. The last minute changes were minimal, the food was good, the presentations interesting and the company wonderful. Organizer Nigel Saych will have to rest for a week at least, as will his charming assistants!

Should you want to know more, here is the unabridged version:

Once you have attended an international conference, you need to do it again and again... This is now easier as the number of conferences for translators is increasing annually! Nigel had proven he was a good organizer when we all met in Nuenen and visited the Vincentre. He proved it again in Rotterdam last weekend.

The fun started early for me. Four days before the conference, friends started arriving and on the Thursday before the conference we had a pre-pre-conference powwow. We toured Schiphol airport and then had a wonderful dinner at Vork en Mes in Hoofddorp. I believe everyone who was there will forever remember the untranslatable Dutch word: “gezellig”!

On Friday translators visited Kinderdijk, walked through Rotterdam and had dinner as a prelude to the actual conference. These events are great to get to know some of the other attendees or catch up with people you have met at other events.

The walk was interesting but I would have liked to hear more about the revamped and new buildings as the architecture in Rotterdam is eclectic and impressive. Rotterdam has lately been transformed into a city which is on the world tourism map. Quite an achievement!

We next enjoyed an Indonesian meal, a rijsttafel. As Nigel knows how to delegate, I was asked to inform all attendees on the beverage management system. A Polish translator asked whether I received a “volume discount” based on the deployment of my built-in public address system...

The official conference started on time and Nigel asked all speakers to stand up and market their talk in a minute or less. As translators do, we all delivered before the deadline, except two translators who had informed Nigel they would not be able to arrive in time for the opening ceremony!

Konstantin next interviewed providers and buyers of translation services. The audience was also allowed to ask a few questions. The representative of a boutique agency was a good choice, as it did not lead to negative comments which are vented when a bottom-feeder is asked for their insights.

Hans te Winkel gave a presentation on the EU legislative process, from inspiration through to decision, including a few interesting examples.
It was tough to decide whether to attend Marta’s presentation or Doug’s, but as I had no choice but attend Daniel’s and Pavel’s talk on being a digital nomad, I decided I should not sneak out of Doug’s but attend Marta’s new talk. Had I been Hermione I would have attended Doug’s too....

Marta gave an interesting presentation on various issues that seem to pull us in more than one direction, on the myriad of decisions we have to make on a daily basis.
Pavel and Daniel had asked me to interrupt their talk as they really wanted an interactive session. I obliged, to the exasperation of some of the audience, but I always follow instructions ;-)

Francesca’s one minute pitch had totally convinced me I wanted to attend her presentation but once again, I had promised to attend Erik’s session before the programme had been published. I am looking forward to seeing the recorded version of Francesca’s talk. I attended Erik’s talk on Social Media. An interesting, inspiring talk on the various positive and negative characteristics of social media including a Facebook group such as his Things Translators Never Say (TTNS). The room included many group members but also translators who had never attended. By that evening, Erik had received various new applications for group membership! Marta saved the day when Erik's laptop decided to install updates, by lending him her laptop.

I managed to stay in the background of the group picture and even miss that Nigel had laid down on the job.

Next came the fringe event, the first live TTNS beer o’clock. The term “beer” is a very comprehensive term, it may be interpreted as any drink, whether it contains alcohol or not, which is consumed at the end of the working day and the beginning of a restful or fun evening or rest of the day!

Most attendees changed before the Gala dinner, which took place at the conference hotel. The view from the conference location and, therefore, during the Gala dinner was breath-taking. Rotterdam was at our feet! Sameh sang, lovely ladies danced... And then it was time to decide whether to go beer tasting with Erik and Irene or to a club with theatre and dancing opportunities with John. A friend convinced me to join the second as I do not like beer, but I regretted it when I saw the age of the location. The youth was standing or hanging around smoking continuously, so much so that even though we stood outside where you were allowed to hold a drink the open air was thick with smoke... I have never seen so many people look so bored... It was a depressing sight, although interesting from a social studies perspective!

Once again I was at the conference at the start of the day. Kalinka was going to be one of the “famous for 10 minutes” presenters. She presented on the “The Best of Bulgaria” app for iPad and Android devices. After a second presenter we had some tea and coffee before the impromptu forum. The forum topic was finding out what attendees look for in translator conferences, and why we choose to attend a specific conference and not another. It was a truly interactive discussion, probably due to the limited number of people in the room. After all, Sameh was presenting in the other room. Kalinka had made me promise I would be attending her presentation, so I was not able to see Sameh’s always invaluable contribution.

We seem to value low prices, local cultural activities, interesting locations (monasteries, castles, etc.) and learning about the local culture. A minimum vocabulary of the host country is unanimously appreciated. Interactive sessions are indicated to be preferable as attendees often have a lot of information to contribute.

Joop Bindels, Nathalie de Schipper and two fourth year students were up next. They informed us on the current curriculum, mainly the practical aspects, of the Maastricht School of Translation and Interpreting. They focused on their practical laboratory, where teachers try to simulate a working environment during a 7 week period where the students “work” a 40-hour week. The simulation includes job interviews, project management and translation. Joop and Nathalie were clearly interested in receiving input on the curriculum from professional translators.

In the meantime Gary was giving his presentation in the other room. I had to forego the pleasure of his dynamic presentation...
I was busy during lunch... with the three duckling issue. Should you not be interested in hearing about the three ducklings, please scroll further down to below the smiley.

On Thursday before the conference Tom posted that the pool at the hotel was a great location and asked Nigel to move one presentation to the pool. On Saturday evening, during the Fringe event, I had taken some Dutch courage and informed Nigel that Joy and I would be willing to move to the pool for our presentation. Nigel had to think for a minute on how to get out of this without hurting anyone’s feelings. He then said that we could hold a presentation there and he would make arrangements to livestream it up to the conference rooms if and when I had three rubber ducklings in the pool. This was after all shops were closed. He thought he would not hear about a pool session again, but he did not know that there is no such thing as a coincidence.... Gabriel Cabrera who was to host the TransQuiz the next day told me during the Gala dinner that the hotel had provided a bed for his young daughter, Clara, and included a rubber duckling.

On my way out of the hotel on Saturday at midnight I went to the reception to ask for three rubber ducklings. I was euphoric when we went clubbing as I had three rubber ducklings in my backpack.
So at lunch time on Sunday, after requesting permission from the hotel, Joy, Tom and I went to the pool accompanied by Kalinka and her camera. Joy and I ‘gave our talk’ and Kalinka took pictures. Tom was there as the instigator! In the pool we even had a live audience, Gabriel’s wife and daughter! Clara enjoyed playing with the ducklings during our ‘presentation’.

We had lunch and added three of these new pictures to our presentation! It fit into the part where we talk about managing expectations ;-)

Next came the presentation given by Joy and me. Our topic was the life-work balance in case of illness. We provided tips on efficient time management and communications. Efficient time management is recommended when healthy, but essential when ill. Even though another Polish translator did his best to save the day our presentation was just too big for the screen. Polish translators seem to have diversified to form an impromptu rescue service.

I have been told Attila gave a great talk in the other room when we were giving ours... I have heard him talk before, and am not surprised!
Fernanda gave a good presentation on technological tools that increase productivity. I had seen her in action in Zagreb and know it is a good presentation. I, therefore, stayed for Dorota’s elevator pitch. She presented clearly and interestingly on the elevator pitch and emphasized it has to be adapted to your audience and goals every time you use it, and that one has to be comfortable with the pitch for it to have benefits.

Next up: FUN! Gabriel had already captivated the attention of many during the previous dinner and his vibrant personality was perfect to host the game show he named TransQuiz. We did not always agree with the “correct” answers but even that discussion was friendly and fun! If you need to draw out the best in people, Gabriel is the man!
A few kind words from Nigel for the sponsors and speakers (who received stroopwafels), one more group photograph and the conference came to an end.

Except that we could not have enough of each other and we met to take a water taxi to the SS Rotterdam for one last dinner a few hours later.

Now we all had to get back to our respective houses and back to business.... Although I still had house guests. We cycled, they visited Amsterdam, we laughed and then they left.

The conference cannot be summed up in hugs, laughs or new friends but I will smile when I think of this conference, when I remember Nigel’s face when I told him I had three ducklings, when I remember being told I was the locast (loca is crazy in Spanish, and in English and Dutch you add “(e)st” to turn warm into warmest...), when I remember the pool session, when I think of my house guests or any other fun element of this conference.

Thank you, Nigel! And a big hug to your wonderful assistants, Annette and Heddwen!