My highlights of bp19 – the translation conference for badass polyglots

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It’s only been three days since I arrived from bp19 in Bologna, and I’m still under the ‘conference buzz’, which feels like the right mood to share my personal account of this three-day event. It was my second translation conference and my first bp, but it won’t be my last. It was very clear all attendees were looking forward to it – I got this impression from the app Csaba Bán, the even’t organiser, made available to us. With it, we could meet other attendees, arrange evenings out, day trips, and more. Additionally, it had the agenda for the three days, making it easy and paperless!

Translation conference goals

I left London in the dead of night on Wednesday morning with three goals in mind:

✔️ Get tips to run my translation business more efficiently.

✔️ Find inspiration to market my services to new clients.

✔️ Hone my SEO skills to start offering this service.

Day 1 – SEO workshop

Photo of the opening slide for an SEO workshop in bp19 translation conference.
SEO workshop

On the first day, I took part in David García’s workshop Multilingual SEO for translators. It was a 3.5-hour journey through the entrails of Google search and how we can increase the chances for a website to rank in the first results page. I had already read quite a lot and seen a few webinars, so my idea was to get a more hands-on approach, which is exactly what happened. The effort and budget required to research keywords and weave them into the translation is not to be underestimated, but every business trying to reach clients through organic search should invest in this service.

After the workshop, we had the opportunity to chat with old colleagues, meet new ones, and indulge in some delicious food and wine before going back to the hotel for some well-deserved sleep.

Day 2 – long talks

The second day consisted of three long talks before lunch and three more afterwards, all of them on three tracks. Much as I love being spoilt for choice, there were times when it was hard to make a decision, while other times all three options seemed to be of little interest to me, but I still managed to choose one and get something positive out of it. Because it’s impossible to report on everything without turning this post into a novel, I will just focus on my personal highlights and hope for co-attendees to share theirs in the comments below or in their own posts.

Tess Whitty’s top tips to find dream clients

I’ve read her content and listened to her many times, but I must admit she’s worth seeing live. If you ever attend a translation conference she’s presenting at, don’t miss her session! Her presentation was not only funny, but also loaded with useful ideas to get down to work and find exactly who your prospects can be. For many of us, the problem is to identify the potential clients we’d love to work with, and Tess knows it. She suggested starting with our current client portfolio, see who we’re happy working with, and find similar ones (without breaching any non-compete clause, of course!), targeting these realistically and through the means we feel comfy being the key to avoid disappointment. A little piece of data to bear in mind: most times you need to contact a prospect seven times before they even think of replying!

Annina Pfenning & Peter Oehmen on collaboration

After a coffee break, it was time for some collaboration. Annina is a freelance translator who works with two other freelancers who share her target language. They share all the tasks: translation, editing, project management, and marketing. They invoice separately and live away from each other, but they’ve figured out a way to make this work. Peter, on the other hand, created a company with a colleague whose language combination is the opposite to his, but they can still proofread each other’s work and share the other parts of the business; namely, marketing, accounting, legal issues, etc. I myself have been collaborating with a colleague recently and my interest in co-translation is ever-growing, so I found Annina’s experience particularly inspiring. They both agreed that open communication is key to both models and suggested a checklist with all the skills required to work with others.

Photo of the Annina Pfenning & Peter Oehmen presenting at bp19 translation conference.
Peter and Annina’s checklist.

Zsuzsanna Ugrin and CATese

Zsuzsanna Ugrin represented the academic side of translation and told us about ‘CATese’, or how CAT tools affect the way we look at a text and work on it. Segmentation may hinder the way we understand and translate content, but she encouraged us to merge and split segments at will, as well as defying tag order for the sake of meaning.

And after a long, productive day, we headed for the gala dinner, which coincidentally was on our hero organiser’s birthday. Gala dinners are one of the best aspects of every translation conference. We let the wine flow and so did the chats and laughs. I was very lucky to sit at a table where I could speak all my four languages, sometimes within the same conversation! This is one of the reasons why one can never get bored with linguists. 😜

Day 3 – short talks

A bit deprived of sleep, but still brimming with enthusiasm, I arrived at the conference on the third day ready for the shorter talks on one single track. Master of ceremonies Konstantin Kisin was in charge of providing the laughs between talks and asking the questions to the speakers, sent by attendees via a website. Most talks were interesting and useful, but many of them were targeted to translators at early stages of their career. Some of the questions asked, e.g. “Do you have any advanced tips?”, and the fact that several colleagues confirmed it later during coffee break, made me realise I wasn’t alone in thinking there should be a note indicating the target audience of each talk: beginners or more seasoned translators. Perhaps having two tracks on this third day would be a way to solve this, as well as giving even more people the chance to present.

My highlights from the short talks in 3 quick takeaways:

Self-promotion: We, translators, are often introverted and cringe at the idea of talking about our achievements, our services, and our work. This has a negative impact on our business, but if we don’t talk about ourselves, who will? A possible solution is to have others talk about you such as clients and colleagues. When it comes to social media, we can turn ‘I’ into ‘we’ and include the whole profession in our statements. (Presenter: Magda Phili).

Productivity: Put everything on hold (including social media) and focus on one thing at a time to reach your maximum capacity. The theory of deep work, by Prof. Cal Newport, states that focus is the new IQ. Interested? Watch the video below or read this article I wrote about it. (Presenter: Sherif Abuzid).

– Time management: the technique of reverse planning can help avoid procrastination. For example, if you have a project due in six days, schedule backwards: on day six I have to deliver, on day five I have to proofread, on days four and three I have to complete the translation, and so on. Also, chunking your tasks will help you manage your time better, as opposed to seeing them as a big unit that can’t be dealt with in small, digestible pieces. As a plus, you’ll get the feeling of accomplishment more often, which might keep you going! (Presenter: Francesca Manicardi).

Space is precious, and I can’t mention every idea I got from the conference, but two more thoughts are diversification as a way of spicing up your career (and your bank account when translation jobs are scarce). I wrote about this last year, when I had the chance to do some community management for the Spanish video game market; and behaving as a professional if you want to be treated as one (branding, attitude, T’s & C’s, and so on).

My favourite takeaway

If I had to choose one takeaway, it’d be ‘focus on what makes you happy and don’t try to be someone you’re not‘. This was my bp19 experience, what was yours? Help me complete this account by commenting below. See you all again in future bp’s and other translation conferences.

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10 thoughts on “My highlights of bp19 – the translation conference for badass polyglots

  1. Brilliant summary, Carolina! I fully agree with everything you said, particularly your conclusion “focus on what makes you happy and don’t try to be someone you’re not”! I would only add that I found the atmosphere particularly welcoming and friendly. Perhaps this was because every attendee was another freelancer trying to learn and improve their business and there was no pressure to get new clients or sell your services, as can be the case in other conferences. This was also my first BP and I also feel very confident it won’t be my last!

  2. Thanks for your detailed account, Carolina! It was my first BP as well, and the internationality of it all was so much fun. I took away quite a lot of ideas and inspirations, and although many talks just confirmed what you already knew in theory, it’s good to be reminded and motivated sometimes. Mere hours after my return I changed a bunch of settings on my devices so I don’t get notified immediately if something interesting happens on Facebook, haha. And now I’m watching a video from BP18 to dive deeper into one of the ideas I got from BP19: client satisfaction surveys!

    I loved our “private” dinner on Friday. Switching between 4 languages, sometimes in the span of one minute, that is not something you get to experience every day. See you next year, I hope!

  3. Thanks for reading, Anja!

    I am also very aware of getting distracted by social media and started my ‘focus journey’ with little tasks yesterday.

    Loved our dinner on Friday too. 🙂

    See you in Nuremberg

  4. Thanks for sharing! This was my first BP Conference as well and, as you said, surely not the last one. The only negative aspect is that there were too many interesting talks (and I’m not able to be in two places at the same time)! 😉 But luckily video recordings will help us with that.

  5. Hi Carolina,
    Thank you for such an excellent summary of the event. It was the first BP for me as well. I thoroughly enjoyed the warm atmosphere and the exchange with people whom I have never met before, but with whom I share so much! My favourites talks were the one you mentioned from Magda Phili and the one by Alessandra Vita. Alessandra has a strong presence online and a strong brand, built on quality and self-esteem. Her statement “I don’t sell” still resonates in my head.

  6. Thanks for the summary, Carolina!
    Although this was my first BP conference, I have to say that much of what was said and presented there wasn’t all that new to me, simply because with 30+ years of practice I was one of the senior attendees – or let’s say: one of the more seasoned ones. 😉 So I’d definitely appreciate sessions being labeled more clearly or even structured by target audiences in future conferences (we talked about that). Not an easy task for organizers, I know … One of my ideas was to have roundtables for the more experienced among us, centered around different topics (which could be suggested and voted for in the preparatory phase). I’ll be sure to include that in my feedback.

    That said, I did take away some very valuable ideas. Tess Whitty’s advice to determine target clients by “cloning” key features of your current favorites, as you mentioned above, was clearly one of them. Great idea, and it’s inspired me to venture down some new paths I hadn’t thought of before. Another one was to do actual research on your target clients, e.g., by following them on Social Media.

    Last but certainly not least, I enjoyed the new contacts I made – above all, our table at the gala dinner, where we kept mixing four languages, sometimes even within the same sentence. Linguists do make wonderful company, that’s for sure! I’m truly delighted to have you and the rest of the gang in my network now, and look forward to reading more from you.

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