How to Prepare for your first translation conference: A guest post by Susie Jackson

How to prepare for attending your first translation conference

When you register to attend a conference, you probably feel excited about the opportunity to learn from and meet other translators. But as it draws closer, you may start to feel a little overwhelmed about all the options you have while you’re there. There are conference sessions, official networking events, informal socials, and much more. So what’s the best way to ensure you get the most from the experience? By creating a detailed plan that you can follow so you don’t miss out on anything important.

Conference sessions

If you’re anything like me, the thing you’ll be most excited to check out is the timetable for conference sessions. You may already have skimmed it as soon as it was released... Now is the time to go through it more closely, noting down the details of any sessions that you’d like to attend.

Make a note of any sessions that:

  • Appealed to you instantly when you read the schedule;

  • Have some relevance to your own work as a freelance translator (services, specializations, etc.);

  • You may be interested in attending if you are available at that time;

  • Are presented by speakers you know or have some connection to.

Make sure you jot down all the details you’ll need to be able to attend those sessions, including the day, time, speaker, session title, and location, or use the conference app if there is one available.

Social and networking events

Next up, look at the social and networking events being organized around the formal sessions. You may have bought a ticket for the gala dinner when you registered, but what other opportunities will you have to meet people? Conference organizers often build in some kind of welcome event, as well as break-out events for particular language combinations or specializations. You might even find exercise classes or excursions have been organized for attendees.

If you find networking a daunting prospect, try to find at least one small event you can attend. That can be less intimidating and facilitate meeting people, as everyone will be involved in conversation. You never know—someone you meet at a small event may also attend a larger event you’re going to, so you’ll see a familiar face.

Again, note down all the details you’ll need (day, time, location, etc.) if you decide to attend those events. Remember that networking events may begin the day before the main sessions, so make sure you build that into your travel plans if you can.


Next, take a look at the speakers’ bios. You’ll have seen the names when you looked through the list of sessions, but take some time now to look at the speakers in more detail:

  • Have you met any of them before, either at a previous conference or some other networking event?

  • Do you subscribe to any of their blogs or email newsletters?

  • Have you read any of their books?

  • Are you connected to any of them on social media?

Note down anyone who you have some kind of connection to, and take a moment to get specific about what that connection is. If you feel you’ve met someone before, do some research into where that might have been.

Why not get in touch with some of these speakers before the conference? Hit reply the next time you get an email from them or send them a short message via social media. Introducing yourself ahead of time will mean you can approach them with confidence at the conference.

Now go through the same process for the other attendees. The conference website might tell you who else has registered to attend, or you can try to find out from social media. Check whether there’s a Facebook event for the conference or a hashtag that people are using on Twitter.

Putting together a plan

Once you’ve looked at all these details, it’s time to put them into a plan that you’ll take with you to the conference. This will help you stay on track and make sure you don’t miss out on anything you planned to attend.

Whether you choose to write your plan by hand or produce it digitally, it should be detailed and tell you exactly where you need to go and at what time. For each day, you should include the conference sessions you plan to attend, any fringe events you want to go to, and anyone you’d like to speak to you if get an opportunity.

Travel and accommodation

You may already have finalized your travel plans, but make sure you’re clear on the timings for your travel and the details of where you’ll be staying. Create an itinerary for yourself and keep it somewhere you can access it easily while traveling.

Have you thought about how you’ll get around while at the conference? If your hotel is at the conference venue, then you may mostly be able to manage by walking. But how will you get to the hotel when you arrive? Do you need to rent a car, or is public transport easy to navigate? Will you need to rely on taxis, or is Uber or another ride-share option available in that city?

Keeping track of who you meet

It pays to think in advance about how you’ll remember the people you meet at the conference. My favorite method is to set up a simple document that I complete at the end of each day. That way I can reach out to people once I’m home if I want to, and I’ll have a note of what we talked about and what they do (language pairs, specializations, etc.). Wait longer and you might forget those details.

Want some help putting together your conference plan? Here's how you can get my free conference preparation toolkit.

Susie Jackson - profile photo.jpg

Susie Jackson is a freelance translation project manager, Spanish to English translator, and academic copy editor. She helps freelancers become more organized in how they run their business by providing tools, resources, and tips through her blog and mentoring program. You can connect with her on Instagram (@the.organizedfreelancer) or Twitter (@jacksonsusie).