I’ve hired thousands of translators and interpreters for over 20 years, many from ATA conferences. Here’s how to attract attention, stand out from the crowd and win new clients.
You’ve arrived in sunny San Diego to 70-degree, zero-humidity weather and spectacular views from your room of sailboats, cruise ships and bright lights on the bay. The conference launches tonight with a Welcome Reception that is always packed and energetic. It’s the first of many opportunities you will have over the next four days to market yourself and your skills to potential new clients.
Think like a translation buyer
A central tenet of successful marketing is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Think like a translation buyer, not a translator. ATA conferences are distinctly different experiences for translation buyers. They are bombarded and often overwhelmed by the hurricane forces of resumes, business cards and pitches and blasted by a dizzying array of faces, names, languages, events and sessions. So everything becomes a blur. When I used to work my company booth in the Exhibits, it took about two days before my brain staged a cognitive revolt. I just wanted to hide under the table, mostly from the resumes. And I’m a translator. Who likes reading resumes.
So you will want to stand out in this sea of sameness.
Shine like a star
Translators and interpreters are word people, but the world is a visual place. This is especially true of human decision-making which turns out to be emotion-driven, not logic-driven. That means that you want to make your best impression visually, and persuade verbally, with the objective of imparting confidence, trust and interest in translation buyers.
- Dress professionally in a clean, crisp style. Original is terrific, sloppy is not. People judge your dress emotionally and subconsciously. This is a subtle but powerful factor.
- Business cards: original, memorable, flawless and available. Include your language pair and direction and multiple ways to reach you (phone, website, twitter, LinkedIn, FB, etc.)
- Body language: Smile, don’t scowl; engage, don’t avoid; look at people, not your footwear.
- Narrative: Gracious, inquisitive and thoughtful are better than the hard sell. Lead with questions about the other person, finish with their wanting to hear more about you.
- Subjects: Good translation customers care about the following, in this order:
They care a lot LESS about what translators instinctively and compulsively talk about in sort of an encoded-in-our-DNA way:
- Countries of residence
- Training programs
- Certifications (really)
I know this contradicts a lot of what you’ve been told. But it will make perfect sense if you think about what you, as a consumer, value when you are looking for a plumber, dentist, doctor or any other professional service and spending your own money on them. That top list is a lot more important and compelling to you as a consumer than the second one is. That’s because the second list is just a description of the provider’s personal history. The first list is all about the CUSTOMER.
Focus on your customer’s requirements, not your own life story (leave the highlights of your life story to your resume). It can make all the difference to a translation buyer who you wish to impress and convince to buy your services.