ELIA - the European Language Industry Association - brought to life a new event that focused on gathering all stakeholders in the language industry not only physically in a unique venue, but also unifying the different perspectives to foster and develop mutually beneficial and positive working relationships. Together was created by ELIA in 2016, and the first edition took place in Barcelona. This year, Berlin was chosen as the location - a perfect choice for a multicultural and fun event.
With 388 attendees from 38 countries and 22 agencies represented at the Together fair, the event was well-visited and lively.
What was it all about?
To cut it short: Communication.
As the title “Communicating for Success” already gives away, the focus was on:
- Messages (spoken or implied), intentions, different points of view and needs
- Business - what are the main issues to look at and how they can be improved?
- Technology - how can different tools be used to make our lives as linguists, project managers (PM), Language Services Providers (LSPs), etc. easier?
Did you know that the actual words make up only 7% of the content of a message and that the rest is conveyed via voice (38%) and body language (55%)?
There are a hundred ways to get each other wrong and get mad at each other over a tiny issue. Even (or especially?) in our business, there’s often a language barrier, and not to forget cultural differences that add to the already existing challenge that is - communication.
The conference program followed three tracks:
- Relationships – featuring presentations on business ethics, business relationships (freelancers, clients, LSPs in all possible constellations), promoting a better understanding of the challenges each party faces and providing alternative solutions that create mutual benefits and successful long-term collaborations
- Processes – focusing on how partnerships can be set up and what they demand from each party, such as recruitment practices, other human resources policies and strategies, marketing practices and business in general
- Technology – which tools are available: to improve productivity and efficiency, to ensure high quality of work, to optimize the previously translated content and reference materials, etc.
Kristina and I had the chance to meet in person several freelancers who work with us. Considering the above information on the influence of body language, this is always a very important and enriching experience, and enables communication to shift to another level.
From a vendor manager’s point of view and working on freelancer motivation and loyalty, it was interesting to hear freelancers speak about what they need and what they value the most in a collaboration. Of course, money is an important factor, but others such as a good personal contact, clear instructions, respect and a friendly approach to problem solving were high on the priority lists as well. Nobody wants to be just a number in a vendor database or be addressed as “Dear resource…”. Some said they would even accept lower rates from LSPs who were nicer to work with if they equally met all the other criteria incl. well-structured instructions, systematic production systems and easy invoicing procedures.
For successful long-term business relationships
Heidi Kerschl’s talk “Translators are from Venus, project managers are from Mars” and discussions such as “Thinking beyond profit getting more added value”, with participants from freelance translators to CEOs of LSPs, mentioned some commonly known but sometimes overlooked tips to build and nurture professional relationships and improve team collaboration in the language industry. In “Seeing the other side” one of the groups presented results from a survey conducted among 45 translators and 12 project managers that summarized the most important points to apply:
1. Clear and prompt communication – concise messages and regular feedback not only lead to better results, but they also show respect for the recipient and build trust;
2. Realistic expectations and deadlines – translators and LSPs need to manage multiple clients and deadlines, but still have to respect a work-life balance
3. Understanding the translator’s task - translation requires not only the comprehensive language skills, but also an overall understanding of the source and target language cultures
4. Focus on quality over cost – this relates to our experience of how sticking with the same provider for multiple requests helps to get better rates in future projects and will enable higher collaboration synergies, which will lead to more consistent results.
Group photo taken on the 2nd day in the Atrium, where most networking during coffee breaks and lunch took place