Preparing for Conferences: 11 Tips for Freelancers

Professional conferences offer an excellent opportunity to learn and network! It’s an exciting time to interact with old friends and make new ones. Presenters come from near and far to share pearls of wisdom. Exhibitors provide glimpses of new solutions and job opportunities. As a freelance interpreter or translator, how can you prepare in advance to make the most of your time and money?

  • Print Business Cards – Business cards are the cheapest and most useful tool for networking. While it can be fun to have shiny cards with lots of colors or special paper, it’s not imperative; you can economize by printing your own cards or using a free online service. Include relevant information on BOTH sides of the card, such as your email address and language pair(s). You can never bring too many business cards! But if you need an estimate, contact the conference organizer and ask how many attendees they are expecting. Also, many exhibitors will have raffles in which you need to drop a card!
  • Print Stickers – For exhibitor raffles or interest lists, it can be handy to have a sheet or two of mailing labels with your name, phone number and email address printed on them. That way, you can “stick and go” instead of spending precious time writing all your contact information.
  • Update and Print Your Resume – Review your resume to assure that the information is relevant for the conference you are attending. If the conference will hold a special recruitment session, you’ll want to bring extra copies. There might also be opportunities to schedule an on-site interview, in which case it’s nice to research the hiring company before you travel.
  • Review the Conference Program in Advance – Most conferences offer their program online prior to the event. I personally like to print the program and review it on the plane! This is a nice way to decide which topics interest you most and to read the presenter bios. If you are going with a colleague, consider attending separate sessions and trading notes afterwards.
  • Ask Your Customers If They Are Attending – Especially if you work remotely for customers in other states/provinces or countries, this is a nice time to meet face-to-face. Plan a meeting time and place in advance. Consider taking a small gift of appreciation for the work they send your way!
  • Register on Social Networking Sites – Get an account on one or two sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. This is a great way to share presentation quotes and photos, as well as to stay in touch with people you meet. Many exhibitors also now include social networking as criteria for raffle prizes.
  • Pack All Your Chargers – Whether the event is one day or more, you’ll want all of your electronic devices fired up and ready to go for taking pictures, staying in touch with family and accepting future assignments. I also like to carry an outlet extender so I can share a plug that is already occupied!
  • “Dress for Success” … and Comfort – Keep in mind that a conference is a “work day!” Wear outfits that would be appropriate in a professional office setting. Regardless of the geographic locale of the conference, I find it best to dress in layers. Bring shoes that will stay comfortable all day whether you are sitting at a presentation, standing at a reception or walking around a convention center.
  • Leave Space in Your Luggage – Leave room in your suitcase on the outbound trip so you can bring home the conference bag, handouts, promotional goodies and souvenirs.
  • Set Your Email Autoreply – Include the name and location of the conference you are attending! Customers will be impressed to see that you are engaging in professional advancement. I suggest setting an autoreply even if you plan to respond to email during the conference, so that if you get busy customers will know you are available and when they can expect to hear from you.
  • Bring Vitamins – My favorites are the packets of fizzy Vitamin C or herbal remedies that you can pour into a water bottle, because they don’t melt and they encourage me to stay hydrated! Changes in climate, air travel, lack of sleep and shaking hands with many people is the perfect set-up for a cold, which is exactly what you don’t want when you return home and need to work. Keep your immune system healthy!

Do you have more tips to share? Post them in the comments section below!

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VoicesACADEMY is a subscription-based virtual conference providing instant access to self-guided continuing education and resources for medical interpreters, translators, trainers and language coordinators. Access affordable, high quality training and professional support through on-demand videos and social networking.

About the author:

Michelle A. Scott is a bilingual Registered Nurse and Medical Sociologist who attends a minimum of five conferences each year! She is the founder and CEO of Voices For Health, Inc., a nationally-recognized provider of language accommodation solutions. Her experience includes medical interpreting, translation, multilingual research and language instruction. She advocates for raising the standards of language accommodation in healthcare through conference lectures, professional leadership and development of video content for VoicesACADEMY. Sign up and add Michelle to your network!

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