B y: Konstantin Dranch
With barely over a hundred delegates, the European Language Industry Association events are sometimes overshadowed by more crowded gatherings. But size isn’t everything, indeed, one quickly realizes at ELIA ND. There is great value in the intense and motivating communication that only a smaller group can offer.
Unlike most conferences, these Networking Days allow enough time to meet each and every participant. As simple as that. You can have a meaningful conversation with all the good people without fear of missing something important elsewhere.
A few years back I had an unpleasant experience of feeling hopelessly lost at an 8000-participant IT event in Moscow. Upon returning home I couldn’t link half of the 200 gathered visit cards to their owners. That is not what happens at ELIA events.
The organizers utilized the compact size of ND Madrid to the max. The warm atmosphere of a highly-educated but not-spoilt-by-too-much money industry gathering was amplified by the fact that most participants have known each other for several years. Newcomers were served to the community along with wine and snacks at a vinoteka pre-party night.
It was easy to get the veterans to talk. The circumstances were favorable. Among the particpants, there were almost no competitors, since few companies shared geography or principal language pairs. Safe from the risk of helping rival firms, and bolstered by flamboyant taste of Madrid beverages, CEOs talked free and provided direct answers to some of more sensitive questions. They had come to Madrid to learn how to manage their agency more efficiently and were prepared to exchange information. In Russia, we call it “kitchen talk”, in tribute to the times when truthful opinions could only be expressed at home.
Content from inside the industry
The presentations planned for the next day took place in the halls of a beautiful 1926 building, Circulo de Bellas Artes. The program focused on best practices for small and medium-sized businesses, in which many crucial processes are still controlled by the CEO.
Thor Angelo from LanguageWire presented his agency’s TMS AGITO and process optimization philosophy, which, as he claimed, allowed the company to reach unprecedented effectiveness: 100k euro per month per project manager. Another achievement: a fast 30-mins translation service with fixed rates, which distributes tasks via an instant messenger, and comprises a translation memory-connected web interface for freelancers.
Danilo Monaco from AAC Global described a rating-based vendor management system, which keeps subcontractors in check by constantly updating their scores. To avoid losing volume, vendor reps have to keep track of the rating and, subsequently, aac’s demands.
Electronic Arts VP, Jaime Giné, provided very impressive data on localization expenses. For 54.1 mln words in writing, 8 mln in recorded speech and a quarter million hours of testing, EA paid $40 mln in 2011 financial year. In a case study of Russian localization, Jaime Giné shocked the audience even more: after localization, most products grew 140-900% in sales. However, Electronic Arts maintains a policy of localizing only major titles: the profits from doing national versions of smaller games would be too negligible, while the risk of bogging down in a swamp of projects too high.
Roy Allkin from Wolfestone shared his press-rations expertise. By communicating with journalists regularly, publishing whitepapers and attending government events, he managed to maintain a very positive public profile, and gain some contracts as well. His female business partner even met a member of English royal family – the encounter was mentioned 12 times by the local press.
Olga Fomenko from InText conducted an emotional presentation on motivation. A set of psychological exercises and an opinion exchange platform within the agency helps to keep employees at peak capacity, preventing burnout at the same time. As the post-presentation discussion turned on the topic of managing women in translation, Olga’s debut public speaking session turned out to be a success.
Apart from LSP-created content, there was a range of sponsored presentations by tech vendors, the usual suspects including Plunet, XTRF, Kilgray, Atril, SDL. Gold sponsorship was awarded to Lucy software.
Apart from the presentations, the obvious purpose of the gathering was vendor management. European agencies exchanged contacts to find reliable partners for non-priority language pairs. In cases when it is hard to gauge the professionalism of an internet-found freelancer, LSPs still prefer to work with other agencies. That is safer from the quality point of view.
According to Semen Anisimov from the Russian agency Databridge, 2/3rds of the participants do outsource some work, sooner or later. And AKM Translations’s co-owner Andrei Pokas said that his company received some offers within a week after ND Madrid. But, as ELIA veterans explain, more often such exchanges take some time, and bring significant business only after some years of successful networking.
Don’t expect to conquer the community by a single hack-and-slash visit. This really is a club.