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International Translation Day was a big day for Proz.com staff. They have succeeded in pulling off one of the biggest events for translators in history. The 1st Virtual Conference for Translators attracted more than 8000 translators from around the world! On September 30th 2009, they all tuned in and visited the virtual exhibition hall and attended virtual sessions in order to receive some real life advice and support, and to make real connections with other translation professionals.

I happened to be among this ‘geek’ crowd (no offence) – curious about the technology just as much as the content of the conference itself. Unisfer provided the platform for this online event which turned out (at least in my experience) to work very well without any major glitches. Yes, it was confusing getting used to all that was happening on the screen – messages, reminders, chats, forums – but most real life conferences are a bit chaotic – dipping in and out of conversations and session rooms, interrupted by queuing for coffee and snack.

The presentations were an interesting mix but I am particularly grateful to Doug Lawrence for the most enlightening talk on conducting negotiations and answering tough questions. I am really happy that Proz have made the lectures available as podcasts – I will be definitely returning to this one time and time again. All lectures ran very punctually with a well-moderated Q&A section at the end – great job everyone involved!

The scale of the conference in my opinion created a bit of a difficulty in getting to speak to other attendees. Despite a variety of tools (attendee searching facility, networking time slots and language forums) it is just hard to even imagine sifting through the hundreds of little headshots to find familiar faces or to meet new people. In this respect, a traditional conference has a big advantage which I don’t think can be matched in an online environment. After a long, intensive day, there is nothing better than being able to strengthen newly made aquiantances over a pint of the local brew while bemoaning the outrages translation rates for Central European languages!

But as long as we translators can continue to get together now and then, one cannot argue with the fact that the virtual conference was a unique and very useful experience – a chance to feel a part of a large, buzzing translation community without leaving your desk or incurring a hotel bill (or a conference fee for that matter!).

I congratulate and thank Proz.com for being the most visionary, innovative and daring organisation for translators with the magical powers of turning virtuality to reality. Life would be boring without you. Here’s to you!