Some thoughts on networking events and using an ‘elevator pitch’

By Claire Harmer

Last week I attended an LRG networking event held in central London. The committee has held similar events before but this one had a special focus: creating an elevator pitch. Nathalie Reis, the LRG’s publicity officer, hosted the event and spoke about her experience of using an elevator pitch at various networking events (more details below). Working in groups, we looked at the different elements that should be included in the pitch, which sparked some very interesting conversations! I wanted to share some of the things we talked about and it would be great to hear your thoughts on what you find works well (or not so well!) when meeting new people at a networking event.

I was interested in attending the LRG event as I’d been in several situations before where I felt like an elevator pitch would work really well, such as at trade fairs, networking events, or business gatherings, but I’d never had anything rehearsed to say. I thought that being able to introduce myself in a concise, confident way would be a good skill to have, and that having something already prepared would help me to do just that.

A few things to think about when putting together an elevator pitch:

  • Focus on what will interest your potential client: language combinations, areas of expertise, services offered, etc.
  • Touch on the problems faced by your potential client and explain how what you are offering would help them to solve these problems. The aim of this is to pique their interest so they will ask you more questions afterwards.
  • Include something memorable about yourself. It is likely that the person you are speaking to will meet lots of new people that day (particularly if they are on a stand at a trade fair) so having something memorable in your pitch will make you stand out.

One of the discussions that took place at the LRG event revolved around how far you should go to educate a potential client. The verdict was that if you were meeting them for the first time it was best to answer their questions politely and try to inform them about the profession. Most of us had experienced people saying things like ‘oh, so do you work in a hospital/booth/court room’ at some point in our careers, i.e. mixing up translators and interpreters. With this issue in mind, I added the fact that I help companies with their ‘written documents’ into my elevator pitch. Here is the one I came up with at the event… it’s a work-in-progress!

Hi, my name is Claire and I am a London-based translator specialising in the medical, pharmaceutical and packaging sectors. I work from French and Spanish into English (which is my native language) and work with companies from French and Spanish-speaking countries to transform their written documents into idiomatic, fluent English. By doing this, I help these companies to increase their chances of success in English-speaking countries such as the UK and the US.

We also discussed how to deal with comments like ‘some people in our office speak English, so they take care of the translations’. The consensus was mixed in my group; some stressed that we should inform them of the dangers of this producing an inaccurate translation (particularly when carried out by non-native speakers of the target language!). While myself and a few others thought that if they didn’t know why this would look and sound unprofessional, they probably weren’t the best people to do business with. A few of us mentioned that the ITI translation guide for buyers: ‘Getting it right’ would be useful here, but we weren’t sure when giving it out would be appropriate. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

 

I’ve compiled a list of the general networking events and groups which were mentioned at the LRG event, in case any readers are interested:

Apparently this is ‘the most successful business networking referral organisation in the world’! Members are part of a ‘word of mouth’ programme whereby they can develop relationships with other professionals. They have branches or ‘chapters’, as they call them, all over the world, with each ‘chapter’ allowing just one representative from each trade or professional to join the group, so there is no competition between members. It also means that there is a wide variety of professionals at their events and not 10 accountants at one meeting, for example! The downside is the expense attached (around £400 yearly subscription fee plus registration costs) and it’s a fairly hefty time commitment – most chapters meet on a weekly basis and attendance is mandatory.

  • Chambers of Commerce

www.ccfgb.co.uk (as an example, this is the French Chamber of Great Britain)

People at the LRG event seemed to have varying reviews of COC events. The main point that came up was that most of the other individuals attending the events were in finance, so it wasn’t great for those wishing to network with people from a variety of trades. On the other hand, perhaps it would be a great networking opportunity for financial translators!

London-based networking group, although there are lots of groups like this out there, particularly in and around big cities. Any individual/company can attend two events as a non-member before deciding whether or not to join. The events are fairly low-cost (around £25 for London events) and unstructured, i.e. they don’t follow a fixed agenda, unlike the BNI events. I’m planning on going to one of their events next week. I’ve not been before so I’ll let you know how it goes…. watch this space!

  • Speed networking

Trade fairs and exhibitions often run speed networking sessions alongside them. I recently found out that www.meetup.com has groups specifically for speed networking, but I haven’t managed to get to an event just yet. You often only get 60 seconds to explain your business and introduce yourself; a perfect opportunity for trying out your elevator pitch! Speed networking means that you’ll meet lots of people in a short space of time, and the cost of these events is generally low. Some people argue that 60 seconds isn’t enough time to build a relationship with a potential client, but since people tend to hand their business cards out to each person they meet during the event, they can always contact you later.

If you’ve been to any of these, or any other networking events for that matter, what did you think of them? It would be great to get your feedback!

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The LRG event I attended, held at the Devereux pub in London.

Courtesy of Nada Photography

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Using corpora in translation

by Sandra Young

With the beginning of a new year come new ideas, challenges and resolutions. For the first blog of 2016 I wanted to invite you to explore what I consider to be an invaluable tool for our work as translators, particularly when working in technical fields with very specific terminology. One of my professional resolutions for the year is to succeed in fully harnessing the benefits of corpora for my work.

Corpus: “A collection of written or spoken material in machine-readable form, assembled for the purpose of linguistic research.” (Oxford English Dictionary)

I first came across corpora in a professional sense when working on a dictionary project with the Oxford University Press (OUP). The examples for each sense (the different meanings of a single word in specific contexts) in the dictionary entries (the collection of these senses under one headword) had been extracted from a European and Brazilian Portuguese corpus, purpose-created by the OUP. To search this corpus the translation team had access to an online corpus building and mining tool called Sketch Engine.  We used this tool to find entry words and phrases in context, search for additional or more appropriate examples for senses of words and suggest further meanings, which was essential to producing appropriate translations. Words without context have no meaning at all, any choices of translation without this would be arbitrary.

On the target language side, we could also use the British National Corpus (BNC) to search for examples of our suggested translations in context and to cross-check against contexts and usage in the original language, in this case Portuguese. This made us confident that our choice of translation was fit for purpose.

Throughout the two-year dictionary project I found working with corpora not only useful, but fascinating. With very little effort you can produce lists of in-context words or collocations that appear in your conglomeration of text (which is about 100 million words in the case of the BNC), facilitating the quick analysis of information. For the dictionary project I used corpora to check the usage of specific words in context to be able to make informed decisions on the correct translation of said words, their most common grammatical forms and common collocations; however corpora can be used for many other purposes too.

When the dictionary project drew to a close, I continued to dabble with corpora in my work, but for some time I failed to follow a clear path. I started a MOOC course on Corpus Linguistics but, as with many free courses, I found it difficult to juggle both work and study and work won out. This course, run by Lancaster University, is of particular use to researchers, so there are elements that may not be directly applicable to our day-to-day work as translators.

However, last year at the MedTranslate Conference in Freiburg, I attended Anne Murray’s talk on corpus building and mining. In the talk, Anne took us through the steps to building our own corpora within Sketch Engine. It is a subscription-based tool costing £78/year, with a discount for MET members. The tool allows you to search existing official corpora, from Arabic to Yoruba, as well as building your own corpora up to a total capacity of one million words.

There are two main ways to build your own corpora within Sketch Engine. The first is WebBootCat, in which you input specific search terms that the program uses to dredge the internet for matching websites and files. The other option is to upload specific documents you have found (and vetted for reliability) and compile a corpus from them. The table below outlines the main tendencies of each.

WebBootCat File-based corpus
Quick to build Slow to build
Less reliable content More reliable content
Reliant on usage of appropriate and thorough search criteria Based on the assumption that with hand-picked documents you will have had more time to refine the search criteria and collate a sound base of information

As WebBootCat automatically dredges the internet, you gain quick access to a lot of information but you have less control over the content, so it can be assumed to be less reliable on the whole, as it is more difficult to check the quality of the information. You can vet the websites included in the final corpus to exclude any outliers, but this will not ensure same the quality as hand-picked material.

If you work from a file-based corpus, it will be considerably more time-consuming as you will have to search for and check each and every document for reliability and appropriateness before compiling (e.g. native author, correct spelling variation if required, correct subject matter and register). However, once you have built the corpus, you can be confident that the information within it is reliable.

Despite this, with Sketch Engine you should always be able to go back to the original text of each entry, which can help you to make a judgement on the reliability of the results produced whether using WebBootCat or your own file-based corpus. Also, as you can see, both styles offer viable options for different situations. Often we do not have the time to produce a specific, well-researched corpus for every single job we have.

How do I use corpora now?

I usually use corpora to analyse the usage of terms in the target language text, for correct translations of unfamiliar terms. Corpora are also very useful for familiarising yourself with a specific style of writing, or with common collocations in a specific subject area. In case you miss these on our twitter feed, here are some other blogs on corpora that you may find useful:

https://karenrueckert.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/part-5-corpora-and-parallel-texts/

http://jaltranslation.com/2014/04/21/using-corpora-in-your-translation-work/

I often use WebBootCat for efficiency, but recently I had 35 thousand words of pharmaceutical regulatory reports to translate. It was a sizeable job, so I decided to compile my own file-based corpus on this subject. Given the subject matter, it was relatively easy to find official, reliable documents as the FDA publishes a great deal of food and drug product guidance, compliance and regulatory information. I selected documents and compiled a corpus in Sketch Engine.

As a result of the corpus, I was confident in my choice of vocabulary as I could see clear evidence of how terminology and collocations were used in verifiable English texts, and I could see how sentences were structured around these terms to mimic the style of the official texts. Also, if the client were ever to query my use of certain terms, I would be able use results from the corpus to provide evidence to support my choices.

There are many other corpus building and analysis tools out there. I use Sketch Engine for its ease of use (you can upload documents in a variety of formats, the interface is very user-friendly, I already knew how to use the tool, etc.), but you do have to pay for it. In a later post I will go into detail about AntConc, Laurence Anthony’s free corpus tool. This is an incredibly powerful and useful tool which I aim to master this year and further develop my corpus techniques. I attended his workshop at the MET Conference in Coimbra at the end of last year and in addition to the corpus analysis tool there are a number of other interesting tools he has developed that may be of use to translators. For those of you who are interested, the corpus linguistics course by FutureLearn uses AntConc, so you could learn to use the tool that way.

Do you use corpora? If so, what do you use them for? What are the advantages and disadvantages of corpora?

Thanks for reading and happy 2016! I wish you all a great year.