The second topic in this blog series is the hardest to discuss. It’s the one that quite honestly, no one wants to do and there are no easy ways of going about it. Still, there are a few different approaches to how you can go about recruiting new members. The main methods are school outreach, social events, and conference presence.
When done right, recruiting new members, and more importantly, recruiting new active members starts in the last half of high school until that person becomes a professional translator or interpreter. Hear me out on this.
Every single semester, the universities of the world enroll students into their language and translation programs, and every single semester, students graduate from those same programs. If we were to attract them to the organization at that time and engage them as student members, they would presumably later graduate and become engaged individual members.
I have visited my graduate school alma mater on several occasions to talk to some of the classes about the translation and interpretation industries. The students are always asking me about how to get started in the industry, and I take that opportunity to plug ATA and MATI, along with other resources. At the time I started doing that, I was not a member of ATA, I developed all my own materials and created my own PowerPoint slideshow and CAT tool demonstration and explanation, but here’s something that’s great about being in ATA, in case you don’t know about it. ATA’s School Outreach Program gives pointers on talking to different age groups about T&I, in addition to already-made presentations and other resources. And here’s one more great thing about the this program: by participating, you can have the chance to attend the yearly conference for free! Every year, ATA’s School Outreach Program has a photo contest. All you have to do is submit a picture of yourself talking to students about translation and interpretation, and if your photo is chosen, you win free registration to the conference! For more information about ATA’s School Outreach Program, visit http://atanet.org/ata_school/.
A suggestion might be to integrate the School Outreach Program into your own chapter. If the chapters and members reached out to schools in their areas and established a dialogue between the organization and the school, then the chapter would create an ongoing source of potential new members for both the chapter and by extension, the American Translators Association.
What is any group without social events? While they may not be set meetings with agenda or set topics of discussion, social events are pivotal to the feeling members get in regards to the organization as a whole. These do not need to be lavish banquets and grand galas; they can be as simple as a happy hour or dinner meetup. And while business may not be the goal of the party, when profession is the common ground, it inevitably comes up.
On January 16th of this year, MATI President and ATA Director Christina Green hosted an After-Holiday association party at her home. The event was catered by Christina’s friend and chef, and a good number of T&I professionals gathered to see meet old colleagues and new, and enjoy a Saturday afternoon together. Because we were all translators and/or interpreters, conversation gravitated toward the issues pressing our industries; and as I sat down at the dining room table with a plate of food, some attendees started talking about translator scammers. I was planning on letting them talk and simply exploiting my eavesdropping abilities (honed during my grad school days when I was studying phonetics) to see what they had to say, but another attendee had other plans for me. Earlier in the party, she had given me good feedback on the presentation I had given at MATI12 in September – on this exact topic; so, she encouraged me to speak up and join the conversation. The topic of translator scammers evolved into data security and by the end of the conversation, everyone at the table was scared out of their minds because they had not thought of the online risks that exist for language services professionals. But that’s how these social events go, people start discussions, share knowledge and help each other out—the real goal of informal social events organized by the chapter. There were a few attendees that day who were debating joining MATI because they did not know if it was worth it. In the end, they told me that they then saw the value of membership because of that gathering and the open sharing of knowledge.
Having a presence at conferences and having someone sitting at the chapter table is another way to bring people in to the organization. In Miami, I sat at the MATI table almost the entire time. In that time, I made friends with Victor from NCATA, hilariously annoyed an overly serious CIA representative, and got a handful of people to join MATI. Going to the conferences is not enough, sitting at the table (no matter how mundane it may sound) is important, but it’s only useful if you draw people to the table.
What not to do
There is one method of member recruiting that should not be done as it will stain the reputation of your organization and annoy the intended audience: directory email blasts. What you do not want to do is search a directory for translators in your area and send them emails, whether by email blast or direct email. This method will not draw translators to your organization; it will turn you into a spammer and will drive people away.
The overarching theme behind recruiting new members is that you want them to see that you run an active, vibrant organization. Conversely, having an empty table at the conference and not having regular events sends the message that active member participation is not a high priority for your organization, when the goal of chapters and affiliates is to bring people together and help them to make meaningful connections.
In next week’s article, we’ll examine the organization’s website: functionality, appearance, and user interaction.
Thanks to Alaina for the revision.