GALA's inaugural event builds strong foundation, something different
Kim Harris, text & form GmbH
"I'm off to Cancun for a week," I said, "on business." This statement certainly raised a few eyebrows of disbelief at my office, and I was asked more than once to qualify what I really meant by business. I was, of course, traveling to Cancun to attend GALA's first independent conference and annual meeting, an event that has caused quite a buzz in our industry. And justifiably so. It was an event that set the stage for greater industry collaboration and a refreshing format that placed particular emphasis on networking.
"The language of business. The business of language" is the tagline GALA has chosen for its annual event series, and the Cancun program was crafted to reflect this concept . The three track themes represented different aspects of the business of localization from various perspectives: Getting the Work, Running the Business and Doing the Work (tracks on sales/marketing, management/operations, and tools/technology respectively). The 90-minute workshops were aimed at all constituencies involved in the localization process, from consumers of language services to buyers of language technologies, with the objective of providing in-depth knowledge as well as facilitating meaningful interaction between the speaker and the audience.
Content that raised the bar
All twenty-four workshops were well received by conference attendees, including a two-part session on machine translation by Daniel Grasmick and Pedro Luis Díez-Orzas for those interested in understanding the methodology and implementation of MT in a real-world scenario, a public relations seminar for company owners by Rebecca Petras that gave participants ready-to-use PR basics to help them write their own material, and a candid discussion on selling your business by M&A specialist Michael Sank.
According to a post-conference survey on the event, two of the most popular sessions were the keynote with Craig Newmark (of CraigsList) on the significance of social media and community in today’s fast-paced world, and Aki Ito’s high-end sales session in which he shared how service providers can align their offerings with the needs of their clients. The highest ranked session at this year’s GALA event, however, was the State of the Industry plenary hosted by Don DePalma. The entertaining “late night” format discussed trends in our industry and why the various constituencies – some of whom were represented on stage and in the audience – cannot seem to join forces on a more professional and permanent level. It was an industry first, and the willingness of LISA, tekom, ATA, GALA, LRC and the ALC to come together in Mexico clearly demonstrates a need for unilateral action. Given the high marks the session was rewarded, this does appear to be the overall consensus, and GALA intends to continue to work toward more collaboration among the various groups.
Great things can also be accomplished in small crowds
There is certainly something to be said for an intimate crowd, and while the numbers at GALA’s inaugural event were lower than originally hoped for, the dynamics of the group and the format of the meeting were solid, and they have built a great foundation for GALA’s next conferences. The atmosphere was highly conducive to networking at a variety of levels, in fact, the vast majority of those polled after the event described the networking opportunities in Cancun as excellent. This is largely thanks to the facilities offered by the venue to meet people during the long workshop breaks as well as the fabulous beach and poolside opportunities to get to know the other attendees in a completely relaxed environment.
The most powerful networking opportunity by far was GALA’s “famous” Speed Networking event, which has been held every year since 2006 and was back in Cancun by popular demand. The organizers were overwhelmed by the number of participants at this “open air” affair on the poolside lawn of the JW Marriott, and it was impressive to see so many GALA members and clients willing to interview each other in two-minute turbo Q&A sessions. This kind of activity can be intense, but it is also truly enjoyable – and after so many interviews, many went away with good leads or at least an invitation to dinner with peers.
The venue itself was truly magical. Many GALA 2009 attendees took advantage of the outside activities organized by GALA such as the trip to Chichén Itzá, the capital of the ancient Mayan civilization and one of the Seven New Wonders of the World. Some organized boat and snorkeling trips into the jungle with fellow attendees (before and after the conference), while others relaxed by the pool after good long days of learning at the conference. The welcome reception at sunset kicked off the event on a casual note, and the Mayan dinner sponsored by Moravia Worldwide made everyone feel like part of the GALA community.
The art of being different
And while waking up every morning to the sound of the surf did make me pinch myself once or twice, the relaxed atmosphere and beautiful setting were surprisingly motivating. Yes, business can be done where the sun sets over the sea and the palm trees sway in the breeze. In fact, I’d say that places like these are more likely to deepen and strengthen business relationships and leave a lasting impression on those who attend than places that hold no special memories. The success of our business relies on being different. And GALA 2009 was just that.
Kim Harris is the Managing Director of text & form GmbH. She served on the GALA Board of Directors in 2006-2007 and will begin serving a second term in January 2010.