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CSN Expo 2005 My Report Card

By: Shelly Orr Priebe (McElroy Translation)

28 June 2005

  1. It brings together clients and service providers in a congenial setting where the emphasis is less on promoting and more on communicating. The content of the sessions is substantive and relevant.
  2. From my vendor’s perspective, there are still solid opportunities for memorable marketing and branding. TOIN Corporation is known for sushi in its booth after hours. McElroy Translation hosted a ghost tour, and BG Communications had the marvelous idea of sponsoring a hangover networking session complete with Bloody Mary’s and mimosas Friday morning.
  3. CSN specifically selects destinations with flair and venues that feel extraordinary at an ordinary price.
  4. The awards component of the Expo is unique and meaningful in an industry that struggles for the recognition that it deserves. The Awards Program helps localization professionals gain notice within their organizations, and it helps vendors garner attention for the industry.

My single suggestion for improvement would be to develop the event. Organizers envision an annual Expo that is small enough for real interaction to take place, where the attendees feel bonded as a group. While they accomplish that goal, I believe that certain sessions were just too good not to be better attended. CSN has marketed effectively to those “level 4” clients whose organizations rank highest in localization sophistication. To bring in “level 2” and “level 3” clients may be more of a challenge, but the dynamic these attendees could add would be worth the effort. These additional localization professionals could benefit from and contribute to the sessions.

Drilling down on specific session content could fill this newsletter and several future editions. Worthy of highlighted mention was the parallel theme that emerged from two sessions. The first entitled “Supply Management 2005 – Keeping Pace with the Momentum of the Localization Vendor Base” was led by Fiona Agnew and Dana Barras of Ariba. When these two industry leaders talk, people listen; Fiona was the industry’s “Localization Professional of the Year” in 2004, and Dana was nominated for the same in 2005. Directed toward corporate translation buyers, their directive was to spend time understanding the specific business problem so that the process of vendor evaluation was clearly defined as seeking a solution to a specific set of needs. Asserting that the most successful vendor strategies are relation based, not transaction based, Fiona and Dana reviewed the different types of vendors (Big 3, New breed MLV, SLV) in the context of how scalability of service should be a factor in vendor selection in service of a defined need. Bottom line–don’t overbuy or underbuy.

The next day a lively panel discussion “Big vs. Small Vendors, the Debate Rages On!” was moderated by Renato Beninatto of Common Sense Advisory. As winners in their size categories for 2005, Iverson, McElroy, and Lionbridge comprised the panel representing, respectively, small/medium/large enterprise. Interestingly, the main point of this roundtable was nearly identical to the main point of the session given by Dana and Fiona–it just arrived at the conclusion from a different direction. Vendors, too, recognize that there is a “fit” with clients depending on size, complexity, and demand for auxiliary services. All parties are best served by business problem analysis and strategic best fit.

What roundtable is successful without some dissent and fireworks? The “Big vs. Small” debate panel got interesting when a client posed an excellent question. “Do larger agencies have better and more secure access to translators?” A quick “yes” from Lionbridge drew upon the assertion that a large enterprise could uniquely keep translators busy. Representing McElroy I absolutely disagreed as did Steve Iverson. McElroy keeps core translators busy, and our core is a very dedicated group. In many cases we are their primary income source, and we are vested in the relationship. Audience participants further added that small and medium enterprise could be better equipped to "keep translators busy" with a steady stream of ongoing smaller projects.

When a room of professionals circle up and fully engage in the topic at hand, I know that CSN is accomplishing their goal–each attendee benefits.


Shelly Orr Priebe is the General Manager at McElroy Translation Company in Austin, Texas. She can be reached at [email protected].