GALA's Sophomore Season Another Success
By: Bob Donaldson (Carson Strategy Group)
08 June 2010
I had been looking forward to the second annual GALA conference ever since the first one ended last fall. My anticipation was partly due to the high bar set at the inaugural conference in Cancun, but I must admit that this year's venue played a big part as well. I fell in love with Prague while doing my graduate research there many years ago, and I always enjoy returning. Both the conference itself and the venue lived up to my expectations.
The reprise of the themed event, “The language of business; The business of language” delivered on the promise established last fall. Over 185 individuals representing 125 organizations attended this year’s event. Once again, the program provided valuable and timely content while leaving plenty of time for networking and more informal discussions. Based on my non-scientific poll of attendees, it looks like the event will become a fixture for years to come. I am already looking forward to next spring in Lisbon. And speaking of spring, I should probably mention that the GALA board has decided that spring is the best time of year for the event, so the calendar should begin to stabilize after next year.
This year’s program was highlighted by the plenary sessions that began each day. These were presented in a debate format allowing for differing perspectives on three trends that are roiling the industry.
On Monday, Don DePalma (Common Sense Advisory) moderated the debate on Community Translation and Crowdsourcing. On the “PRO” side, Sophie Hurst (SDL) made an excellent case for the efficiencies that can be gained from engaging the crowd, and Petra ŠÅ¥astná (Sun) presented some compelling case studies. Meanwhile, Chris Pyne (SAP) and Reinhard Schäler (LRC) addressed the limitations and risks associated with the approach. The “crowd” in attendance seemed more open to the “CON” arguments, but came away with an improved understanding of how and when a community approach might be worth considering.
DePalma returned on Tuesday to moderate the debate on The Risks and Rewards of Machine Translation. Dion Wiggins (Asia Online) joined me in presenting the “PRO” arguments. Dion won the “best graphics award” for his presentation, which emphasized the future job growth potential as the necessary MT infrastructure is built out. My presentation focused more on the here and now as I presented some “fuzzy match” scenarios where LSPs can utilize MT today to deliver value to their customers. Gordon Husbands (Wordbank) roused the crowd with a mixture of rhetoric and compelling logic, urging all to “just say ‘non’,” while JiÅ™i Stejskal (CETRA & ATA) presented the translator view based on a survey of the ATA membership.
Wednesday dawned with Hans Fenstermacher (TransPerfect/Translations.com) moderating a discussion on Collaborative Content: A New Paradigm. DePalma enlightened us all on the ramifications of this emerging trend in content creation and described how the collaborative paradigm is likely to affect the localization business, while Horst Liebscher (euroscript) presented a number of practical examples from their recent experience. This was a great session to get us all thinking about “the next big thing.”
Beyond the plenary sessions, the program had two tracks – one intended primarily for buyers of translation services, and one for sellers. Sellers clearly outnumbered buyers, and that track focused on practical business problems all LSPs face. Fenstermacher moderated a panel made up of Husbands, Aki Ito (TOIN), Jonas Ryberg (Comsense) and Serge Gladkoff (Logrus), which discussed the question of differentiation. Based on all the side conversations throughout the rest of the conference, this was a real thought-provoker. Arturo Quintero’s presentation on Moravia’s Million Mistakes was another “hit,” demonstrating once again the willingness of Moravia to share experience and expertise with the industry as a whole. Other sessions covered sales strategy, approaches to breaking the pricing barrier, and effective use of social media. The latter (by GALA’s own PR guru, Rebecca Petras) was one of my personal favorites.
The buyer track consisted of several very informative sessions by client-side localization managers. Jean-Luc Mazet (Hewlett-Packard) focused on the challenges of setting up a worldwide localization network, and Eva Klaudinyova (VMware) moderated panels on Working with Reluctant Resources and Effective Budget Management that ended up illustrating the similarities between the challenges faced by buyers and sellers. Her closing list of ten things every localization vendor should know generated a lot of twitter action! Other sessions included innovative collaborative translation processes, efficient content authoring, and tips on how to choose and deploy third party tools (What Technology Companies Won’t Tell You).
The general “buzz” echoed last year – even with double the attendees – was broad agreement that those who stayed away had really missed a valuable opportunity. In particular, it was obvious that everyone benefited from the “buyer” perspective, and there was a lot of conversation about the value of inviting customers (and even prospects) to next year’s event. Bringing buyers and sellers together in a non-commercial environment to share perspectives on the business problems they both face may become the “differentiating factor” of this event as it continues to mature.
More than just a meeting
Don’t let the program summary fool you, though. This was about old friends and new sharing their enjoyment of their common profession. As Meg Ryan says in the movie, You’ve Got Mail, “Whatever else it is, it ought to begin by being personal.” And that was certainly the way the GALA gala began on Sunday evening. GALA outdid itself with the opening reception, providing plenty of food and drink in a rooftop venue that afforded everyone a panoramic perspective on the beauty that is Prague. From the distinctively gabled towers on the edge of the Old Town to the magnificence of St. Vitus, the gothic church crowning the summit of the ridge to the west, we were reminded why Prague has been a “destination city” for centuries. For the more adventurous, there were several formal and informal tours of the city covering highlights of both the architect’s and the brewer’s arts. (Thanks to Josef Kubovsky among other gracious and knowledgeable hosts.)
The ‘famous’ Speed Networking event was again oversubscribed, and was a huge success. That said, there was also plenty of old-fashioned “slow networking” with meeting rooms set aside for ad hoc discussion groups and the entire main conference area transformed into “network central” with plenty of coffee, snacks and stand-up tables which always seemed to be crowded between sessions.
The GALA banquet, held at the gorgeously restored Old Town Hall set a new standard in traditional Czech cuisine with an up-scale flair, but other evenings saw groups gathering in many of the fine restaurants within easy walking distance of the hotel. Many participants chose to prolong the magic by staying through the weekend to explore Prague and deepen relationships new and old.
Back to business
Once again, the Business of Language was facilitated as we spoke to one another in (and about) the Language of Business … but within the context of personal relationships and mutual respect. Controversial topics led to lively exchanges of opinion, but I trust all benefited from the debates … both those on the program and those that took place between sessions. I know I will be back for the continuation in Lisbon, and I expect that the event will continue to grow in both attendance and industry impact.
Na Shledanou! (Until we meet again)
As founder of Carson Strategy Group, Donaldson provides language technology consulting and project management training focused on localization. He also serves as Chief Technology Strategist for text & form GmbH, responsible for all aspects of language technology planning, evaluation & implementation. Previously, he served three years as VP of Strategy for McElroy Translation. He has over 25 years of experience in creative technology application including executive management positions in a number of software companies. Combined with his educational background in Slavic Linguistics and experience as an army Russian linguist, this gives him a unique combination of technology and industry-insider perspectives.
1. GALA 2010 plenary session
2. Veronique Ozkaya (Moravia Worldwide) during “Breaking the Pricing Barrier (RFPs, Procurement and Other Hurdles)”
3. Ad hoc small group discussion on LSP sales cycles at GALA 2010, led by Robinson Kelly (Clay Tablet Technologies)