Friday, February 27, 2009

2009 ITA Conference - Day 1

The first day of the Seventh International Conference of the Israel Translators Association (February 23, 2009) was devoted to workshops. Four workshops were held in two parallel sessions, in the morning and the afternoon.

In the morning, I attended a workshop entitled The Internet as a Business Engine, by Erez Raz of Xtra Mile. This workshop replaced one on a similar topic that was cancelled (by the lecturer) one week before the conference, since less people had registered than expected. I was impressed that the ITA managed to find a replacement workshop at such short notice.

The workshop started by pointing out the importance of having a website, since many translators, especially freelancers working from home, don't have one. Only about 20% of Israeli businesses have a website, despite the high penetration of the Internet in Israel.

This workshop, like some other lectures, suffered from the diversity of the participants. Some members had minimal knowledge of the Internet, while others had more experience and their own opinions about how to advertise themselves. When Erez Raz explained how to set up a free and simple website using free tools such as Google Sites, one participant declared this to be a bad idea, saying that an unprofessional-looking site, especially one without a dedicated domain name, looks worse than having no site at all! The lecturer explained that websites can be made to look professional even if they are made by a non-expert using free tools.

Then we proceeded to the main topics of the workshop: how to promote your site using SEO (search engine optimization), blogs and contents, and social media. Of course, it was difficult to discuss each of these topics on a level sufficiently comprehensible for beginners and sufficiently advanced to prove of some benefit to the more experienced participants. On the whole, I would say Erez Raz maintained a good balance, and I learned some interesting things. I am not a complete novice and came with more background information than most participants, though I haven't yet fully applied my knowledge.

SEO is aimed at getting your website to appear among the most popular results on search engines when people search for particular terms. There are methods for improving the site's ranking using on-page optimization and off-page methods, such as links to and from the site.

We also learned about PPC advertising (such as Google AdWords) and renting out paid advertising space on your website (such as Google AdSense). It is important here to choose the most relevant search terms and to concentrate on a specific niche. We also discussed Google Analytics, a tool for tracking the traffic to your website.

We then discussed content creation for the website, the use of blogs, and finally social media.

In general, this was a useful workshop. I could have benefited from a more advanced level, but that would have excluded the less knowledgeable participants.

In the afternoon, I attended a workshop entitled Good Time Management - How to Overcome Procrastination, by Dr. Yossi Shalev, of the Shalev Institute. This is an important subject for most people I know. Very few people are naturally efficient, and time management seems to be an acquired skill.

Among the useful tips given in this workshop: don't leave lots of papers on your desk, as unfinished tasks create pressure. Decide what to do with each piece of paper immediately: do, drop or delegate. When you want to change a habit, adopt the new habit for 21 consecutive days, and then it should become part of your lifestyle.

Dr. Shalev defined time management as managing the occurrence of events. This requires a change of emphasis for some people, so that they see themselves as capable of controlling things rather than just letting things happen to them.

He discussed self-image and self-esteem as factors in people's happiness, and explained that the 20% of the population who have an inner locus of control also have higher self-esteem and greater happiness than those whose lives are controlled by outside factors.

In practical terms, we have to distinguish between urgent and non-urgent, essential and non-essential tasks. Usually people only do what is urgent, but if the essential tasks get done on time, there will be less urgent tasks to interfere. For example, when trying to complete a piece of work, it is possible to decide not to answer the telephone or look at emails for two hours. It makes me really sad when I see people who are slaves to their phones and refuse to turn them off even during meetings.

At this workshop, too, there was a wide diversity of participants. On the one hand, people who registered for this workshop had admitted they needed help and taken the first step. However, some of them seemed to be very resistant to the very idea of change. There are always some people who prefer to believe that everything that happens is external and beyond their control. During the break I tried to persuade someone that it is possible to change one's habits and even personality, as I have been doing over the years.

Dr. Shalev combines extensive knowledge of psychology, teaching skills, dramatic abilities and humour in his presentation. His presentation was a matter of taste. I heard that some participants found the style inappropriate or at least not what they were expecting, and were disappointed. Personally, I have learned to take the best aspects out of whatever I encounter. In this way I don't feel bored or waste my time. Perhaps a different lecturer could have presented this subject in a way more suited to the expectations of the participants, but this goes both ways. More open-minded participants can benefit from a wider range of lectures.

In the evening of the first day, the ITA held its traditional cocktail party and gala dinner. There were welcoming speeches from the ITA's Chair, Inga Michaeli, and from the President of Lahav (the Israel Self-Employed Association), Adv. Yehuda Talmon (who also spoke at the International Networking Week Conference I attended earlier this month).

The after-dinner lecture was by journalist and historian Dr. Gadi Taub of the Hebrew University. He spoke about Values in Israeli Society, a lecture mainly devoted to explaining the history of Zionism and the values it represents. This was interesting, in some places controversial, and well-presented.

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