04 Aug 2022

10 tips for business networking as a translator or interpreter

ITI's Membership Manager, Jacqui Flint, explores the benefits of networking with the wider business community.

Networking is (or certainly should be) an essential part of the marketing plan for any translator or interpreter, but when we think of networking, more often than not it is about connecting with others in the profession. And while this is absolutely key to success it’s not the only side to networking.

Important as those peer-to-peer connections are, there is a whole other side to networking which you might be neglecting. This networking is the outward facing type and is all about connecting with your local business community and beyond; sharing the importance of the profession with those people who may need your services and who could be your clients of the future.  

Recently, ITI’s Membership Manager Jacqui Flint, and one of our local ITI members, Louisa Waugh, visited a free event – the Midlands Business Network Expo at Leicester City’s Football Stadium – to see what benefits it could offer both to the Institute, and to our individual members. Here they share some tips based on what they learnt, so that you can make the most of visiting a similar event.

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1. Take some time to prepare

We prepared an ‘elevator pitch’ consisting of 5 key points that we wanted to be able to communicate to anyone we spoke to (about 45 seconds worth of info). This made it much easier to start a conversation with exhibitors and other attendees, and our ‘pitch’ gradually got more fluent as the day went on!

If you are visiting as an individual freelance translator or interpreter, it would be a good idea to do the same so that you have a succinct way of starting a conversation with an exhibitor or visitor.

2. Consider going with a work colleague or friend

There are several benefits to going with colleagues or friends – it can give you more confidence, you can take turns speaking to exhibitors and you may have different areas of expertise or interest. You can take time out and review progress in breaks and of course, if two or more of you go then you have double the number of opportunities to make useful contacts!

Why not team up with a fellow ITI Network member and attend some local events together?

3. People were really friendly!

From the people staffing the reception desk, to exhibitors, to those we sat next to at seminars, we found, without exception, that people were really friendly. Even if we established that we didn’t really have a need for each other’s products or services it was still good to have a positive conversation. It’s worth talking to those around you too – one of the people that Louisa sat next to at a social media seminar was a Corporate member of ITI. You never know when you will meet someone in the industry or make a useful contact!

4. Business cards are still useful

After so long without going to face-to-face events, we thought that business cards might be outdated – everything’s digital now, right? How wrong we were! Fortunately, we had taken some with us and gave out quite a few ITI business cards. These included the QR code link to the ITI Directory. You could, of course, include a link directly to your own Directory profile or website!

5. You don’t need to spend money to attend

Petrol money aside, this didn’t cost us anything apart from our time – parking was free, coffees and teas were provided, and we took our own lunch. We were there between 10 and 2pm but could have easily gone for just a morning or afternoon. Look out for similar events that are held in your area so that you don’t have to travel far.

There was a charge for the speed networking session at the end of the day (around £20 per person but it did include prosecco!) We chose not to do this but it’s definitely worth considering for individual members. You will make lots of new contacts in a very short space of time and, from past experience, it’s good fun!

6. Free seminars

There were eight, free half-hour seminars spread throughout the day on a variety of topics including wellbeing, tax and cyber resilience. We attended one on the good, bad and ugly aspects of social media and another on how to gain new clients. Both seminars raised some really interesting points that we felt could be put into practice by businesses or individuals.

7. Opportunity to gain new clients

There was a huge range of exhibitors at the event, from solicitors to communications companies and training providers, to name but a few. Depending on your specialism, you might want to focus in on a particular sector’s networking event to increase the value of the connections you make, but we could certainly see how an initial conversation had the potential to lead to something bigger.

8. Follow up on contacts made

When you go to an event like this, make sure that afterwards you follow up on the contacts that you made. Connect with them on LinkedIn, comment on their posts or send an email – it doesn’t need to take long but is a way of keeping yourself front of mind among the many people that they spoke to during the event.

9. CPD

Attending networking events like this all counts as informal CPD, so don’t forget to log your hours.

10. Free consultancy and events

Several exhibitors were offering free half-hour consultancy sessions, including the Growth Hub. This is a government body which has some residual money from the EU available until June 2023 for business consultancy and there are similar schemes available around the country. The local Chamber of Commerce and Federation of Small Businesses were also promoting their free online and face-to-face events.

So, was it worth it?

Absolutely. We made many good contacts and have already seen one tangible benefit from attending (free membership of a national business association for ITI) and there are a number of training and business opportunities that we each plan to follow up on.

Alongside the tangible benefits, there were also intangible benefits that made it worthwhile. After more than two years of limited external networking, it was a real confidence boost to go out and talk to other businesses looking to develop and grow. It gave us both a different, more externally focused perspective which is always a good thing.

And remember, even if you are taking time out of your working day to attend an event like this, it is part of growing and marketing your business. Networking doesn’t always produce instant results but it is surprising how often a conversation can lead on to something positive at a later date. Events are held all over the country in a variety of formats and are well worth seeking out and attending.