Over the weekend, the Colorado Translators Association held our annual “holiday” party (which we always have in January, hence the quotation marks). We’re an association of about 100 members and we typically have about 40 attendees at this party, which seems to prove either that translators really need to get out of the house, or that we plan fun events, or maybe both! I’m the current CTA President and our Vice President Eve Bodeux did the lion’s share of the planning for this event.
One of the first steps to a successful event is a good venue: in years past we’ve had our party in the private dining rooms of various local restaurants. The 2009 party (which Eve also planned and which was praised as “best ever” by our longtime members) was at Rodizio Grill and I highly recommend their excellent food, fun atmosphere (never say the Brazilians don’t know how to throw a party!) and incredibly helpful staff. This year we decided to break the mold and hold our party in the art gallery of the Alliance Française of Denver with food by Jules Gourmet Catering and live music by Peace & Love & Jigs & Reels, featuring local Dutch to English translator Cynthia Jaffé on flute. Following are a few tips we’ve gleaned over the years to help us plan fun and successful events for our members.
The venue: if you have more than 10-15 people, you’re best off with a restaurant that has a private dining room or a rented space where you have the whole area for your group. With more than a small group, it’s hard to have a fun party in a restaurant with other people all around you, because it’s loud, hard to talk, hard to make any type of introductions or presentations, etc. The nice thing about a rented space is that you’re a little more autonomous as far as how you set things up and when you arrive and leave, but you will probably do more work in terms of setup and cleanup. For reference, we paid about the same amount of money per person for our 2009 and 2010 parties and we were very happy with the quality of the food at both of them.
The food and drink: Do not scrimp on good food and drinks for translators. Some professional groups might be content with rubber chicken, canned green beans and instant coffee but a group of translators will not be. Make sure to have a vegetarian option; buffets are always good because then you don’t have to keep everyone’s order straight and people can choose whatever they want to eat. In our experience, translators are enthusiastic wine and fancy soda drinkers, not so much beer and Coke. And don’t forget that to most Europeans and Latin Americans, decaf coffee is an abomination even at 11 PM; ask your caterer/restaurant to have both regular and decaf available.
The entertainment and activities: One year we tried having a joint party with the local interpreters association, featuring salsa dancing lessons and then an open dance floor. Unfortunately, the dance portion went over like a lead balloon with most of the translators, who wanted to hang out in a quiet but festive atmosphere, drink some wine and talk. However, this year the live music that we had for the cocktail hour earned rave reviews (just don’t ask translators to dance in public!). Door prizes are always a hit. This year our door prize coordinator, German to English translator Karen Williams, had the innovative idea of having CTA members donate door prizes related to their hobbies or professional interests. For example one of our members collects antique maps, another has a sideline business making honey, another member’s brother wrote a book of math puzzles, another member’s wife is a jeweler, etc. This made for hot competition for the one-of-a-kind items and was a fantastic personal touch to the evening.
The little touches: Make place cards so that people can put their card down where they want to sit and then circulate, or people can set up a whole table for their group of friends. Offer complimentary tickets to your key volunteers to thank them for their work over the course of the year. If you use a caterer, look for one that will let you supply your own drinks. And remember, don’t make translators dance!
Any other tips for good translation-industry events?