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Online Venue Finding: A step too far?

By: Jonathan Downie    Date: January 23, 2017

I am really excited to start a new series of guest posts. I have invited some colleagues from the events industry and language industries to tell me about the tools, apps and software that they couldn’t run their businesses without. But to kick-off the series, there is a warning. As the Managing Director of Clearwater Events, Stephen Morton-Prior knows a thing or two about saving time and keeping organised. In this post, however, he asks whether recent shifts in Venue Finding have gone too far.

Technology is always developing. I now have a lady called Alexa who can switch on and off my lights, change the temperature in my house when I ask and write my shopping list. I am a technology geek….. But with events, I do have a sceptical eye for technology.

 

Technology that helps improve customer experiences or helps us become more efficient is always a good thing. Our solutions are always technology rich but only when they provide value and positive experiences to our clients and delegates.

 

With that said, there is one area of technology that I find hard to fully embrace, and this is online venue finding tools.

 

I understand the need for online venue finding and in theory its genius. A database of thousands of properties that can be accessed with a simple click. RFP’s sent through to selected hotels quickly. And responses pre-populated into templates ready for client submission. What’s not to love about that?

 

There are many large agencies using these tools. Contentiously, you often get an ‘official’ and an ‘off the record response’. Officially, the tools are a procurement dream. Pre-negotiated rates can be loaded for venues and preferred venues and suppliers can be accessed. They provide data, reporting and a quick and simple solution for teams with multiple events to source. However, the systems are typically only as good as the users operating them and their success relies on compliance from all.

 

The off the record response is often rather different. With the systems only being as good as the users, there is an assumption that everyone has an understanding of what to do. There are many examples where enquiries have not been responded to or RFP’s sent to the wrong venues or wrong clients.

 

I can forgive all this. Training offers compliance. Where I struggle is the personal experience. I find the best rates and deals come from picking up the phone and talking. Building a relationship between the venue and the Event Manager is key in finding the right solution. What might not work on paper, might work once a conversation takes place.

 

Events are highly personal. And this experience starts with venue finding. Picking up the phone helps allows me to discuss out of the box solutions, negotiate and discuss the best way to deliver a client experience that goes above and beyond. Albeit a small event for 10 guests or a large conference for 500.

 

Of course, we use technology, the wonderful world wide web is a fabulous tool for sourcing new and exciting venues. My fear with online sourcing tools is that they are only as good as the information inputted and I wonder if the client comes away with the best venue for their event?

 

I think there is a need and a requirement for online venue finding, especially in procurement driven scenarios. But I would suggest combining these tools with my top tips:

 

  1. Do your research. Use your tool but, explore your options. Industry magazines, the web and recommendations will give you an edge.
  2. Remember that your competitors are likely to use the similar online tools with access to the same venues.
  3. When venues get multiple briefs for the same event, you don’t see the rates go down. You see a rate go up, locked in for all agencies.
  4. Ironically, the client might therefore select an agency based on their relationship (relationships are key).
  5. Build relationships. Online tools and email are easy but they don’t promote interaction. Pick up the phone and build a relationship.
  6. In a pitch with multiple agencies, try and find at least one unique option.
  7. A good relationship will lead to lower rates and an overall better option. It will allow you to access value adds and options perhaps not considered by competitors.
  8. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. It is expected. Be prepared to walk away and look for other venue options.

Do Translators and Interpreters need theory? Guest Post

By: Jonathan Downie    Date: August 31, 2010

Note: It gives me great pleasure to publish this article by Dr Martin Djovcos of Matej Bel University in Banská Bystrica, Slovakia. I first met Martin at the Nida School this year in Murcia, Spain. His research in the way interpreters process speech is a rare instance of excellent academic work that will have real practical application. In this article, he tackles the tough question of the relationship between interpreting and translation theory and the every day world of professional practice.

Do we need theory for translation and interpreting?

We don´t. Not in case that you approach translation as replacement of words and if you believe that all you need to know in order to translate is to have knowledge of two languages. It is as if you declared that surgeons don´t need medical training. It is enough to know how to hold the lancet and if your hands don´t shake, you can go for it. Who cares whether in the end of your wrist surgery the patient is not able to use his/her whole hand (he/she can still use the second one and the function to remove the pain was fulfilled) and whether he/she experiences a few heart attacks during the operation. It is the same with translation. However, I believe that our goal is to do more than just ensure that the function of the text is preserved at any expense. Unfortunately, this has often been the case. I find it very interesting that while barely anyone would dare to start surgery without appropriate training, many people do translate with zero knowledge of translation theory. Au-pairs, lawyers, engineers, economists, journalists, physics…

On the other hand, I don’t find it surprising that practicing professional translators are frequently annoyed with the theory arguing that it offers no solid clues for their work. I do agree that recently a number of studies has been published which were more philosophical than practical. Well, there is nothing weird about it; academics need to publish in order to gain higher university degrees and increase their salary. I don’t think that this is wrong, either. In my opinion, the theory of translation and interpreting can be viewed from two points of view:

1. Philosophical theory or theory for intellectual pleasure
2. Pragmatic theory or how to translate in practice

Both of them are equally important. We need the first one in order to establish sound social status, something like an institution which can provide our work with philosophical shelter and basis, something which would give us the feeling that we are different than others and that provides us with the professional basis. The second one is useful for its explanatory power (as Daniel Gile would say). It is dealing with everyday translations, observing frequent mistakes and searching for methods how to actually make our work easier, better and more efficient.

However, instead of cooperation, these two branches argue among each other and thus discourage professional translators from following them. “Philosophy” of translation claims that the pragmatic branch is too prescriptive and that translation in general is a very ambiguous activity which in many cases can´t be performed while it doesn´t reflect cultural specifics etc… This may be true, but as one friend of mine told me at the Nida School this year, “still, in the end we all have to translate and handle these problems.”

A lot of professionals can save a lot of time by reading useful practical books on translation as, let’s say Daniel Gile´s book, Basic Concepts and Models for Interpreter and Translator Training or Newmark´s Textbook of Translation or Mona Baker´s In Other Words. Books like these help us avoid mistakes and make us understand the process; however, in many cases they omit its philosophical background.

Ridiculing theory means ridiculing ourselves and depriving us of the powerful tool of self-determination and regaining of sound social status. So, if I was to answer whether we need theory for our everyday work, I would surely answer – yes, we do!