LocWorld has been a meeting place for localization experts and their clients since 2003. From its humble beginnings, the conference has grown into a major industry event, held three times a year on three different continents. With the 32nd edition coming up in Montreal at the end of October 2016, I recently interviewed LocWorld co-founder and organizer Donna Parrish for episode #030 of The Worldly Marketer Podcast. In this post, I share some highlights from that conversation.
The road to LocWorld32 has been a long and a fascinating one for Donna Parrish. A mathematician by training, she began her career in the mid-1970s as a computer programmer and systems analyst. In 1997, she transitioned into the language industry by joining the team at MultiLingual Magazine. After several years as editor, she took over as owner and publisher of the magazine in 2003, and has held that position ever since.
Donna’s technical background has given her a deep appreciation for the exciting new language technologies that have emerged since she first entered the industry almost 20 years ago. With LocWorld, she has succeeded in creating a welcoming venue where language services providers can meet and learn from each other, and where localization clients get a chance to network with those providers face to face.
Q: Donna Parrish, you got started as a computer programmer and systems analyst in the 1970s. Now, as the head of MultiLingual Magazine, you’ve been immersed the language industry for well over a decade. You must have a wonderfully unique perspective on how computer science and language technologies have evolved over the past 40 years.
A: Oh, absolutely. When I started working with MultiLingual Magazine, the technical articles we covered were things like “How on earth am I able to type in Russian in my word-processing document?” And now, that’s just a given, a few clicks away, and very easy to do. We’ve evolved not only with computers in general. The language technology that’s available now couldn’t even have been imaged 10 or 20 years ago.
Q: Tell me about LocWorld (short for Localization World), which is an event that you first launched in Seattle in 2003. What’s the story behind it?
A: What happened was that Ulrich Henes, who is the founder of The Localization Institute and whom I knew from other industry gatherings, called me and suggested that we put on a conference together. Sort of like the old Mikey Rooney / Judy Garland movies: put on a show! And we felt that what we brought to the table for a conference was the fact that neither of us have anything to sell. The Localization Institute provides specialized workshops and training and some consulting for businesses. And then of course MultiLingual Magazine, is just that: a magazine. We don’t have any products or services to sell at the conference, so it can be a very objective platform for people to gather and network. And that’s what we aimed to do when we created the conference: to make a very friendly, non-pressured opportunity for the business community and the language industry to get together and, essentially, do business. And they do.
Q: Was that first conference meant to be a one-off event, or were you thinking of creating an annual conference from the beginning?
A: Well, we had no idea. We had to wait and see how many people showed up and what kind of interest there was. I think we had somewhere around 250 people at the first conference. We thought that was a pretty good showing, and we received a lot of encouragement to continue. So within about eight or nine months, we held the second one and that was in Bonn, Germany. At that point we decided to hold two conferences a year: one in North America and one in Europe – and we moved those around.
When we look at where we hold the conferences, one of the things we like to consider is: how many client companies are there around? Because if you’re selling services or technology to the localization industry, you can find it in your budget to go to a conference and talk to people who might be potential buyers. But if you work for, say, a medical-device company or a software company that uses some of these services or tools, it might be a little bit harder to convince your boss that it’s worthwhile for you to go to a conference. So we like to bring the conference to the areas where these people can easily attend it.
Q: LocWorld has gone from being a bi-annual event to being held three times are year, now that you also have an Asian edition.
A: That’s correct. We went to Shanghai in early 2008… and I think the whole world can remember what happened in 2007-2008. So we didn’t go back there for a while, just because of the economy and travel budgets being slashed. We felt like that [conference in Asia] was probably not a reasonable thing to expect success from. But in 2013 we decided it was time again. There’s such an untapped market there – such an interest from outside Asia to go in, and also an interest inside Asia to go out – that it would be worthwhile to have a conference there again. So starting in 2013, we began having yearly Asian conferences.
Q: Can you talk a bit more about the mandate of LocWorld? It’s meant for the localization industry, of course. It provides a venue where industry insiders can meet, mingle and exchange information. But it’s also meant to attract potential clients for the industry, correct?
A: That is correct, and in fact one of the things that we’ve been offering for several years now is a special half-day session prior to the main conference that we sometimes call “Introduction to Localization” – depending on the conference. Lately, we’ve been calling it “Localization for Startups” just to introduce companies [to the concept]. You may not be a startup company, but you are a startup in localization. And this half-day workshop is actually free because we want to encourage people to learn about localization – and, if they are considering it, to do it right from the get-go.
Q: So there are sessions at LocWorld that cater specifically to clients (and potential clients) of the localization industry. That’s a great opportunity for SMEs who are thinking about expanding into international markets. What can participants expect from the conference?
A: The conference runs for three days. The very first day is what we call our Pre-Conference day. That’s the day when we have extra sessions that are longer and more in depth. Quite often, they’re discussion-panel based and very focused.
We’ll have a full-day session on localization in the life sciences business. You can imagine: it’s one thing to have something be incorrect in another language on your website. But if you’re dealing with the description of how to use a medical device, it’s pretty critical that it be correct. Fortunately for all of us, there are legal constraints on the life sciences business. So there’s a whole-day workshop on that.
Perhaps the other extreme: we usually have a session about localization for video games. Quite often, the original versions of games come from Japan. And there are quite a few Canadian game companies as well. The localization for those sometimes isn’t as accurate, but it doesn’t need to be. It just needs to be fast. They need to be out there as soon as the product is out on the market because there is a worldwide gaming network that is eagerly awaiting the new version of whatever the game it is that they’re hooked on right now.
I hosted a session at a previous conference, and there was a young woman who had been hired by a high-tech company to be their localization department. This was a very successful company, but it was U.S. focused. She gave a whole session on how she began bringing localization to this company, some of the pitfalls she hit, where she had gotten the company to at that point, and what she wanted to do next. So that sort of thing would be just perfect for people who are new to the industry and are somewhat intimidated by it, perhaps.
Q: A conference like this is a great opportunity for anyone who is looking to employ the services of a localization provider. It’s a chance to meet the people who work in the industry face to face, and get to know them. Because, at the end of the day, people want to do business with other people, not with some corporate logo, right?
A: Exactly. We take pride in the fact that there are ample networking opportunities just for that reason: to allow people to meet each other.
One of the things that has arisen with the conference – organized by people who are friends of the conference, not by us – is a Newbie Get-Together the night before the conference starts. It’s a great casual opportunity to just familiarize yourself with some of the faces and meet some people. And there will also be people there, like myself, who are not newbies and can help to answer questions. So that’s a great way to start.
Also, anyone who attends the conference is invited to our Opening Reception, which is the next night, at the hotel. It’s a chance to network further and meet some more people.
Then we have the Exhibit Hall, which is open on both full days of the conference. It gives you a chance to walk around and see new technologies, meet people at the exhibit spaces, eat their chocolate, etc. It really works well.
On the Thursday night, there’s a Conference Dinner and, once again, that’s a chance to chat and mingle with other people in a relaxed setting. We try very hard to make the conference something that is not high pressure, but is rather a way for people to talk to each other in a friendly atmosphere.
It’s interesting. What I’ve heard from people is that, yes, the contacts they make in the exhibit hall, or when they talk to a speaker, are really critical and fruitful. But sometimes what has been most useful was who they were waiting in line with for lunch. It’s just these casual encounters that sometimes end up being the most important thing that can happen to you at the conference.
You can listen to the complete interview with Donna Parrish on episode #TWM030 of The Worldly Marketer Podcast.
Also, catch my interviews with these two LocWorld32 speakers:
- Renato Beninatto (episode #TWM002) of Moravia, one of the conference sponsors;
- Anne-Marie Colliander Lind (episode #TWM023), LocWorld’s Marketing Director.
And since LocWorld32 is happening in Montreal, the financial centre of the province of Quebec, check out my conversation Patrick Pierra (episode #TWM025) of Montreal-based marketing agency 37e Avenue. You’ll learn about what makes Quebec’s French language and culture so unique – and a perfect example of why localization is the secret sauce of any multi-regional marketing campaign!
For more information about LocWorld32, including the conference program and featured speakers, visit the LocWorld.com website.
I hope to see you there!
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