COMMUNITY

LocLunch:
A home run for community

By Cameron Rasmusson

That’s the thing about community — it can spring up just about anywhere when guided by people of goodwill.

If there’s one point LocLunch has proven, it’s that resiliency. A once-informal gathering for localization professionals to enjoy a meal and share their thoughts about life, work, and everything in between, LocLunch now spans the globe.

“The exposure LocLunch gives those who are actively pushing the community is very important,” said Jan Hinrichs, the founder and CEO of Beluga and founder of LocLunch. “It is a big responsibility, but the many great connections I have made through LocLunch would have been hard to achieve differently. The good thing is that everybody can benefit from the same network effects and social interaction.”

Founded in 2019, the LocLunch event now spans 58 countries, 164 cities, and 248 ambassadors. As for the typical LocLunch experience … well, there really isn’t one. The meals range from small and intimate gatherings to genuine feasts, with Mega LocLunch Berlin hosting over 120 attendees in 2022 and Mega LocLunch Dublin logging over 100 participants this year.

“Mega LocLunch in Berlin was a dream,” Hinrichs said. “We united 120 people after LocWorld on a warm summer evening at a lovely Biergarten in Berlin Tiergarten. LocLunchers flew in just to join this fantastic meeting of localization experts from around the world. Our aim for these special events is to enable the conversation between conference goers and those who can’t afford the ticket price. It worked out great. We repeated at GALA Dublin with another incredible outcome.”

But arranging such a massive gathering in the beating heart of Berlin, Germany was no mean feat.

“Jan wanted to have a big LocLunch in a famous beer garden and was expecting about 100 people. The problem: You couldn’t make a reservation in the Tiergarden,” LocLunch Berlin Amabassor Magali Karee said. “It’s in the middle of the city and packed in the summer. But Jan had a very clever and yet simple idea. He appointed table captains who should each occupy a table. And it worked!”

Networking is crucial to any industry, particularly one as fragmented as language and localization. LocLunch filled a key void by establishing a low-cost means for professionals to build relationships and share ideas.

Stefan Huyghe of LocLunch Dallas has been an ambassador since June 2021. He has developed his own formula by centering the events around a particular theme.

“The discussions in the Dallas group became much more enlightening once I figured out that piece,” said Huyghe. “They morphed from mere networking to learning workshops. It felt like everyone was genuinely eager to share their insights and experiences.”

The unifying idea behind LocLunch is to give a voice to localization pros from all different walks of the business. People want to participate and contribute — they just need the right venue for it. LocLunch is that venue, centering the knowledge and passion that exists within the industry. That makes it a service of considerable value for organizers and acolytes.

“I’ve learned so much from the discussions and interactions at LocLunch events,” Huyghe said. “It’s like a continuous education in the localization field, with diverse perspectives from different professionals. Personally, I’ve formed close bonds with other ambassadors and many of my guests have become close friends. It’s heartwarming.”

LocLunch is positioned uniquely in the localization community because it’s all about genuine connections and knowledge sharing. There are no hidden agendas, no sales pitches, just a group of passionate individuals coming together to talk about the language industry, learn from each other, and form bonds. It’s a breath of fresh air in an industry sometimes dominated by business concerns.

“My ambition is to continue expanding my network, fostering collaborations, and contributing to the growth of the localization industry,” said Huyghe. “LocLunch is an integral part of this journey. It’s also a platform where I can share my own insights and expertise, contributing to the broader knowledge pool of our community. Ultimately, I see LocLunch not so much as a tool for achieving my own professional ambitions but as a conduit to give back to the localization industry. It is foremost a community relationship-building tool.” 

Professional communities in European countries have no shortage of LocLunch opportunities. In Berlin, for instance, Karee has organized events since November 2021 after being impressed by a 2019 lunch she attended.

“The format is very open,” she said. “It is neither as formal as a conference, nor is it too informal, like a regulars’ table, for example, where everyone has known each other for years. That’s what makes it so easy, and that’s also why LocLunch brings together a wide variety of people: managers, sales staff, technicians, content strategists, translators, and so on. And all that for free!”

Nazaret Lázaro, likewise, has fostered the LocLunch community in Madrid, Spain and ranks among the program’s first ambassadors, hosting her first lunch in February 2019. For her, informal networking, global reach, and inclusivity are the three pillars that make LocLunch such a unique environment for professionals.

“The idea of bringing together localization professionals in an informal setting to share experiences, insights, and knowledge seemed amazing to me,” she said. “Conferences provide us with the chance to interact, yet there often remains a certain level of separation between the speakers and the audience. This concept resonated with me, as I believe that networking and collaboration are pivotal in our industry.”

Another of the earliest ambassadors, Anna Räbokon, hosted her first lunch in May 2019 in Tallinn, Estonia. Since then, she’s hosted a few LocLunches, which often turned “into LocDrinks, LocDinner, and another (round of) LocDrunks again.”

“That’s what LocLunch does: By simply connecting like-minded people over lunch, we not only find new energy to drive us forward, but it also gives us the opportunity to reminisce about where it all began for us, which is just as important to do once in a while,” she said.

Not only is LocLuch a great forum for sharing professional ideas — it’s also the perfect environment for forging personal connections. The beauty of LocLunch is its lack of hierarchy. There are no expensive fees to pay beyond the cost of food and drinks, and everyone from the part-time translator to the C-suite CEO has an equal voice.

“Everyone’s voice is treated equally, and there is no room for people who only try to use it for self-interest,” said Paul Barlow, a LocLunch Monterey ambassador for three years. “We can sit perfectly alongside GALA or LocWorld (for example) and not be in competition with them because we are simply about the community and are free to join and participate!”

“I want to continue to learn and grow, embrace the new technology, and help to solve the problems of the many great clients that need our help,” he added. “I also want to continue to share my knowledge and experience and pass that along to the next generation and LocLunch enables me to do both, learning from my peers and contributing in a meaningful way.”

The Asian continent is well represented by LocLunch, too, with Sankeshwari Deo serving as an ambassador for LocLunch Singapore, with her first event occurring in May 2019. For her, it was the culmination of a desire for deeper professional connections that first sparked in 2017. She counts following through on that idea one of the best professional decisions she made, and the boost to her public speaking, storytelling, and audience engagement skills proved invaluable when the COVID-19 pandemic made virtual meetings a necessity.

“LocLunch plays a significant part in my professional journey by providing a platform to actively contribute to the localization community in Asia,” she said. “My professional ambition is to become a recognized leader and influencer in the localization industry. I have the experience, and I want to use that to push the boundaries of what’s possible in localization, especially within the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region.”

For LocLunch Moscow Ambassador Irina Rybnikova, it only took her first hosted event in March 2019 to inspire a full-fledged professional habit. Since then, she’s organized 25 LocLunches and onboarded seven new ambassadors in locations all over the world.

“This is a community of equals, partners, and friends who bring value to each other not by selling something, but by expressing real ideas,” she said. “It highlights professionals who care! And you’ll always have support no matter where you are in the world — you already have friends in places you haven’t been to yet.”

Ambassador María Paula Plazas, who has organized LocLunch events in Montevideo, Uruguay for almost four years, found that early on, the experience pushed her out of her comfort zone as an introvert. After all, it’s not easy to overcome that instinctual shyness, especially when the host is expected to lead the conversation at the beginning of the meeting. But thanks to those experiences, she feels much more confident in social situations of all stripes.

“I’m committed to contributing to the localization community with activities and events where translators, interpreters, and everyone in the localization community can meet, learn, connect, and grow,” she said. “LocLunch is one of the ways I do this.”

All that is music to Hinrichs’ ears. It’s been a remarkable experience, he said, watching the organization grow across the globe with each new ambassador and city represented. His hope is that LocLunch is one part of a seachange for the language industry, a move from needless competition and mistrust to an environment that embraces cooperation and fraternity.

“LocLunch is a community of trust, but trust is a rare thing in an industry that is plagued with commoditization, substitutability, and more than often, a win-lose mentality,” he said. “I can imagine a future where our decentralized model creates the backbone of a better working system to hand back ownership of data and experience to everybody.”

Cameron Rasmusson is editor-in-chief of MultiLingual Media.

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