Looking back at NTIF 2020

Few of us expected 2020 to be the most topsy-turvy year of our lifetime. Multiple vaccines now march toward emergency approval, but the end date of restricted socializing and mandatory home office is unknown. 

It is easy to think that we are no more future-fit today than we were when COVID-19 first stole headlines a year ago. And it would only be natural for those of us in the translation industry to raise a white flag of surrender in the face of such uncertainty — especially as we look toward continued Zoom calls and socially-distanced events rather than the in-person conferences that have connected the industry.  

However, NTIF 2020, held November 17 via the Remo platform, rejected this premise. The event drew 140 participants from 20 countries. As the second wave of the pandemic reached its crest, NTIF’s keynote speakers not only showed us how to reframe our thinking to succeed in this turbulent market, but proved that many of us are already implementing these best practices… and reaping the benefits.

Futurologist Magnus Lindkvist offered six imperatives for how to thrive in the face of a future that escapes our comprehension at every turn. He argued that the tendency for businesses and the media to be out of sync with reality explains our failure to be prepared for this moment. The remedy, he said, is to re-conceptualize the future, which starts with changing its part of speech. It may no longer be a noun. We need “to future.”

Here’s how Lindkvist suggests we start:

  1. Look elsewhere
  2. X-periment
  3. Be a loser
  4. Have an open relationship with the rules
  5. Seek creative friction
  6. Survive three sorrows

The post-presentation discussion revealed a startling reality: while many of us struggle acutely with one or two of these points, we are already implementing most of them on the job every day. We are by now used to looking elsewhere for a creative solution to a unique problem. We eagerly seek healthy creative friction from our colleagues, and who has not survived three sorrows in 2020 alone? Lindkvist reminded participants that of all the skills in our pandemic-survival toolbox, these six are the most urgently needed now, and we were grateful for the reminder.

For her keynote address, marketing specialist Annsi Krol seamlessly used technology to get attendees’ thoughts on that same technology’s ever-expanding presence in our home offices, and suggested ways to preserve the human element in the midst of a virtual work life. She used the instant-messaging function available with the Remo event platform to tally a quick estimate of the number of sales representatives in attendance. With the Slido polling platform, she generated real-time survey results in response to opinion questions about working from home, virtual meetings, and camera etiquette (Bad news for our shy readers: The overwhelming majority of respondents prefers that all participants in virtual meetings have their cameras on).

After putting forward a few tips for making socially-distanced Zoom meetings personal and engaging, she opened the floor once again for participants to share their own ideas. The combined list was inspiring: 

  • Have each participant in a meeting contribute one business question and one fun off-topic question
  • Use this opportunity to make meetings more structured and efficient
  • Explore new target groups that you couldn’t explore when face-to-face meetings were the norm
  • Expand the virtual to include the personal — the chat board lit up with interest and enthusiasm when one attendee announced her plan to organize a virtual wine tasting as her company’s Christmas party

Krol’s effortless integration of the various virtual communication tools boldly underscored the consensus that emerged later in private discussions: many of us have already found ways to keep meetings collaborative and dynamic, and anyone who was scratching their heads before NTIF now have a goody bag full of ready-to-go tricks to spice up their next stand-up.

Magnus Lindkvist equipped us with a roadmap to navigate the great unknown. Annsi Krol showed us how to stick together despite the miles and monitor screens between us. In the networking discussions, participants emboldened each other to face the current Covid climate with courage. And we all realized that we are far better at “futuring” than we thought.

Jake Baskin
Jake Baskin is an editor and proofreader at wordinc GmbH.

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