Budapest: the BP-17 Translation Conference

The BP-17 Translation Conference main program opened on Friday morning, 5 May, at the belle époque Urania Theatre. A series of 18-minute TED-X style talks filled the day from 0940 to 2100 that night. Talks, coffee breaks, lunch and supper all took place at the theatre. By the way, BP stands for “business + practice,” although we had fun making up all sorts of other expansions of those two letters (

It was a good day to be indoors in one place. The rain started right after I ran out to cover the leather Brooks saddle of my bicycle, locked outside the theatre. It did not let up until late in the afternoon. Dry and comfy inside, we enjoyed the speakers for sets of three talks, then enjoyed each other at the extensive coffee breaks in the restaurant space on the upper level. It was a pleasant, civilized way to hold a professional conference.

Henry Liu, President of the International Federation of Translators, was the keynote speaker, with a thought-provoking talk about what our profession might look like by 2025. Those who followed him covered topics ranging from Wealth Dynamics to marketing to direct clients. All were experienced speakers, but not all had tried the 18-minute TED-X format. What made the variety work was that they were in a room full of friends and colleagues. We used a web-based app on our smart phones called to ask questions. This allowed us to “like” questions already asked, which sorted them according to the number of people who would have asked that question. It requires a moderator to manage and pose the questions. I liked the format, and had offered to use it for my presentation, but Csaba Bán, ran out of time to recruit and train moderators for the Saturday presenters.

While my colleagues stayed dry in the theatre, I used the first coffee break to ride to the American Embassy with my absentee ballot. Thanks to the OsmAnd app, it was easy to find, using back streets and bike lanes. Saint Stephen’s Basilica was on my way, but it looked closed. I did not miss any presentations. During lunch, I rode back to the hotel for the 40-minute sports massage that I had scheduled in the fitness center. Probably the best $24 I have spent on myself all year. I got back to the conference feeling loose and fit, and with plenty of time left for lunch.

Csaba gave the last talk (How I organize a conference), ending at 2010. We posed for a group photo on the stage then gathered on the upper level again for a buffet dinner. This might seem like too much of one thing to outsiders, but translators usually work alone all year. On those rare times when they can meet (such as at a conference), they can’t get enough of the companionship and sharing from the only other people they know who understand what the rest of their year is like. It is an invigorating experience for most.

The bike paths along that long east-west series of boulevards were well-lit, so riding back posed no problems. The traffic in Hungary is generally well-behaved, and the drivers do something I have never seen elsewhere: they stop for bicyclists at a crosswalk, not just pedestrians. That took some getting used to.

Saturday, I attended presentations by Pablo Mugüerza (medical terminology), Caterina Saccani (focusing on a niche), and Ellen Singer (ethics and integrity). My own presentation (how to price your work) was a double session: two 50-minute periods with a ten-minute break. Csaba had arranged for a double sized room and it was packed. Judging from the reactions, the feedback and the questions, the presentation achieved its purpose, and I felt good about it. I was surprised that there were so few questions, but this was a very different audience for me. I usually have a room with mostly newcomers and students, but this was a group of experienced translators and interpreters. Most were well-established in their profession, and they easily understood the business principles that I was outlining. This allowed us to move smoothly through all the case studies, something that I have never been able to achieve before.

One of the TED-X speakers, Iwona Piqtkowska-Biarda (Wealth Dynamics) photoshopped my closing slide to a Facebook post of herself, which I took as a compliment.

Unlike the day before, today we wrapped up at 1730, which gave us time to rest, shower, and change before the Farewell Dinner. I took advantage of the break to zip over to the mall for some small items I needed.

Knowing that the Farewell Dinner included a dance party until 0200, I rode to the venue near Heroes’ Square by myself. The restaurant at the city park had set aside the entire dining room for us. A groaning buffet of delicious Hungarian specialties and an open bar fuelled the friendships made and reinforced at the Conference. I sincerely hope to see many of these colleagues again, because I will be riding through their cities this summer. As it is, I have added dozens of friends on Facebooks and connections on LinkedIn since the Conference.

The ride back served as a pleasant constitutional after such a long, large dinner. Back at the hotel, I booked another night in the Maverick City Lodge, so that I could spend an extra day in Budapest and organize myself to continue River Run 2017. I collected the things that I wanted to ship back to Virginia, which I would not need after the conference, and packed them with a Starbucks mug for Daniel.

On Sunday, I checked out of the hotel, and rode back to the Maverick City Lodge. On the way, I passed the Post Office at the main train station, which was indeed open 24/7 as advertised on the web. In 20 minutes, I had purchased a box and shipped 1.89 kg of stuff I would not have to carry back to the USA. Budapest was proving to be the easiest city yet for getting around and getting things done.

Next time, River Run 2017 continues, with my first ride up the right bank of the Danube.

Smooth roads and tailwinds,


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