While CeBIT 2018 might seem a long way off, it’s never too early to start planning your company’s presence in Hannover in June 2018. You absolutely want to showcase your brand and your innovative products at the world’s largest tech expo at the world’s largest trade fair grounds, that’s of course a no-brainer. And given the significant costs of exhibiting at CeBIT, you absolutely want to put your best foot forward when it comes to your company’s image. That goes without saying.
Having visited CeBIT 2017, I was able to glean some insights into how many medium-sized and start-up companies were approaching their language services needs at the fair. I was surprised, given the high stakes of the trade fair, to see that there was quite a lot of room for improvement in this area. This is why I’ve put together a few tips and considerations below, which I hope you’ll find informative while planning out what you and your company need to do to prepare for CeBIT 2018 when it comes to language services.
1. You need your materials in English.
While this may seem painfully obvious, I was surprised to find that it wasn’t so. A number of exhibitors had none of their materials translated into English at all. Zero. Zilch. When I asked one presenter why he didn’t have any English-language materials at his booth, he said that “the website is already translated”. That’s the kind of corner-cutting that leaves the impression that a stand wasn’t well thought out, and the kind of thing that makes you question a company’s ability to fully plan for other scenarios that they might find themselves in. In short, it makes you look woefully unprepared for the big leagues. It should also be of little surprise that when I checked their website, most of their material had not been translated into English at all; they’d only done a few paragraphs on the landing page. Like it or not, English is currently the lingua franca of business, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon. If you want to be truly present at an international tech fair, you need to make an impact in the language your customers speak. Period. At CeBIT, that language is largely English.
2. Your into-English translations need to fit your brand image.
The second biggest mistake I noticed exhibitors making at CeBIT 2017 was that while many had indeed invested in their translations, they often seemed to have gone to the wrong place to get them. I found that the language on many banners, brochures, and leaflets was frequently unfit for purpose (stilted, too formal, too obtuse) or was downright incorrect (grammatical errors, specific terms with incorrect translations, or simply just looking like a jumble of words thrown together without any regard to the meaning or sense). This may shock you, but having a six-foot banner next to your stand that’s littered with errors doesn’t tend to make a great impression on your potential customers. While it’s true that many visitors may not notice, I was told by more than one exhibitor that it gets embarrassing when people come up to your stand every hour or so to point this out (I didn’t point this out, they all told me on their own when they saw my card). And not only that, it leaves your customers remembering you more for your language mistakes than for your product. I think we can all agree that that’s not a desirable effect.
3. Don’t wait until the last minute. It’s never too early to start planning your language presence.
Again, this might sound obvious, but at CeBIT 2017 I often found that many of the presenters with error-ridden translations had waited until the last minute to remember that they needed English-language translations. One told me specifically that they had forgotten to order the translations until the Friday before the exhibit. They had to have them done over the weekend in order to get the banner printed before Tuesday. Now, I don’t think I need to tell you why this is a bad idea, but let me point out something I heard at the American Translator’s Association Conference in Washington, D.C. this year that has really resonated with me: translation is the biggest industry you’ve never heard of (valued at $40 billion in 2016), probably because you ONLY tend to hear about it when something goes horribly, horribly wrong. Everyone has certainly laughed at a few hilarious mistranslations on Facebook or reddit or Twitter over the years, and of course it can be hilarious when it happens to someone else–but it’s definitely not so funny when it’s YOUR company that they’re laughing at.
4. You paid big bucks for your copywriter; don’t pinch pennies on the translation.
This one always astounds me, but then again, I’m looking at it from the translation side of things. Translation is built mainly upon one thing: trust. Often our clients aren’t entirely in a position to judge the quality of the work they receive. This is why, just like with copywriting, a high level of communication needs to exist between the translator and the company. A good relationship, after all, is the basis for establishing trust. While agencies have their benefits, such as being able to translate your materials into dozens of different languages at once, they also frequently have their drawbacks. If you go through an agency, you are unlikely to know the precise background and qualifications of your translator. You are also very unlikely to be able to communicate with the translator directly. This means that your translator won’t be able to ask critical questions about where you are looking to take your brand or adapt the language of the text to reflect your companies’ individual strengths and values. When it comes to your extremely high-end marketing materials aimed at an audience such as those found at CeBIT, you don’t want to cut corners. You want a highly qualified native-speaker of English with serious experience in working with marketing texts who will work closely with you and your team to create texts with maximum impact.
So, when is the best time to start preparing your texts to make a world-class impact at CeBIT 2018? The answer is the sooner, the better. Jeanette Brickner and Brickner Translations are happy to answer your questions and get to know your company and your needs on a personal level. We will help you come up with solutions that are tailored to your specific audience and customers, and we will help you find your voice in English. Don’t hesitate to contact us today for a free consultation so that we can get right to work on making sure that your English-language presence at CeBIT 2018 matches your already-high level of commitment when presenting at the expo. And of course, we wish you the best of luck in preparing all aspects of your CeBIT 2018 presence!