You’ve carefully chosen the speakers, the venue, and even the caterers… but have you taken care of the ‘international’ part? Have you lined up professional interpreters? Produced multilingual invitations and presentations?
Interpreters play a key role in conveying the speakers’ messages. You could invite the most interesting speakers but fail to impress the audience if you’ve rushed the selection and briefing of the interpreters.
Here are some tips to help you optimise the quality of the interpreting service and multilingual support.
1. Select a date and book your interpreters early
Simultaneous interpreting is arguably the hardest of all linguistic skills, and the talent pool shrinks further when you filter for industry specialism and location. There’s a risk you’ll be left with sub-standard options if another event clashes with yours, so check whether or not there is a related international event taking place on the same day you have in mind for your event. And book interpreters as early as possible to avoid disappointment.
2. Make sure you get the right type of interpreting
The most appropriate type of interpreting will be determined by factors such as the nature of the sessions (key-note speeches, workshops, etc.), duration of the event, number of participants and required languages.
- Simultaneous interpreting is commonly used for international conferences. The interpreters sit in booths with headphones and provide a simultaneous interpretation of the speakers’ words. Due to the intensity of this task the interpreters typically work in pairs and relay one another every 20 or 30 minutes. Delegates are provided with headphones and can select the language of their choice.
- Consecutive interpreting can be used for meetings with few language combinations, or events with a small audience. The interpreter sits close to the speaker and takes notes while s/he speaks, then delivers the interpreting while the speaker pauses.
- Whispering interpreting is more often used when a meeting takes place in a language that one or two delegates don’t understand. The interpreter sits next to these delegates and whispers the interpretation.
3. Identify the languages carefully
Check with the speakers in which language/s they are able to present, and assess which languages the attendees can understand in order to determine the floor language(s).
The floor language is the language used by the main speakers. There may be more than one floor language, in which case you should carefully determine the share of floor time allocated to each language.
Interpreters will work into their active language(s) and from their passive language(s). An interpreter’s active language is usually his or her mother tongue, plus any additional languages of which s/he has an especially good command. Conference interpreters very often have more than one passive language.
For some rare language pairs you may have to use a relay who will interpret from the floor language into a common language such as English, which will then be interpreted into the target language.
Identifying all the different languages required for your event will help your language service provider assess whether or not relays are needed, and line up the most suitable interpreters.
4. The perfect venue
If you’re planning on using simultaneous interpreters, check if the venue will provide you with interpreting booths or if there will be enough space to install booths. Bear in mind that all the interpreters should be able to view the speakers and the presentation from where they sit.
It’s not uncommon for major venues to require organizers to arrange their own equipment. If the venue doesn’t provide all the appropriate equipment, make sure that you or your language service provider will be able to source it – and remember to book the equipment in good time.
5. The equipment required
It’s essential that you assess the venue and its facilities in order to avoid last minute surprises.
Check whether or not the venue has any audio-visual equipment in place. If there is no audio system in place, you will need to hire microphones, an audio mixer, an equalizer, an amplifier, and loudspeakers, as well as the services of a technician. If there are no video or projection systems in place you may need to hire presentation solutions, such as overhead projectors, screens, etc.
Necessary equipment for simultaneous interpreting includes soundproof booths, transmitters, consoles, cables, as well as receivers and headsets for the audience.
Remember to check that all the microphones and sets of headphones are fully operational, and bear in mind that you will need a team to set up and dismantle all the equipment.
6. Brief the interpreters thoroughly, and the speakers too
You’ll get the best results if you support the interpreters by providing them with reference materials and briefing them several days in advance.
Reference material – Professional interpreters should have a very good command of their active and passive languages and the requested industry sector, but they won’t be expert in every sub-specialisation. As far in advance of the event as possible, you should provide them with a copy of the presentations and any texts that will be read, along with any available reference material. This will enable them to rehearse and familiarise themselves with the terminology.
You might also want to organise a meeting or conference call with the speakers and interpreters, so that interpreters can clarify glossary issues with the speakers and get accustomed to the speakers’ accents.
Brief the speakers – You can ease the interpreters’ work by giving the speakers guidance on the way they should be speaking, specifically:
- We aware that interpreters will be relaying your message to the audience;
- Always use the microphone (and ensure it’s switched on), otherwise the interpreters won’t receive the audio feed into their headphones;
- Speak in your mother tongue;
- Try and speak freely, or if you read keep a slow pace;
- Enunciate clearly and finish your sentences;
- Do not speak too close to the microphone, and do not approach your headset too close to it to avoid any interference.
7. Translate invitations and presentations
If you’re investing in interpreters to widen the appeal of your event, it’s sensible to demonstrate that commitment by producing invitations in the relevant languages. Most presentations can be made bilingual at minimal cost, or you can include translated versions as printed hand-outs for attendees who need them. Get in touch with your language service provider as far in advance of the event as possible to ensure they can complete the translation, typesetting and printing in good time.
Save yourself money, time and trouble
If you’re planning a multilingual event, you can get advice from your language service provider and see what solutions they can offer to help you save time and money.