Increasingly, training courses and some business meetings need language assistance for overseas participants. This needs careful planning as your format dictates the equipment, technical support, room layout and interpreting style required.
Basically there are two interpreting styles – consecutive and simultaneous. In a consecutive meeting, the speaker says a few words then pauses while they are interpreted. Apart from microphones, little equipment is required. However, it extends presentation time considerably which can be frustrating.
Simultaneous interpreting relays presentations in real-time, a more natural scenario. The minimum requirement recommended is a Tourguide System for interpreters to convey proceedings via a microphone to participants’ headsets. They are relatively inexpensive, easy to set up and don’t require much room. Their portability is useful if the meetings is held over different locations or includes site visits.
A step up is an interpreting booth with full sound system, again participants listen to their language of choice via headphones. It requires a room large enough for the booth and increased technical assistance. Although more expensive, it’s still good value for money given that it reduces the background murmur of interpreting and optimises the meeting for all concerned.
Always allow plenty of time for the technical team to test equipment particularly when introducing a remote element such as videoconferencing. It can be as simple as connecting a cable into your sound desk but if you don’t order it, you may have a disaster on your hands.
Accept that interpreting will slow proceedings down a little and plan accordingly. Provide presentations and industry terminology in advance and ensure speakers pace themselves and include breaks. Normally two interpreters per language are required to ensure consistent quality. Make sure they are well qualified and have relevant experience.
Time spent working out the fine detail with your interpreting provider will avoid any unforeseen financial or operational problems keeping projects on time and on budget.
Although we are currently thinking of summer holidays, before we know it, conference season will be upon us and it will be time to plan the next European Works Council.
A well thought out meeting venue will ensure not only that your discussions run smoothly but that your delegates enjoy the event and take away a positive image of the company. As Interpreting Projects Managers we have worked in a huge variety of venues across Europe, some excellent and some with challenges. Here are our top tips when considering a venue for your EWC:
1. Firstly, consider the geographical location. Is the venue easily accessible by public transport from all the participating countries? Increasingly, we are seeing companies are choosing to hold their meetings in hotels near a major airport so that delegates can arrive directly at the meeting and avoid long and costly journeys into city centres. For more local delegates, these hotels can often also provide reasonably priced parking.
Another solution clients are increasingly investigating is using their own meeting rooms; as an added bonus it means that attendees from other countries can see facilities and meet the wider team in the host country. Unlike hotels though, these building are not purpose built for large meetings so it’s even more important to check that it’s suitable for purpose. A good venue should certainly be able to offer you a site visit and/or detailed floorplans. Make sure these clearly show fire escapes, pillars etc so there are no surprises on the day.
2. Once you’ve decided on the city, you need to look at how practical the venues on your short- list are. Remember the larger the meeting the more time and space you will need. Is there enough room to fit all your booths and set the room up for participants in your preferred style? Can all the booths clearly view the presenters and participants?
Large meetings require a lot of technical kit so make sure when you are booking the room that there is adequate time to build up and test all the booths prior to the start of the meeting and there is sufficient time to de-rig before the next event. For large meetings you may well need to book the room for the day or evening before which has implications for your budget. It’s also worth checking you have exclusive use of the room, if the hotel books out the ballroom you are using for another evening event, you don’t want to have to take down and build up the booths each day. It’s possible but it will add extra expense.
Talking of practicalities, you also need to make sure there is an adequate loading bay. Remember to double check any time restrictions, some cities only allow unloading at certain times of the day. If the room is not on the ground floor, is there a suitable service lift.
3. Finally you might just want to check on any extras, for instance does the meeting room provide screens, projectors, wi-fi, sound system. Are they extra or included in the price? Is there enough accommodation at or near the venue? If you have a formal dinner is there a nice restaurant on-site or within reasonable distance?
If this is all sounding a bit much, remember a good project manager will be happy to help and act as a liaison between your venue and the interpreting and technical teams. Although many companies organise an EWC once a year, we are doing it every week so we are used to planning in advance and spotting any potential hiccups!
The skills shown by our simultaneous interpreters who specialise in EWCs is quite frankly breath taking. Listening to them covering topics at breakneck speed into and out of a second language and just a few seconds behind the speaker is extremely impressive so, understandably, interpreters are fiercely proud of their industry.
In order to protect their profession’s reputation for quality and integrity they will do everything they can to make your event run smoothly. However, there are some simple steps organisers can take to make their lives easier and ensure their delegates get a top quality interpreting experience.
Multi-language conferences are becoming increasingly specialised and technically complex. Remember, you work for your company year round and its acronyms and industry jargon are second nature. By contrast, an interpreter may be working on several different events every week so the more you can help by providing information in advance, the better prepared they will be for your event.
The main sources of information that interpreters use to prepare are conference documents and internet searches for industry background and terminology resources. In some cases a pre-conference briefing, even a very short one immediately before the meeting, can be a valuable addition to the interpreters’ preparation for a difficult technical meeting.
Aim to provide some or all of the following at least a couple of weeks in advance:
- program or agenda
- background papers on the subjects and organisations involved; basically anything you think will add to the interpreters’ understanding of your company and corporate culture
- PowerPoint presentations and the speakers’ notes
- documents to be discussed
- copies of speeches to be delivered
- multilingual glossaries of the relevant terminology & acronyms
- summaries or minutes of previous meetings
- list of speakers and delegates so interpreters can familiarise themselves with participants and any difficult pronunciations speakers’ bios
- files of any films to be shown so that interpreters can prepare a summary of content
The down side of technology of course means that in the real world, your presenters are often finishing their presentation a day or two before the conference. However even a draft version is helpful to an interpreter and if similar topics are covered each year, it’s useful to send last year’s presentations to give an indication of likely subject matter.
Of course, we understand all files are confidential. We already have our own confidentiality agreements in place and are happy to sign any additional NDAs and we can also work out the best way to upload sensitive or extra large files.
At the conference itself you should expect the interpreters to arrive at least 30 minutes before the start so if you are providing the technical equipment directly make sure your supplier has everything ready for testing at this stage.
You can also use this opportunity to let the interpreters know any changes or important updates; often for large meetings there will be a liaison interpreter to act as main link between you and the interpreters so you just need to speak to them and they will do the rest.
And while interpreters are talented, they can only interpret what they can clearly hear! Prior to the meeting you need to make sure that the sound level is clear, that everyone has a clear view of the screen and provide wi-fi in the conference room so they can access on-line dictionaries and reference materials as they work. For more handy tips see our previous blog on choosing the right venue for your EWC.
Finally, ensure that your speakers and participants understand how to pace themselves for interpreters. Someone mumbling at 90 miles an hour will make the interpreters’ job extra hard as will several speaking people speaking at once.
A professional interpreter’s role is to accurately convey your speakers’ words and meaning and make them forget they are hearing that through an interpreter. However, they can do this much more easily if they get the right information to do it!