Five Things to Consider When Your Event Requires Interpretation
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Five Things to Consider When Your Event Requires Interpretation

If you’re serious about your international event going well, booking and planning interpretation services should not just be a matter of hiring the first online search result you get. To start, using people who lack the right experience or skills could risk ruining your attendees’ experience, undermining the event’s objectives or damaging your company’s reputation. And if your logistics aren’t planned to the letter, you risk even more problems.

So, here are five tips for how to successfully select an interpretation partner for your next event.

1. Decide your priority: speed or accuracy

What kind of event are you holding? If the emphasis is on the need for accuracy—such as with a legal hearing or medical audit—you need a consecutive interpreter with experience and qualifications in that subject area. This is the best way to ensure every detail is correctly interpreted into the target language, with the speaker pausing to allow the interpreter to do their work in short intervals.

However, this format would never work for a conference or presentation, where the emphasis is less on exactly replicating the language and more on maintaining the speed of the proceedings. Here, simultaneous interpreting is much more appropriate. This is where skilled interpreters listen to the speaker and translate what they say instantly.

2. Source the right dialects

Don’t assume an interpreter can work in any country that happens to speak a variation of their language. If you’re expecting Brazilian delegates to attend your event, you need a Brazilian-Portuguese interpreter. An Iberian-Portuguese speaker will know neither the cultural references nor the colloquialisms to be able to properly convey what they hear. The same applies to Chinese delegates: it’s not just about discerning between Cantonese and Mandarin. There are regional variations within these languages that you need to consider, too.

3. Get your logistics right

Where are you holding the event? Is it in a major urban area or a smaller city? For some languages, it may be cheaper or more viable to fly native interpreters in than to hire them on location (because expertise in that language pair and subject matter does not exist in the city of your event).

If you’ve opted for simultaneous interpreting, there are several other things to consider. Simultaneous interpreters must work in pairs, swapping every 20-30 minutes. They also need additional equipment: a booth, microphones, headphones and a PA system. If you are planning a conference with six different languages, that means your event room needs to accommodate 12 interpreters in six booths, along with your actual attendees.

In addition, interpreters generally work seven hours a day with one hour for lunch. Anything else is overtime. That means if your event stretches outside of normal business hours, it will affect their rate. Plus, you will naturally need to keep everyone suitably fed, watered and comfortable during the event.

4. Plan and prepare well in advance

If you know you’re going to hold a conference in six months, start planning now. Spring and autumn are often packed with events, which can lead to a scarcity of experienced interpreters. This is especially important if you’re expecting to need several different languages for your event. The best interpreters are neither cheap nor readily available, and it can be risky to assume you’ll get one on short notice.

Ideally, you’ve partnered with a trusted language service provider who has a network of pre-qualified interpreters to choose from. But if you’re selecting interpreters yourself, try to go beyond their CVs by contacting their references and confirming their qualifications and experience.

Another important part of the preparation phase is providing the interpreters with relevant materials or the speakers’ presentation notes (if available in advance) to help them understand the terminology, style of language and presentation format of the people they will be interpreting. It helps the interpreters get a feel for what will be said and ensure they aren’t caught off-guard by industry jargon. The more technical and industry-specific the event, the more important it is to prepare your interpreters accordingly.

5. Set vendor expectations

Unless you are very familiar with the process of arranging interpreters for large-scale events, it can be a bewildering experience. One simultaneous interpreting booth will take at least two hours to set up, and a large event with 11 booths could take a day. All the interpreters need a view of the presenters, and it’s entirely possible that a multi-day event will require the equipment to be removed in the evening and set up again in the morning.

Make sure your vendor provides the equipment and ensures there’s enough space and time to get the booths ready. Your vendor should also have someone on location to make sure both the interpreters and the equipment are working as planned.


As the event organizer, your time is in constant demand as you prepare resources, look after delegates and coordinate tasks and duties. When it comes to arranging and managing interpreters, it makes sense to leave it to an organization with the experience and relationships to make things easier for you. That way, you can free up time to focus on the issues that only you can solve.

If you are thinking about organizing an international event, don’t hesitate to get in touch to discuss your own interpretation needs.