When you’re hosting a conference with an international audience, you won’t get far without the assistance of professional interpreting services.
Conference interpreting allows you to include your entire audience in the day’s — or week’s — events.
But if you fail to consider certain important factors about your venue, your message could wind up falling on deaf ears.
When organizing your conference, be sure to size up the layout of the venue with an eye on where interpreters will be stationed during presentations. By determining the most suitable location for your interpreters (and their equipment) ahead of time, you’re helping your audience get the most out of every slide, speaker and panel.
Where Does the Interpreter Go?
A working knowledge of your venue’s layout is vital to your conference’s success. You’ve probably already figured out where the speaker will stand and where all your attendees will sit, but have you considered the specific needs of your conference interpreter?
Ideally, a conference interpreter should have a clear view of the speaker, the audience and any projection screen or graphic materials the speaker may present to the attendees — after all, it’s much more difficult to interpret when you can’t see what the rest of the audience is looking at! Often, this means being seated at the back of the room or along a side wall.
If space is really tight — in a hotel conference room, say — interpreters may need to be positioned outside the room entirely. In that case, you’ll need to arrange for a video camera in the presentation room and a monitor for the interpreter; otherwise, there’s no way for the interpreter to follow the presentation! Interpreting from outside the room should be avoided whenever possible, but depending on the size of your venue (and the size of your audience), it may be the only option.
Sign language interpreting is the exception here, for obvious reasons. When your conference calls for a sign language interpreter, he or she should stand at the front of the room, positioned to be easily visible to those in the audience who need sign language interpreting, while not distracting the rest of the attendees. Usually, this means he or she will stand off to one side of the stage — it’s a good idea to reserve seats in that section for those in the audience taking advantage of the interpretation.
No matter where the interpreter ends up, there shouldn’t be any potential obstructions in the conference interpreter’s line of sight.
Take a few minutes to look at the room from an interpreter’s perspective: is the screen and/or podium blocked by lighting fixtures or furniture? Shifting even a few feet in one direction might put you in the clear, and it’s much better to find that out before a soundproof booth gets set up.
Also consider the lighting in the room. You need to make sure the interpreter won’t be sitting in the shadows or frustrated by the glare of the lights — otherwise, the quality of the interpretation might suffer.
Where Does the Interpreting Equipment Go?
Except in rare circumstances, conference interpreting requires you to utilize interpreting equipment such as wireless headsets and soundproof booths, so you’ll need to be sure the layout of your venue can accommodate it.
If your conference is being interpreted into multiple languages, you’ll want to make sure you have the right amount of booths — the general rule is one interpreting booth per language. These booths should be positioned together and allow interpreters a clear view of the stage, speaker and audience. Whenever possible, the booths should be arranged near an exit to allow your conference interpreters easy and less noticeable access to and from the conference room.
When positioning the booths it’s important to remember that they’ll need to offer the interpreter a clear view of the speaker without blocking the audience’s view. If the size of the booth makes it unfeasible to place it in the back of the room, be sure you arrange the audience’s seating so that there’s room for the booth without anyone having to sit too close to it — it will block the view of those behind it.
Soundproof booths don’t quite work the way they do in the movies, which means that the interpreter may be audible within a few feet of the booth. This can be distracting to the audience, so you should try to put a bit of distance between conference seating and any interpreting booths.
In addition, you’ll probably want a technician to support the booths, positioned to have a clear view of the speaker as well as the interpreter(s). The technician should not be seated too far away from the booths as they will need easy access to be able to promptly fix any technical problems that arise.
No two venues are laid out the same way. Taking the time to properly position your interpreters will go a long way toward making your conference a success in every language.