When organizing a conference or a meeting that requires simultaneous interpreters, you may need to procure an interpreting booth (or several).
But interpreting booths come in varying sizes and specifications. You’ll need to know which type suits your needs, or your interpreter could be left out in the cold.
By keeping in mind the needs of your audience, the size of your venue and your available resources, your conference’s interpreting should proceed smoothly, from setup to breakdown.
How Different Soundproof Booths Work
There are basically two different types of interpreting booths you can use for your conference: Tabletop interpreting booths and full-size interpreting booths.
Tabletop booths, as their name suggests, sit atop a table — any reasonably sturdy table will work. The interpreter sits at the table, with the upper body and interpreting equipment inside the booth.
However, the booth is not completely enclosed — it’s open in the back. Therefore it is not completely soundproof. On the upside, this also means it is small and easily transportable, and it can be set up and operated by a single person.
Full-size interpreting booths are standalone enclosures that come with the works: four walls, a floor, a ceiling, its own door and even its own ventilation system.
The interpreter(s) sit within the soundproof booth at a table (you’ll need to keep a spare at the venue available) with their equipment and work there throughout the conference. It’s usually recommended to have an audio technician available outside the booth to assist with any technical issues that may arise.
At a minimum, full-size booths are big enough to fit a pair of interpreters, but larger booths can accommodate as many as four if need be. Because of their size, they come in many parts, are harder to transport than tabletop booths and require more than one person to assemble and operate them.
Whichever type of interpreting booth is employed, the same audio equipment will be used by the interpreter. So be sure to consider the differences between booths when deciding which one will best serve the needs of your conference.
Where Different Soundproof Booths Are Placed
When you’re setting up the venue for your conference, there are a number of factors to consider when deciding where to place your interpreter, including the size and operating requirements of your interpreting booth.
Tabletop interpreting booths require minimal space and time for preparation; all you need is a sturdy table and a chair and you’re good to go. This makes tabletop booths ideal for smaller venues and venues where setup time may be a factor. For example, you may have a limited amount of time to use a room and don’t want to spend most of it putting the interpreter’s booth together — not to mention dismantling it afterward.
Because they’re not totally soundproof, it’s a good idea to position tabletop booths with their back facing a wall or other area devoid of attendees. This will help prevent sound from the audience interfering with the interpretation and vice versa.
Full-size interpretation booths need both space and time allocated for setup. The amount of room and time needed increases depending on how big a booth you require: as you might imagine, larger booths take more time to assemble. Regardless of the booth’s actual dimensions, however, expect to allow about two hours for assembly and equipment testing.
A full-size interpretation booth should be positioned so that the interpreters have a good view of the speaker but don’t obstruct the view of the audience. Ideally this would be at the back of the room, but if the size of your venue doesn’t allow this you’ll need to give yourself extra prep time to arrange seating to accommodate the interpretation booth.
And no matter which type of interpreting booth you use, or where you position it, be sure there’s an electrical outlet nearby! It’ll be hard for a conference interpreter to speak to your audience if the microphone doesn’t have any power.