If you’ve never hosted a multilingual conference before, you might be wondering how best to arrange interpreting services for the big day (or weekend, or week!).
Maybe you’re planning for a meeting a few months from now, or you may have just found out that you’ll need interpreters for a conference taking place tomorrow.
In any case, we’ve put together a brief guide below for your first conference interpreting experience, so that you can make the process as easy on yourself as possible.
There are a few things you can expect your language services provider to ask in order to determine the best solution for you — we’ve included some of them here, to help you on your way to a smoothly-run conference.
How Big Is Your Audience?
This is the first question you’re likely to hear, because the size of your audience greatly influences the type of interpreting that will serve you best. If you have exact numbers, that’s great, but don’t worry if you don’t have a detailed roster – an estimate of “about a dozen” or “two hundred or so” is just fine.
In a smaller setting without strict time constraints, consecutive interpreting may be your best bet, especially if you anticipate a lot of interaction between speakers of different languages. Since the interpreter will interpret after each speaker finishes, this method is excellent for question-and-answer sessions, or multilingual negotiations. Just be aware that using consecutive interpreting will approximately double the length of time your conference or meeting will last.
For larger audiences, you’ll likely be better served by simultaneous interpreting. Using specialized audio equipment, interpreters transmit the contents of a speech or presentation with just a few seconds’ delay, without requiring the speaker to pause or wait for the interpretation.
How Many Attendees Need Interpreters?
Once you’ve determined the approximate size of the total audience, the next concern is how many of them actually require interpreting services, and in what languages. Again, an estimate is fine here, but the more information you can provide, the better.
As you might expect, providing interpreting for a whole room full of non-English speakers is a little more complicated than accommodating six attendees who don’t know the language. Depending on how many people require interpreting – and how many languages are involved – you might need a different size of interpreting booth, or perhaps a whisper-concurrent interpreter.
At this point, you should have enough information to get the ball rolling. As the day of the conference approaches, however, it will be helpful for you to share a bit more information about the event with your language services provider.
Who You Gonna Call?
Conference and meeting venues usually have rules and policies in place regarding setup for events. And since interpreting equipment requires at least some setup time, you want to be sure that all the equipment and personnel are in place before the event begins, rather than delaying a presentation because the service entrance was locked.
The easiest way to prevent this kind of mix-up is to find out who’s in charge of things like building access, security and electrical facilities (in case the audio technicians need to make any special arrangements) – and then pass their contact information along. When your conference services provider is able to get answers to logistics questions on its own, that’s one less thing you have to worry about.
How Much Time Do You Have?
Related to the point above, it’s important that you allow for enough time before and after the conference to get everything done. Before the conference begins, you’ll want to be sure there’s time for assembling and configuring the interpreting booths, as well as distributing headsets to those attendees who need them.
On the other side of the coin, you should be aware of any time limits at the end of the conference – has someone else rented out the space after you’re done? Do they lock up the building at a certain time? These are the kinds of things to keep in mind, so that you’ll have enough time after the conference for interpreting booths to be dismantled and packed up, without interfering with anyone else’s plans.
This isn’t an exhaustive guide, of course — every conference has its own unique requirements. And while it may be your first time arranging interpreting services for a conference, an expert language services provider will have the experience and know-how necessary to make your multilingual event a success.