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What you need to know when organising a multilingual event with interpreters


Is it possible to hold a multilingual web conference successfully with simultaneous interpreters? This is a question that companies, associations and institutions for which online meetings are part of everyday life have been asking themselves since the beginning of the Corona virus pandemic. In the meantime, many meetings with foreign business or project partners no longer take place on site. This can be a challenge, especially with regard to international multilingual communication in politics and business. But multilingual cooperation is certainly possible online, with the help of appropriately qualified and technically equipped simultaneous interpreters. When planning a web conference with simultaneous interpreters, there are nevertheless some important points to bear in mind so that the event can take place to the satisfaction of all participants.

Particularly important – the quality of sound and video

For web conferences with simultaneous interpretation, sound quality is crucial. For interpreting equipment in conventional conference rooms, the applicable ISO standards prescribe, which include a frequency range of 125 to 15,000 Hz so that the interpreters can hear and understand the original sound as clearly as possible. If there is no direct eye contact with the speakers and screens are used in the interpreters’ booths, special regulations also apply to image transmission. The audio and video quality of the interpreting equipment is very important, as simultaneous interpreting requires an extremely high level of concentration and causes great stress.

In web conferences, sound and images are transmitted via the internet. Even under optimal technical conditions, however, interpreters cannot hear the content of the conversation as well as would if they were using standard interpreting equipment. A transmission delay (latency) further increases the interpreters’ cognitive load.

Nevertheless, in order to enable efficient communication during the event, all participants should be made aware of the risk factors so that they can ensure that their workplace is adequately equipped in advance.

5 basic rules for a successful multilingual online conference with simultaneous interpreters

  1. Use an Ethernet cable instead of W-LAN.
  2. Use a powerful PC or laptop in as soundproof an environment as possible.
  3. Use a high-quality USB headset or USB microphone and a webcam.
  4. Coordinate the choice of platform with the interpreter and do a trial run.
  5. Hire a competent moderator to lead the event.

Disruptive factors that you should avoid

The most common technical interference factors that must be avoided at all costs during planning include:

  1. An Internet connection that is too slow or unstable,
  2. The use of W-LAN,
  3. The use of inappropriate accessories, such as mobile phone headsets and microphones by participants in home office.

Inform the participants about the requirements at an early stage

Anyone giving a presentation or speaking during a web conference should sit in a soundproof place with a fast and stable internet connection. A webcam and a USB headset with a good microphone should be connected to the most powerful PC or laptop possible. It is important to pass this information on to all participants immediately in the planning phase so that they can get the appropriate equipment for the duration of the conference or find a quiet room with the appropriate infrastructure.

Current developments in simultaneous interpreting platforms

Simultaneous interpreters can be added to a conference in several ways. Various software platforms have been available for a number of years, which have so far made it possible to integrate simultaneous interpreters from different locations into location-based conferences. Due to the growing demand for online conferencing, these simultaneous platforms are now increasingly linked to the standard webmeeting platforms on the market. At the same time, webmeeting platforms increasingly offer a simultaneous function in their software, which makes it possible to integrate simultaneous interpreters into the meeting from their offices as well, in order to interpret for the participants.

These different platforms are currently in a conversion or development phase and also have significant differences in price, quality and functionality. It is important to choose the right platform for the different types of events. Your trusted conference interpreter can best advise you on this.

The International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) has published a guide on the use of remote interpreting platforms with detailed technical recommendations and practical advice. You can download the full list of recommendations in English: AIIC Covid-19 Distance Interpreting Recommendations for Institutions and DI-Hubs.

Competent moderation is an important success factor

In addition to the above tips, competent moderation is crucial for a successful event. The moderator should make sure that only one person’s microphone is switched on at a time. At a conference with several foreign languages, it is also important to announce which language the next speaker will use in order to facilitate the coordination of the interpreters among themselves, who do not sit in the same room at a web event but may have to coordinate with the help of a chat. In any case, it is important that the moderator has the necessary knowledge of the respective platform – prior training and practical tests are recommended – in order to be able to coordinate all the functions required for the conference process at any time. It may also be useful for him or her to have the support of a person with the appropriate technical knowledge. This also makes sense if an RSI platform is added that is supervised by a technician.

Multilingual videoconferencing is an enduring trend

If you follow the above points on technical equipment from all participants and bring in competent moderators and interpreters, nothing will stand in the way of your efficiently run multilingual online event! Participants are often surprised at how pleasant and productive web conferences with interpreters can be. Even with the end of the Corona crisis – for which we have all been eagerly awaiting – this form of communication will be increasingly used. If simultaneous functions are even better integrated into the web conferencing solutions currently on the market, it will mean that such time- and resource-saving international, multilingual meetings will take place more frequently in the future.