Planning Interpreting Services for a Conference? Our 6 point guide

Posted on 11/09/11 in INDUSTRY NEWS, INTERPRETING, LANGUAGE, No Comments

The following is a brief guide of the different factors to be taken into consideration when organising interpreting services for your conference or meeting.

Organising an International conference can be a mindfield with a multitude of things to consider – add language requirements and this is multiplied! In addition to the normal conference logistics there are now languages, equipment and hiring interpreters services to contend with.

When organising an International Conference, consideration needs to be placed on identifying the languages,   conference logistics and choosing a professional, experienced and cost effective language service provider.

Effective communications with your interpreting service provider and interpreting team are key to the success of the conference.

1. Conference Languages

​First and foremost, the main language or languages for your conference need to be identified.

Floor language: This is the term used to refer to the language being used by the conference speakers and chairperson. In multi-lingual conferences there can be a number of speakers of varying languages, and in these cases there will be a number of floor languages.

Active language: This is another term to describe the floor language/s used by the conference speakers. All other languages, such as those of audience members are then referred to as the passive languages.

Interpreters are multi-lingual, and their active languages are classified as:

  • A language: interpreter’s native language.
  • B language: the other language/s of which the interpreter has full command and works into or from.
  • Some interpreters will have a C language, which is a language that they understand fully but don’t have a full enough command of to interpret into.

If there are interpreters who do not have one of the floor languages as one of their active languages, then relay interpreting will be used. This is the process whereby one active language is interpreted into another language and the other interpreters will then work from this interpretation (e.g. for Arabic to Spanish: Arabic speaker → interpretation into English → interpretation into Spanish). Mostly, this method is only necessary for lesser-spoken languages when there aren’t as many qualified interpreters available, but it is a point that should also be considered when inviting speakers to your conference versus the language of the delegates.

There are always 2 interpreters required per language, so it’s important to identify the active languages of the conference to identify how many interpreters are required. Once the language requirements are identified, your interpreting service provider can help assign and quote for qualified and experienced interpreters for each language pair.

2. Conference Logistics

After identifying the conference languages and amount of interpreters needed, it is important to consider the logistics of the conference:

  • Location: This should be an easily accessible location, for the participants and interpreters alike as many will be travelling from abroad. If interpreters need to travel to get to the conference location, these travel charges should be factored into your conference budget.
  • Agenda: this will affect the logistics of the conference and the number of interpreters required. For example various plenary sessions/workshops/breakout meetings running in parallel will require a larger team of interpreters to ensure that each session is served by interpreters.
  • Venue: the venue chosen should have good acoustics and little background noise and be suitable for the placement of the interpretation booths and technician’s desk (standard booths for two interpreters are usually 1.8 metres x 1.8 metres x 2 metres high)

These are all factors which would be overlooked, but can have a huge impact on the quality of interpretation.

3. Room Layout

When organising interpreting for your conference, there needs to be enough space for attendees, interpreters, interpreting equipment and equipment technicians.

There are three usual standard room layouts for conferences:

  1. Theatre layout: delegates sit in rows of chairs opposite a speaker’s podium/stage.
  2. Boardroom: all delegates seated around a table.
  3. Classroom: delegates sit in rows of chairs with tables opposite a front table.

The format of your conference (i.e. how interactive it will be, breakout sessions, etc.), the amount of attendees and the location will help with the room layout decision.

Interpretation equipment can be supplied to suit each layout, but this should be decided as early as possible in the conference planning stage so that it can be decided where booths, tables microphones and other equipment should be placed and also for budgeting purposes as these can all effect the price. The more information on the room layout provided, the better, as we will then be able to tailor our quotations specifically for your requirements.



4. Interpreting booths

It is important that the interpreting booths are positioned correctly to ensure that your conference runs smoothly:

  • Interpreting booths should be positioned so that interpreters have a clear view of both the speakers and any screens.
  • There should be enough space to allow interpreters to easily and discretely leave the booths and the venue.
  • All interpreting booths should be positioned together in a group.
  • There should be adequate space provided for the technician next to the booths.

5. Communications

In order to avoid any mishaps on the day and that all areas are covered for the conference, it’s essential to have effective and smooth communication between the client and the interpreting provider.

At DCU Language Services, we try to keep a consistent communication flow through regular correspondence and meetings with the customer.

The conference organiser must provide as much information and conference materials as possible ahead of the conference for the interpreters to prepare. While interpreters are fully experienced and qualified in their field, there is always some degree of preparation needed for each conference in order to guarantee the best quality of interpreting. and every event differs in terms of items discussed, presentations and terminology used.

Essential information includes the agenda, speaker’s notes and presentations, background and reference materials, conference handouts, previous meeting/conference minutes or notes, and information on any specific terminology.

Just like a speaker at a conference would not go unprepared and without looking over their speech, notes and presentations in advance, interpreters need to be equally as prepared. 

6. At the Conference

Your interpreting services provider should appoint one point of contact for the interpreting team on the day/s of the conference to ensure everything runs smoothly, in addition to the interpreting services coordinator if he/she will not be present at the conference.

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