Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio October
Back to Basics
By Peter J. Wright
USING INTERPRETER SERVICES
How to provide a meeting with simultaneous
With a growing number of firms becoming global in breadth,
planners are faced with a challenge: accommodating non-native
Even if these attendees have a good grasp of the language, it’s
possible that without interpreters, they might miss out on some of
the finer points of a speaker’s message, a CEO’s address or a
How to ensure all of your attendees grasp the information that’s
being divulged? Offer them the benefit of simultaneous
interpretation, a process in which an interpreter sits in a booth
in the meeting room; the speaker’s words are transmitted to the
interpreter via headphones and, at virtually the same time, the
interpreter verbally translates the speech into the listeners’
native language via microphone. The listeners pick up the
interpreter’s voice through headsets.
The best place to find professional, qualified and experienced
interpreters is through an agency that specializes in hiring them
for conferences. Planners also can look for them through two
professional associations, the American Translators Association (www.atanet.org) and
the International Association of Conference Interpreters (www.aiic.net).
• Fees. Interpreters’ fees are calculated in
half-day and day rates; the average daily rate is $750 to $800. Fee
scales are based on subject matter (technical information is more
difficult to interpret and, therefore, more costly) and language
pairs (English-Uzbek interpreters are more rare and therefore more
costly than their English-Spanish counterparts).
• Equipment. Most meeting venues have
interpreting equipment available for rent. If not, it can be
provided by independent A/V vendors. The average cost of equipment,
including an interpreter’s booth, is $750 per day; headsets cost
about $3 each.
To ensure a good interpretation experience for attendees and
sponsors, consider the following points.
• Prime the interpreter. The most important
thing planners can share with interpreters is reference material
that could assist them in understanding the specifics of the
subject matter to be presented. This should include specialized
terminology, technical terms and advance copies of
• Hold a pre-con. Organize a briefing for the
interpreter prior to the event, and include the scheduled speakers
in this process. Doing so is extremely useful for clarifying
specific points or concepts in a speech.
• Get it in writing. When film, slides or
transparencies are part of the presentation, make sure the
interpreter receives the script or a copy of the transparencies.
Interpreter booths often are situated far away from a venue’s
projection screen, so it is helpful if the interpreter has a copy
of the projected text with which to work.
• Q&A. If speakers wish to take questions
from the floor, make sure they are outfitted with receiver headsets
so they can hear the questions as interpreted into English.
• The eyes have it. When possible, try to place
the interpreter’s booth in direct sight line of the speaker. Body
language is extremely important to the process, yet it is almost
never taken into consideration by conference organizers. The
interpreter will thank you for it.
• Keep it clear. Make sure speakers are not too
close to the microphone; their words can become garbled and
difficult to comprehend.
• Keep them wired. Have a mobile microphone
handy in case speakers move away from their podium or seat. Without
one, the interpreters cannot hear all if anything that is being
Wright is the president of The Wright Translation, a
New York City-based translation and interpreting service
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