Are Your Business/Academic Conferences Useful for All Attendees?

Globalization has forever changed the world of business and academia. Every year, thousands of conferences are held, and many of these conferences have a truly global audience, with attendees and speakers from a wide variety of cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

Conveying your message to a multi-lingual audience requires skill and planning.

How Globalization Spurs the Need for New Language Competencies

The article “The Impact of Globalization on Communication Skills Development” observes: “Communication skills development has always been an important factor of success in business, but the influence of globalization and cross-cultural interaction in recent decades has impacted the types of communication skills needed in dramatic ways. No longer can entrepreneurs afford to simply communicate well within their own homogeneous cultures. Today, people need to understand the dynamics of long-distance collaboration, the impact of culture on manners of speaking and body language, and how to use technology to communicate with people on the other side of the globe.”

As businesses and universities engage with an ever-widening range of cultures and languages, it is increasingly clear that language interpretation is a service in high demand. Businesses and Universities wishing to adequately reach their entire global audience must accommodate cultural and linguistic differences in order to be effective and successful.

The Role of Simultaneous Translation in Conferences

Perhaps nowhere is the need for a way to remove language barriers more apparent than in the realm of conferences and presentations which are open to an international audience. It is in this context that simultaneous interpretation often comes into play.

In the past, businesses and universities holding conferences with a multi-lingual audience often used consecutive interpretation, a process in which a speaker would say a few words in his or her native language and then pause for an interpreter to interpret those words into another language spoken by some of the conference attendees.

Consecutive interpretation, though, is limited in certain respects. First, it takes additional time, thus lengthening the conference to the detriment of all participants. Second, it is distracting for attendees and speakers, breaking the natural flow of speech.

As the need for interpretation has increased, it has become more of a standard practice for businesses or universities holding conferences for multi-lingual delegates to use simultaneous interpretation to overcome these obstacles. The article “Simultaneous Interpreting: Some Frequently Asked Questions!” notes: “Simultaneous interpretation has now become the most widely used method, in every type of meeting from business conventions to summit conferences, and can even be done via remote communications links. It is much less time-consuming and enables a multilingual conference, with participants speaking a number of languages, to proceed without interruption.”

Conferences requiring the services of simultaneous interpreters fall into two broad categories: large-scale conferences hosted by businesses with an international presence in which delegates may come from a variety of countries, and smaller-scale local or community conferences held in the U.S. with a target audience that includes some non-English speakers.

Considerations When Planning Conferences

If you are planning a conference for which simultaneous interpreting is needed, there are some key factors that will help you lay a good groundwork for your event. Here are a few things to consider:
• Is your target audience largely an international group, or is it a relatively small group of delegates who have limited English proficiency?
• How large is your anticipated audience?
• Where will your conference be held?
• How many different languages will be spoken by your delegates?
• Will your entire conference be held in one location or one session, or will there be break-out sessions which might necessitate portable interpreting equipment?
• What is the budget for the language services you will require?

Equipment and Budgetary Considerations: Size Matters

The equipment that will be used for your conference will be largely determined by the venue in which the event will be held, the budget you have for the project, and the nature and size of your audience.

Equipment choice for interpretation depends on a variety of factors.

For smaller events or events in which delegates will be asked to move from one place to another for breakout sessions, portable equipment is useful. Working largely like walkie-talkies with headphones, this portable equipment is a cost-effective option for small events where only one extra language is spoken.

For slightly larger events where one additional language is spoken, simultaneous interpreters will likely use a table-top, partially enclosed interpreter’s booth.

For large events where many languages will be interpreted, it is best to use glass-enclosed, sound-proof booths, where a hard-wired feed will go directly from the speaker’s stand to an interpreter’s headset. This option is more expensive than other options but provides the best atmosphere for interpreters and delegates to benefit from the presentations at the conference.

Tips for Getting the Most from Simultaneous Interpreters

There are a number of things you can do to ensure that your delegates get the full benefit that simultaneous interpreters can provide. Jason Selden, director of Client Services at Dynamic Language, makes the following suggestions:
• If possible, provide your language service provider with an itinerary for the conference well ahead of schedule.
• Provide a list of topics to be covered, participants, and bios for guests and speakers to your language service provider.
• Provide a glossary of terms related to the conference subject matter, allowing enough time for the interpreter to become familiar with such terms well ahead of the event.

Tips for Speakers at Conferences Involving Simultaneous Interpretation

Public speaking often presents a challenge. For those who are tasked with speaking to an international audience or an audience who will be listening with the aid of a simultaneous interpreter, that challenge becomes a little more pronounced.

Speaking at an international conference requires minor adjustments in your normal speaking pattern.

LinkedIn’s “How to Speak in Public through Interpretation” gives this advice:
• Research your audience and your venue.
• Avoid industry or professional jargon and acronyms which may not be familiar to your audience.
• Speak slightly slower than usual, and watch for cues from your audience to determine their level of comprehension.
• Give your audience time to get their headphones and interpretation channels working well before you begin your presentation.
• If you will be answering questions from the audience, do not rely on your own understanding of the language. Wait to hear the official interpretation from the professional interpreter before answering.
• Avoid slang, abbreviations, and jokes which may not have the desired effect with a diverse cultural group.

The Bottom Line

Businesses and universities working on a global scale have need of language service providers to accurately convey their message to a multilingual, multicultural audience. Working with professional language service providers, you can plan and execute a good strategy for getting your point across in conferences and presentations through the use of simultaneous interpreters.

To get more information about how to get the most from conference interpreting, download our Ebook: A Guide On Conference Interpreting For Event Planners today.




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