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Preparing to Interpret at Special Events

By: Jonathan Downie    Date: November 21, 2016

Every event is special. No two conferences are exactly the same. But, for even the most experienced conference interpreters, there are occasions where they are asked to apply their skills in settings that are definitely not run of the mill. This is how I get ready for such events.

 

Only provide interpreting where you know you can excel

 

Before we even look at preparation, I need to make sure that one thing is clearly understood. While, at the beginning of our careers, wemight find ourselves outside their comfort zone, interpreters should never take on work unless they are trained for it and are sure they can deliver. So, in my particular case, I leave medical and court interpreting to the specialists and check topics and contexts carefully before accepting an assignment. It does you no good to turn up and do a poor job.

 

Even with that proviso in place, there are times when you end up using familiar skills in slightly less familiar environments. I have interpreted in muddy fields, on factory tours, in a power plant and on tour buses and for cartoon pandas and theatrical performers. Each time, those extra little quirks and changes in location or interpreting mode have meant a shift in preparation.

 

Same interpreting skills, different environment

 

While in the booth, it’s all about concentration management and delivery skills, outside of the booth, you need to rely on situation management. Suddenly, you are a lot more visible and your interpreting is just as much a part of the conversation or the tour as anything else.

 

My next assignment is very much in that vein. It has whispered interpreting, consecutive interpreting during an extended QA session and an artsy feel. Suddenly, performance and attitude will mean as much as accuracy and terminology.

 

So how do you prepare for special events?

 

If there is a single secret to preparing for special events, it is to try to tap in to the ideal experience of the event. What will send people home happy? What will make the organisers glad they invested? Why is the event even taking place in the first place?

 

While every event will require terminology preparation, watching videos of speakers, reading the agenda and such like, for some, it is just as necessary to try to understand what the organisers want people to feel during and after the event. Cultural events often aim for an impact on people’s hearts as well as their heads. Product launches often aim to leave people amazed enough to pull out their wallets.

 

Understanding that experience and practising interpreting in a way that is still accurate but it tuned to that situation is vital. This means not just interpreting videos of the speakers in ways that get information across but taking time to work through ways to get across their tone and enthusiasm and the atmosphere they create. Product presentations might need you to express enthusiasm and attention-to-detail, emotive speeches might require you to carry some of that emotion across suitably too.

 

So for this next assignment, one of the biggest but most rewarding challenges will be to put myself in the shoes of both the speakers and the organisers and find a way of speaking and interpreting that will fit in seamlessly with the event itself. After all, as soon as you bring an interpreter into a performance or any kind, they become performers themselves. Once you understand that, preparation becomes something you do with your whole body and not just your mind and mouth.

Holding a Conference in Edinburgh? Buy Local

By: Jonathan Downie    Date: November 10, 2016

 

So you have been persuaded by the elegant style, medieval mystery and classy charms of Scotland’s capital. Don’t be fooled by its small size. Edinburgh and the central belt are hotbeds of talent, including the translators and conference interpreters you will need to make your event a rousing success.

Much more than the Edinburgh Festival

Edinburgh is world-famous for many things: the castle, the architecture, and the Festivals, to name a few. Millions of tourists flock there every year and with hotels and venues to suit most budgets, it is an ideal location for events from huge conferences to weddings, from management retreats and AGMs to press conferences and product launches.

A good Edinburgh Destination Management Company will give you the lowdown on Edinburgh’s better known locations and best kept secrets and locals can also give you great tips on when to hold your event. For example, while you might be tempted to hold your conference in August, to give your delegates the chance to rub shoulders with Festival and Fringe stars, you are likely to find the city incredibly crowded and any travel plans will need to be made with a lot of room for manoeuvre.

What is often hidden about Edinburgh is the incredible level of innovation and expertise available in the city and its environs. For a relatively small city, it has four universities as well as numerous colleges. Why does this matter if you are coming to Edinburgh for an event? Those universities produce graduates in some of the key areas you need for your event to work, creating an enviable talent pool for you to choose from.

Why hire local?

This talent pool is not the only reason why it pays to hire local when meeting in Edinburgh. In these days of ever tightening budgets, travel is one of those costs that keeps being “rationalised”. Given that Edinburgh’s main bus company have adopted a set of fixed fares, the travel for those who live in the city will always be known in advance.

Of course, reducing travel expenses is simply part of the bonus of hiring locals. Less travel time also translates to less CO2 emissions and a more environmentally-friendly event. Add into that local knowledge that gets built up among those who regularly work events in the same city and you get a very cost-effective, high ROI way of hiring.

For International Events, Edinburgh has it covered

The Edinburgh talent pool really comes to the fore when it comes to international events. One of Edinburgh’s universities, Heriot-Watt University has its leafy campus on the west edge of the city and hosts one of Europe’s leading degree programmes for translation and interpreting. While many Heriot-Watt graduates head off to work in Brussels, Paris or even New York, a good number stay in the city or nearby, giving you access to expert conference interpreters and translators for your event.

When it comes to AV, there is a great company just over the Forth Bridge called AV Department, who can deal with everything from complex audience response systems to simple mic, amp and speaker setups. Between them and the local Heriot-Watt graduates, you can be sure that all your simultaneous translation needs (which the professional call ‘simultaneous interpreting’) will be covered, no matter how big and complex the event.

However big your event and however many languages you will need, Edinburgh has exactly the people you need to deliver great results every time. And with its vast array of talent across all the right disciplines, you can hire local experts in every area and watch your event really fly.

Want to talk direct to an Edinburgh-based consultant interpreter to get started organising your event? Drop me an email.

Conference Translation and the Need to Speak Fluent Client

By: Jonathan Downie    Date: November 7, 2016

We are communicators. It’s our job to create messages that people are as compelling in the target language as they are in the source language. That might just mean that we need to adopt terminology that makes us uncomfortable, rather than insisting on correctness, especially if we want clients to be able to find us.

 

Who buys “Translation Equipment” anyway?

 

I am a late convert to search engine optimisation. When I started as an interpreter, it was still common to hear people suggest that, aslong as you signed on with the right agencies or secretariats, clients would come flocking. Few people believe that now. Increasingly, people want to arrange entire conferences online and the easier you are to find, the more likely it is that you will be the person they call.

 

But the more you dig into search engine keywords, the more you realise that there are data trends that make us uncomfortable. Check google keywords related to “conference interpreting”, for example, and you will find that there is considerable traffic every month to searches for “translation equipment” (pyjamas, CAT tools and coffee, perhaps?), and real demand for “simultaneous translators” and “conference translation”.

 

I know few interpreters who could seriously write about any of those without a wince and the need to apologise profusely for using such strange collocations. We would all want to write posts explaining why those aren’t the right terms and that you should instead talk about “conference interpreting,” “conference interpreting equipment” and “simultaneous interpreting”.

 

But how far will that really get us? Who would click on a rant, instead of a simple explanation and a visible point of sale?

 

Interpreters should be Expert Communicators

 

The application is clear. Since we pride ourselves on being communication experts, we need to pay attention to how our potential clients are actually talking about our services. As much as we might like to correct some misconceptions and even write long screeds about the difference between “conference interpreting” and “conference interpretation”, none of that will get us any closer to more work.

 

Of course, there is a lot of value in helping clients understand our profession better but we must never be guilty of attempting to do so with a superior or condescending tone. In the era of social marketing and targeted blogging, the interpreters who succeed will be those who approach clients with their needs and goals in mind.

 

Selling Conference Interpreting, Marketing Conference Translation

 

All this means taking strategic decisions on our websites and blogs. As much as it might pain us, we need to pay as much attention to how our clients are currently searching for our services as we do to our own terminology use. Might it be possible to write an entire blog post on buying “conference translation” with nothing more than a tiny reference to the industry standard term? In fact, might it even be possible to be brave enough to not offer a correction at all?

 

Yes, I know, taking such steps might well unleash a torrent of disapproving reactions from fellow professionals but it may well be worth it. I have rarely seen interpreters pay for interpreting. If creating the odd post with errant terminology will increase the effectiveness of my marketing and increase the number of assignments I get, I would say that is a fair trade-off.

 

After all, client education is most effective once you have already built up credibility and forged relationships. Forging those relationships in the first place might just mean learning to translate our existing knowledge and skills into words our clients habitually use.

Translator or interpreter: Which One Does your Event Need?

By: Jonathan Downie    Date: September 2, 2016

You know your next international event is going to be an extravaganza. You know there will be delegates from several countries at the event, all wanting to hear the proceedings in their language. They might even want the event guide in their language too. So, do you need to hire conference interpreters or translators and what difference does it make anyway?

 

Here is your simple guide.

 

If you need people to hear the conference speeches or product presentations in their language or if there are deaf people who will need to see what is going on in a Sign Language, you need interpreters.

 

If there are signs, guides, websites, or paperwork that needs to be available in other languages, you need translators.

 

It’s that simple, really.

 

After that, if you need interpreters, you have decisions to make. For big events and conference, with interpreting into more than one language, you really can’t do without professional simultaneous interpreting equipment. This means soundproof booths, headsets, mics, etc. A good interpreting equipment supplier will know exactly what you need and will be able to integrate cleanly with whatever audiovisual setup is already there.

 

For small events, or when there are only two or three delegates there who need interpreting into a single language, you might be able to use whispered interpreting. However, the problem with this is that it inevitably causes some disruption to the people nearby and, due to the inevitable restriction in the volume the interpreters can use, it is not likely to be as immersive as simultaneous interpreting.

 

For some events, like after dinner talks or events where interpreting is needed into a single language and you want to showcase it, you can use different forms of consecutive interpreting. Some speaker, for example, find that working with an interpreter next to them on the stage gives another dynamic to their performance. Other times, it makes more sense for the speaker to deliver the entire speech and then for the interpreter to give an interpreted version,

 

Whatever the event, a good consultant interpreter or experienced interpreting agency will be able to recommend the best setup to achieve your aims. And, with more and more interpreters and interpreting agencies having solid contacts in the translation industry, they might be able to recommend translators too, so that all your communications with your delegates are smooth and effective.