Integrity Languages


Preparing for a Specialist Event

By: Jonathan Downie    Date: August 23, 2016

Yes, I know, every event is special. Like fingerprints or snowflakes, no two are exactly the same. Yet there are some events that, by their size or their scope or simply due to those who will attend, get marked out as different and need special care.


This week, I have one of those. I have an interpreting shift at a very special summit to cover the work of a very special guest. While I can’t say any more than that about the event itself or the guest, I can let you into the secrets of preparing for events that are outside of the norm.


I will assume that you already know about preparing to add value to clients, if not, go read the relevant posts. With that in mind, preparation follows a familiar trajectory, at least initially. Read the event publicity, understand the impact of your work, and know what success will look like in the eyes of your client.


From there, you can add on preparation that is catered to the differences between your event and others. In my case, I have to get to know the special guest, understand which parts of their work are likely to come up and then practice the procedures that I will need to use to handle the specific way they will be presented.


This means doing research like a superfan, thinking like an MC and practising putting myself in the shoes of the client and the audience.


Ideally, I would like to find videos of other interpreters handling similar situations, especially with the same guest. In this case, I will need to think laterally and look for interpreters handling similar problems in other settings. If I were interpreting at a journalistic interview, for example, I would look at not just interpreted interviews but press conferences too. If it were the launch of a snazzy new product by the CEO of a leading company, I would not just look for that company but for how interpreters handled the work of their competitors.


Working at specialist events means taking your existing skills up one more level. It’s a challenge but it’s a challenge I enjoy. What about you? How do you handle specialist events?

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