Interpreting – It’s all in the planning!

Increasingly, training courses and some business meetings need language assistance for overseas participants. This needs careful planning as your format dictates the equipment, technical support, room layout and interpreting style required.

Basically there are two interpreting styles – consecutive and simultaneous. In a consecutive meeting, the speaker says a few words then pauses while they are interpreted. Apart from microphones, little equipment is required. However, it extends presentation time considerably which can be frustrating.

Simultaneous interpreting relays presentations in real-time, a more natural scenario.  The minimum requirement recommended is a Tourguide System for interpreters to convey proceedings via a microphone to participants’ headsets. They are relatively inexpensive, easy to set up and don’t require much room. Their portability is useful if the meetings is held over different locations or includes site visits.

A step up is an interpreting booth with full sound system, again participants listen to their language of choice via headphones. It requires a room large enough for the booth and increased technical assistance. Although more expensive, it’s still good value for money given that it reduces the background murmur of interpreting and optimises the meeting for all concerned.

Always allow plenty of time for the technical team to test equipment particularly when introducing a remote element such as videoconferencing.  It can be as simple as connecting a cable into your sound desk but if you don’t order it, you may have a disaster on your hands.

Accept that interpreting will slow proceedings down a little and plan accordingly. Provide presentations and industry terminology in advance and ensure speakers pace themselves and include breaks.  Normally two interpreters per language are required to ensure consistent quality. Make sure they are well qualified and have relevant experience.

Time spent working out the fine detail with your interpreting provider will avoid any unforeseen financial or operational problems keeping projects on time and on budget.

For more information on interpreting services, please visit

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