Working with Interpreters

Tips for speakers and event managers of international events

This is how your event will become a success!

Especially when the organizers or speakers have no experience with working with interpreters, they often have expectations that we cannot fulfil.

A badly organized conference is a nuisance for everyone involved:

  • The organizers don‘t reach their goals,
  • the participants don’t understand everything,
  • the guest speakers from abroad cannot get their message across,
  • and the interpreters are suffering because the work is unduly tiring.

With these following measures you can make a difference (and support the interpreters):

As the organizers …

  • … don’t think of the interpreters as machines, where you simply press a button and then they talk as long as you like
    (We like this joke about the guy who when he is about to return his headset at the end ofthe conference asks whether he can keep it because it is so very useful to always hear the translation…).
  • … if at all possible, send the interpreters all the available material at least one week before the event. When all the listeners receive texts which will be a topic of discussion the interpreters also need these texts, even if they are also put up on a screen.
    It often happens that in the middle of a conference heaps of carefully counted documents are being distributed, only none tothe interpreters.

As speakers, …

  • … give your listeners the feeling that you really want to be understood!
    Even though all the participants are colleagues and more or less work in the same field of specialization, try anyway to fill your listeners with enthusiasm. We all have only a limited capacity to grasp matters; the scope of a normal conference goes far beyond that.
  • … try to explain the facts in a simple manner.
    A proof of a high level of expertise is not a complicated explanation, but a simple one!
  • … avoid by all means to prepare your entire speech before the event and then just read it out aloud, possibly even fast,
    because the previous reader spoke too long or because the chair said to please hurry up, there was no time.
    First of all, we tend to create complex sentence structures nobody understands when they are just listening. And then, most people just fall asleep when someone reads a long text to them. The only person still listening to you (and suffering!) will be the interpreter.
  • … look at your listeners once and again!
    You may even look towards the interpreters’ booth to see whether somebody wants to tell you something. If there is no sign of life, it’s high time for a break.
  • … be brief!
    If you are considering mentioning yet another little aspect that also belongs to the subject you are talking about, leave it. Your listeners will be grateful and later on over tee and coffee you might get another chance to mention it.
  • … be inspiring!
    Try to inspire your listenersʼ fantasy or humour. You will have them lying at your feet!

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