Presentation Materials for Interpreters

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Presentation Materials for Interpreters

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Presentation Materials for Interpreters


Key to success for any event where conference interpreting is taking place – is providing interpreters with the presentation materials early. Presentation materials (slides, speech drafts, even a rough outline of the presentation) – are an invaluable resource for the interpreters as they refresh their vocabularies specific to presentation topics, and it’s crucial to give them enough time to prepare.

When people think of conference (or simultaneous) interpreting, they often think of interpreters as wonder people who manage to keep an enormous dictionary in their head, and are capable of interpreting any subject in their target language pair on the spot. In reality, however, each interpreter is highly specialized not only in their language pair, but also in the subject and the fields of study.

Each interpreter possesses an “active dictionary” in memory, which they operate on the daily basis and can retrieve without much difficulty, as it is constantly exercised. A larger, passive dictionary is also part of their skill, but needs to be refreshed prior to the event. Presentation materials help interpreters anticipate what the speaker will be talking about, and prepare terminology, cheat sheets and specific notes ahead of time, so when they move into real-time interpreting, a quick glance at the notes will help them keep translation as real-time as possible, mirroring the presenter.

The Enigma of Presentation Materials

Obtaining presentation materials prior to the event is often the hardest part of the event logistics that we encounter. It is not even a question of privacy and security: after all, every engagement we do with clients is already covered by a mutual NDA. The simple truth is that most speakers do not decide until the night before the event, what exactly they will be presenting.

This is particularly true for corporate events: most seasoned presenters possess a universal deck of slides, and they trim it to tailor to the speaking event a few hours before they are supposed to speak. This is a testimony to their ability to execute, of course, but it does not help the interpreters prepare ahead of time, and the quality of translated speech may be impacted.

The criteria to success is the ability for the language vendor to engage with customer’s presenters early, make them aware that simultaneous interpreting will be provided and coach them through working with interpreters:

  • speech tempo: fast speakers are impossible to catch up in real time, so interpreters switch to summaries on the fly
  • any unusual accents
  • presentation subject and terminology. Slides, outlines, subtitles and any other materials can be useful to the interpreting teams.

Digital vs Hard Copy

Despite advances in digital media and today’s ability to share materials seamlessly between the customer and interpreting teams, most interpreters prefer an old-fashioned printout of the slide deck where they can put notes on key words, create a glossary, keep track of where they are in the presentation – and in general use the printout as a working document that transforms with them as the event unfolds.

IF you have more questions about organizing an event with conference interpreting, contact us today – our specialists would be happy to help you.