Conference Interpreting Logistics

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Conference Interpreting Logistics

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Conference Interpreting Logistics

Conference Interpreting Logistics


When you are organizing an event with interpreting provided, having quality simultaneous interpreters who are well versed on the subject is extremely important. But equally important is the vendor’s ability to execute on conference interpreting logistics.

1: Discovery

What happens at the event when attendees arrive, receive badges, proceed to the event space and pick up the headsets is just the glamour cover of the story of hard work that happens behind the scenes. And that hard work is 99% logistics, that has to be carefully orchestrated with the event organizers to make sure everything is running smooth.

When we receive  a request for an interpreter (phone call or email), the conversation usually starts with: “I need an interpreter for two days. Can you give me a quote?

Sure, we would love to provide you with an accurate quote, but first, we need to know quite a few details about the event before we can quote, so the next step in the customer engagement is discovery.

Discovery usually includes questions like:

  • What languages do you need? (Most common in Silicon Valley: Spanish, Chinese, Japanese)
  • Where is the event taking place geographically?
  • What kind of event space is it? (hotel ballroom, corporate conference room, etc)
  • When is the event taking place?
  • How many attendees do you expect?

This is the minimum set of questions that need an answer before language vendor has an idea of what you need. At this point we can provide you with a guidance on the costs and what will be provided from our side.

2: Main session, breakout sessions, tracks

If the ballpark quote is acceptable, then we move onto the details of the event schedule. A small event is just that – a few hours of interpreters being on-site and a set of equipment for the interpreters and attendees. A large event usually involves a main session and side tracks where we need to carefully figure out transitions and the flow.

Typically we deploy full-size booths in the main session and work with a designated AV production team who runs the main show. They have their own room plan, and a schedule for setup and breakout. It is important to connect with them early, so they can plan for the booth footprint and location.

Next come the breakout sessions. These require careful analysis of the transitions so we don’t run into situations where multiple breakouts running in parallel require simultaneous interpreting. If this is indeed the case, we need an additional pair of simultaneous interpreters, and this needs to be flagged to the customer early on, so they have a chance to either approve the budget for additional expense, or rearrange the schedule to avoid concurrency.

Finally, breakouts often come with round-table discussions and working sessions, and we need to understand if those sessions will need consecutive interpreting between attendees.

We also need to understand if there’s enough time for the interpreters to transition between breakouts, because sometimes the conference rooms for the sessions are located far apart from each other: not only on separate floors, but also in separate buildings. All of the issues we flag need to be discussed with the customer and formalized for the event engagement. All of this is part of what makes conference interpreting logistics an important preparation step.

3: Headsets and channels

As we move along in our plan for the event, the next item on the conference interpreting logistics list is to assign channels per language per room, and devise a convenient way to hand out and collect handsets from attendees at the end of the day. Sometimes it makes sense to set up a station at the registration, other times – a stand at the entrance to the room, and another option is to deploy the headsets on the chairs before the start of the session.

We provide our guidance to the customer, and they make the ultimate decision on how they would like the event to flow based on their existing plans and transitions.

4. Load-in, load-out, setup and strike, accomodations

Finally, when all the details of the event flow have been worked out, the remaining part is to hammer out the details on where the interpreters and the tech team will be staying for the duration of the event, and finally – the exact dates and times to bring in and set up the equipment, and then subsequently – when to strike it out move it out.

These may seem like a trivial issue, but as any event organizer will tell you, sounds logistics is 90% of the event success. Load-in and set-up are usually very hectic with multiple teams and staff working in unison to make things happen. You have to co-ordinate your delivery with a dozen other deliveries happening at the same time, account for union labor (if any), secure time at the dock and the elevator, secure time for the booth setup in the sessions, and work closely with the points of contact from audio, video, and production teams respectively to make sure you are putting your gear in the right place and connecting to the right cables.

Experienced language vendors usually know the layouts of most popular event spaces and can advise on the best practices of bringing and moving the equipment, and can also be flexible on the time frames for set-up and strike. Everyone is pressed on time, and your ability to execute independently, yet cohesively with the rest of the event team is what matters to the customer. In the end, they are not so much interested in how you do it, but in the fact that you got it done, and the event ran smoothly without any issues.

5: Conclusion and feedback

A good language vendor always follows up  and stays in touch with the customer throughout the event, as well as after the wrap-up to make sure that everything runs smoothly, and the feedback coming from the customer is accounted for and acted on for future events. Every live event is always a bag of surprises, but it’s the experience and having a handle of things that makes the difference and separates a full solution language vendor from the ones that just contracted the interpreters and leave them on their own.

Interested in learning more about what makes a successful conference interpreting event? Contact us today, and we will be happy to work with you on your next conference interpreting logistics.