During 2020, humanity was challenged to do business in ways we had not imagined, and we had to do so in record time. Suddenly the in-person events we took for granted came to a halt. Businesses had to be nimble and adapt quickly, or become a statistic of the pandemic toll.
As client calls rang in to learn how we could help with simultaneous interpreting for their now online events, I knew conferences in 2020 and beyond were in for a wild ride. My thoughts and prayers went to conference organizers who have to offer simultaneous interpreting due to their multilingual target market.
Initially, Zoom seemed to be a likely choice. During the pandemic, Zoom catapulted to the spotlight and became one of the top communication mediums for businesses, schools, government and even individual consumers. It was the de facto choice explored during the pandemic as it offered simultaneous interpreting as an option in their technology stack for paid subscriptions.
After exploring the remote simultaneous interpreting technology in Zoom as a possible platform offering, we understood that although it did work for some simple scenarios, offering simultaneous interpreting for larger events would be extremely limited in this platform. A good Remote Simultaneous Interpreting (RSI) solution needs to deliver a good experience to all the stakeholders in order to be successful and not leave event attendees frustrated with the conference or event.
Lucky for me, I had previously worked with ZipDX and KUDO so I was familiar with their software and pricing model. My goal during this time was to explore a robust platform with various pricing so that our team could provide the interpreting talent.
This is what I learned:
- You have a variety of Remote Simultaneous Interpreting (RSI) companies to choose from. Some provide the technology only, while others are full service, and can provide interpreters, as well as event management. You may opt for a Language Service Provider (LSP) who can have multiple RSI partners for you to choose from, or you can go direct.
- Budget and plan wisely. Simultaneous interpreting is a very demanding job, expect for interpreters to charge for full days (8 hours), even if your event is only a couple of hours. Additionally, simultaneous interpreters work in pairs, so if you are planning on offering 3 languages, you will need to account for 6 interpreters. This is an area where you do not want to cut corners as your brand and image, and that of your speakers, cannot be compromised.
- Understand what you envision for your online event.
- How many languages will you offer?
- How many attendees are you expecting?
- Will you have breakout rooms that need interpreting? Will your event be interactive, or lecture mode only?
- Is your event prerecorded or live?
- Do you need to have the freedom to choose a solution which offers the full conferencing system?
- Or, are you tied down to a particular conference software and can only use a "helper app" or a separate application for the interpreting audio?
- Do you need extra security and privacy for your event?
- Ask for demos. See for yourself what the experience and ease of use will be for your event organizers, presenters, interpreters (if you are using your own team) and your non-English participants. Some RSI solutions are easier to use than others, and that could make a big difference for your participants.
I believe the landscape has forever changed and, at least for the remainder of 2021, events will continue to be online. If you must provide multilingual support, it is very important to have a supporting partner you can count on so you have a successful event that participants can look forward to regardless of what language they speak.
Please feel free to share what your experience was with an online multilingual event. Whether it was good or bad, sharing your experiences can provide great insights and we can improve or begin setting some standards as an industry and improve the experience for all.
Image credit: https://www.shutterstock.com/g/GoldenSikorka