Managing interpretation as a risk factor for your multilingual event

 | Interpretation best practices

Over the past decades, conference interpretation has become an invaluable tool of global communication. Get it right and the service will contribute to the success of your multi-national meeting. Get it wrong and you run the risk of a communication breakdown.

Every major conference is unique, but all contain inherent risks which must be managed. Meeting organizers are aware of many of these risks and plan accordingly, but often the interpretation service is overlooked or perceived as being low risk. Big mistake! If not handled well, you stand to endanger the success of your international conference.

For example, you have invited a world-renowned expert to address your audience. It has taken you months to secure his or her attendance. Then you turn to an agency you find on the Internet a week or two before the meeting to provide you with interpreters. The best professionals are taken already and you end up with a team of lesser quality, with no knowledge of your specialization and no time to prepare. And remember your reputation is at stake. Your upstream investment could be seriously jeopardized if the translation does not faithfully render the speaker’s message.

Are you really prepared to entrust such a reputational risk element to a non-specialist?

Risk management in three key steps

Risk management typically consists of the following steps:

  1. Identifying which elements of an event might incur risk
  2. Establishing what the risks are
  3. Building a strategy to minimize or eliminate risk where possible

Looking specifically at conference interpretation as a risk factor:

Step 1:  Recognize interpretation as an activity that carries risk

The purpose of international meetings is to communicate, to share, to exchange ideas. Such events take time and money to organize. All your efforts could be wasted if you do not choose your interpreters judiciously.

Step 2: Identify the risks associated with interpretation

  • The communication risk: You need experienced, professional interpreters with knowledge of specific industry jargon who, in addition, are able to cope with different foreign accents and talking speeds. Professionals who are able to convey your speaker’s message faithfully. Otherwise you run the risk of a communication breakdown which could, in turn, seriously damage your reputation. Your interpretation provider must have the requisite skills and knowledge to guide you around this risk.
  • The financial risk: Budgeting for the interpretation services of a multilingual meeting is no easy task. Lack of knowledge of a local market may well lead to interpreters being recruited from elsewhere, entailing unnecessary travel costs. Lack of experience in setting up well-composed teams may lead to over hiring. Your interpretation provider must be able to help you maximize your budget.
  • The technical risk: Interpreters need good working conditions and top-notch simultaneous translation equipment, or their work can be seriously impaired. They require industry-standard soundproof booths, and perfect sound. Your interpretation provider must be able to help you make the right choice of equipment provider.
  • The on-site logistical risk: Coordinating a multilingual team requires special skills, especially when several meetings are held in parallel. Things happen. An interpreter falls ill. A flight is delayed or cancelled. The timetable is not respected and there are overruns. Another language is added. A document arrives at the last minute. The coordinating interpreter must be able to deal with all such eventualities in a seamless fashion.

Step 3: Create and implement a strategy to manage the identified risks

A risk strategy usually involves risk avoidance, transfer or reduction. A multilingual conference cannot happen without interpretation, so avoidance is not an option. The risk could be transferred to a third party, a translation agency, the event venue or an equipment provider for example. But the risk remains, since their core trade is probably not conference interpretation and they may not have the necessary local knowledge. Or you can choose to reduce risk by going straight to the professionals and working in collaboration with an Interpretation Provider who is familiar with all aspects of interpretation, including the less obvious ones, and who will help you develop an effective contingency action plan as well.

Calliope-Interpreters, a global network of practicing interpreters all of whom are members of the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) offers you just such a service. We have the skills and experience you need to avoid these risks. Work with us to ensure that the interpretation service truly contributes to the success of your meeting.

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