By Jonathan Downie, owner Integrity Languages
The United Kingdom has always punched above its weight when it comes to landing conferences and live events. But there is a weakness in our marketing pitch. We are pretty poor at languages.
According to Baroness Coussins, chair of the All-party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages, we lose £50bn worth of contracts every year due to our lack of language skills. There is, however, a solution. Our country boasts a wealth of talented interpreters. But how do you work effectively with them?
Let’s start with a common myth. Grabbing a mobile phone and a translation app will not do the trick, no matter what the marketing blurb might say. We choose speakers who engage an audience and make people leave informed, inspired and persuaded. The same goes for interpreters. They are the voice of the speaker.
Interpreters need competence in at least two languages but also the ability to adjust to a speaker’s style and the needs of the audience, while dealing with cultural clashes and becoming passable experts in any field within a matter of days. It’s a people job with language attached.
So the more interpreters know about the people attending your event, the better. It’s great when they receive speeches and agendas in advance; it’s better when they know the purpose of the event and how you will measure success. A product demo for journalists requires a different approach to a strategy meeting. A ‘conference can mean anything from an academic gathering to a technical showcase.
Last up, recruitment. Interpreting agencies are great, but do be wary of the cheap ones. For recurring events, building your own team is an option, too. Great interpreters know where to find other great ones. Find one and then build your team from there. Using their networks saves time and reduces risk.
Alongside finding the right venue, and getting the right speakers, getting the right interpreting team is a priority for any international event. While their soundproof boxes might render them invisible, their impact cannot be overstated. It pays to get interpreting right.