If you are addressing a multilingual audience, chances are people will not be listening to you. Rather, they will be listening to an interpreter (a.k.a. translator, although that is technically a misnomer).
Sure, it all depends on the country and the dominant language where you’re going. But at some point, somewhere, it will happen to you.
Now, aren’t professional interpreters trained to handle most complex speeches and different speaking styles? Should you bother?
Yes you should. Interpreters are resourceful communicators and will go out of their way so that you make as much sense in their language as you do in your own. They sharpen their tools constantly, and will aptly handle their precision instruments to ensure you come across as you must. Yet, there are many variables they do not control. They can’t anticipate what you are going to say, and they don’t get to edit your words after the talk. You can trust them to give their best so that you wow your audience. But they only get one shot at it. If only you could help (sigh!)
As it turns out, you can. With the right attitude, there are a few important things you can do before, during and after the conference to help interpreters do you justice. Here’s a cheat sheet:
Before the Conference
- Ask that your contact info be shared with the interpreters. Make it OK to contact you.
- Share with your interpreters in advance any material that you think would help them prepare (e.g., presentations, speeches or videos).
- Bring hard copies of your speaking notes and bio for the interpreters. A pen drive with your PowerPoint may come in handy, too.
- Agree to a five-minute meeting with your interpreters, to update them on any last-minute changes, share documents or give them a heads up on your jokes.
- Use font, colors and shapes that are legible and clear for those in the very back of the room. This is where your interpreters will be.
- Run a quick sound check to make sure the interpreters can hear and be heard well and get acquainted with any equipment you may need to use and wear (e.g., ear phones).
During the Presentation
- Leave your slides on-screen a few seconds longer than usual, so interpreters have a chance to finish reading any relevant information.
- Get used to a longer-than-usual delay in audience response. Interpreters are often a few words behind you. Note that those not relying on interpreters may react first. Laughs and applause will come in waves, and that is OK.
- Always speak into the microphone, even if you are addressing a specific person in the audience. Remember that the person may only be able to hear you through the interpreter.
- Don’t bother repeating to the audience questions or comments heard in your own language. The interpreters will have done it for you.
- Important: Always turn off a lapel mic when you leave the room, especially if you plan to use the restroom.
After the Conference
- Give interpreters your honest feedback. They are always looking for ways to improve. Do it in writing, if you can.
- Invite their feedback. I am sure you are also looking for ways to improve.
This should give your interpreters — and yourself — the peace of mind required to concentrate on form as well as content.
Follow these simple steps, and I guarantee your ideas will be rendered as precisely and eloquently as intended, in any language.
| | |