Interpretation options: onsite, hybrid and remote events

As the world turned upside down due to the pandemic, the professional world was grateful to reap the benefits of modern technology. Interviews, meetings, conferences and events were able to be moved online and, though the post-pandemic era opens up the opportunity to meet in-person once more, there are now several more options for selecting an optimal setting for your multilingual events, keeping in mind both logistics and pricing. Now, they can occur with everyone attending onsite, remotely, or in a hybrid combination of the two. What impact does your setting have on your multilingual event experience? Here is a simple breakdown of what the simultaneous interpretation experience would look like in each setting:

In-person or onsite events

In-person events refer to situations where speakers, attendees and interpreters are all present onsite. When onsite, professional interpreters work in pairs for a language combination (i.e., English<>Portuguese = 1 pair of interpreters in the Portuguese booth). This is not only the industry standard, but it is a must to avoid disruptions in the service provided. Interpretation is a challenging task and takes years of training to master. Good interpreters may make it look easy, but it takes tremendous focus and language expertise to provide high-quality interpretation.

In-person events also require proper equipment for the interpretation to work effectively and to ensure satisfactory audio quality. This equipment would include an interpreting booth for each language pair (a self-contained, mobile unit to provide sound insulation). Another equipment is a tour guide system which includes control units, transceivers, receivers, headsets/earpieces, and microphones. This system allows the interpreter to hear the speakers through one device and transmit their interpretation to listeners with individual receivers. Quality equipment, like the quality of the interpreters themselves, is of utmost importance.

In-person events also require an onsite Project Manager (PM) to organise the smooth coordination of the interpreters and equipment. The PM will brief the interpreters with the event’s agenda, place the booth(s) in a suitable location and lead sound checks to ensure everything is set up and working exactly as it should. The PM will remain onsite throughout the event to support the interpreters, the speakers, and the attendees as required with all of the interpretation equipment, ensuring a seamless multilingual event experience.

  • A pair of interpreters per language in-person for real-time interpretation
  • Booth and portable equipment onsite for speakers, interpreters and audience
  • Onsite PM to organise and monitor

Online and remote events

Online events refer to scenarios in which participants, speakers and interpreters join together remotely on a specific online platform such as Zoom, Webex, or MS Teams. All of these platforms have built-in interpreting tools and language channels. For other communication platforms, integrating external interpreting platforms is also an option. Remote simultaneous interpretation is actually more mentally and technologically taxing for interpreters. They require remote-specific training in order to provide a top-quality experience to their listeners.

As with the onsite setup, interpreters will work in pairs for each language combination. Longer or more high-profile sessions will require a team of three interpreters to optimise for quality and costs. Having an online technical support or producer is highly recommended, as the event is completely dependent on the audio-visual experience delivered by the platform and the tech support team. They will perform sound and video checks and assist speakers, interpreters, and participants with connection issues. They will also monitor the language channels to ensure a seamless and quality feed, as interpreters face technical restrictions from the platform. As a result, they won’t be able to hear one another or their own output while interpreting.

  • A pair of interpreters per language remotely based for real-time interpretation
  • Online platform like Zoom and supporting equipment
  • AV technical support

Hybrid events

A hybrid event is a combination of both an in-person and online event. Audience, speakers and even the interpretation team can join the event either onsite or online. This means that online audiences can participate and engage in the same activities as onsite attendees via an online platform like Zoom, while in-person attendees can engage with online participants and in online activities through onsite broadcasting.

The interpretation equipment required for a hybrid event will be a combination of the onsite portable equipment and the online platform. The specific equipment required in the room will depend on where the interpreters are located, whether onsite or online. If interpreters are present onsite, the event requires all in-person equipment, including the receivers for onsite attendees. It also requires a mixing desk, with one computer per language, to transmit the interpretation to the online platform. For interpreters joining an event remotely, a dedicated AV technician will be required onsite with computers and a mixing desk. The technician will also need a system for sending online interpretation feed to the in-the-room receivers. With this equipment, the technician will ensure the online interpretation is properly transmitted to the audience onsite.

The project manager’s role will also vary depending on whether the interpreters are based in-person or online. Onsite interpreters will have similar support as an onsite event. The PM will brief them, place their booth(s) in suitable locations and conduct AV checks. For remote interpreters, the onsite PM will properly position cameras so the online interpreters can clearly see the speakers. The online technical support or producer will support remote participants and interpreters. The online tech support will ensure smooth transmission of the interpreters’ AV output.

  • Part of the audience and/or speakers are onsite, part remote
  • Interpreters can be either onsite or remote
  • Equipment required and PM’s role will vary depending on where interpreters are located

How to Choose?

Many variables come into play in determining the ideal setting for an event, especially the location of the speakers and audience and the price. Online or hybrid event models are recommended when some or most attendees are unable to physically attend the event in-person. This may be due to the cost of travel, venue, catering or accommodation exceeding the organiser’s budget. Events with global audiences or non-profit or NGO organisers may prefer online or hybrid event options. The on-site model is apt when all attendees and speakers are able to travel to the event location relatively easily. Given the equipment required to effectively host a multi-lingual hybrid or in-person event, it is important that the venue is able to accommodate all requirements both spatially and technologically.

All that said, regardless of the event model–be it in-person, online or a hybrid event–having a knowledgeable, experienced and well-trained interpretation team can help make a multilingual event flow seamlessly. Make sure to contact our team if you have any more questions or to learn more about the services we can provide for your next event!