When to use tabletop translation booth
Tabletop translation booth is a great alternative to fully encapsulated full-size translation booth, but it is important to understand its advantages and shortcomings before deciding one way or another.
Typically, tabletop booths are used when the event space is constrained, and there’s not enough real estate to place a full-size translation booth (typically measured 6×6 feet), and there’s no option to leverage adjacent space (for example, the room next door), or a video feed to another room is not available.
Tabletops are easy to transport and deploy, and they can fit on any standard 4-foot or wider table. They provide some level of noise isolation, so simultaneous interpreters working in pair inside the tabletop will not be disrupting the flow of the event as much, as if they were sitting out in the open, but some level of noise is still to be expected.
We typically deploy tabletops in the corporate meeting rooms that are large enough to hold fifty people or more, but are too small for a full-size booth, and the event itself isn’t video recorded.
Direct audio feed is critical for a tabletop setup. Even though it is not a fully sound-insulated environment, the tabletop does a very good job of blocking the sound in front of the interpreters, so if they are sitting in the back, it does not flow forward and disrupt the participants.
Conversely, interpreters sitting inside the tabletop enclosure cannot hear the presenter well. They will need an audio feed to them, so they can understand every word coming from the speakers. It is important to connect the AV team with the language vendor ahead of time, so they can plan out the event space layout and AV connections.
With smaller rooms, AV equipment used by the teams tends to run on a smaller scale as well, and usual main mix output used by the interpreting team may not be available, because it is being used to power the speakers. Language vendor needs to be aware of the AV gear limitations, so they can come with proper patch cables to use other available outputs, or, perhaps a splitter, to get the feed to themselves.
The AV team is typically not aware of conference interpreting requirements, and connections at the last minute may be impossible without proper advanced planning.
It is possible to deploy multiple tabletop booths in a constrained real-estate environment, but it is very important to be conscious of sound escaping the enclosure and getting cross-chatter from another interpreting team going into the mics.
We recommend placing the tabletop booths at least six feet apart and keeping interpreters conscious of the environment they are working in: either a periodic reminder to keep their voice levels lower, or assigning the event to the teams that tends to speak quieter when they are interpreting.
With tabletop sitting on a desk, a tablecloth covering the desk becomes essential. While usually not an issue in a hotel or expo center environment, tablecloth aren’t easy to come by in a corporate environment. When we do a conference event, we provide everything from a full set of interpreting equipment and supporting accessories to the interpreters.