Q&A, Round-Table or Fireside Chat Session with Interpreting

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Q&A, Round-Table or Fireside Chat Session with Interpreting

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There are several aspects of a meeting to keep in mind when you plan a Q&A, round-table or fireside chat session when you have conference (or consecutive) interpreting included. First, it’s the availability of microphones not only for presenters, but also for the audience. Second – possibility of relay interpreting. We’ll discuss both in this blog post.

Microphones for the audience

Any time a meeting takes place in a conference space that holds more than twenty people, microphones and speakers are a good idea. It makes it easier for the audience to hear you, and provides an immense benefit to the interpreters: they can get direct feed into the headphones, and provide conference-level interpretation.

The problem usually comes up when it’s time to make the session interactive and provide an opportunity for the audience to give feedback or ask questions. If the audience is quiet, the presenters can hear the question even without the microphone. But for interpreters, sitting in a full booth, or even a table-top – they can’t hear the audience at all. If nothing is coming in through the direct feed, then interpreters can’t translate it either.

So, it’s a good idea to prepare a few extra microphones for the audience, and remind the participants to ask the question speaking into the microphone: people are already a bit nervous to stand up in front of everyone and ask the question, so they tend to naturally avoid speaking into the mic – which does not help interpreters at all.

If extra microphones are not available, you can have presenters repeat the question into the mics and give interpreters an opportunity to translate it, before proceeding to answer it.

Relay Interpreting

The second important aspect to consider – is introduction of relay interpreting if you are taking questions from the audience. Now, your translation direction changes from uni-direction (presenters to audience) to bi-directional (audience to presenters).

If the floor language (presenters) did not change throughout the presentation, your setup was a simple multiplex of the floor feed to each interpreting team. For example: presenters were speaking in English, and their speech was transmitted to English-Spanish and English-French teams. Now, with the direction changing, a question could come from the audience in three languages: in English, Spanish and French.

If the question comes in English – it is the same setup: it is transmitted to the interpreters and translated into Spanish and French. But if the question comes in French, it needs to be translated into English for the presenters to answer, but also for the English-Spanish team to translate into Spanish – so that the Spanish attendees can understand the question.

We’ve covered relay in depth in a previous article. It is not difficult to set up, but it’s one of those things that language vendor has to know in advance, so they can prepare. There’s nothing worse than learning mid-event that there’s going to be a change of direction in interpreting, or when a speaker stands up, and decides to speak in a different language than expected – and half the audience is sitting in silent wonder, trying to figure out what’s going on – because they are not getting the translation.


If you have further questions on the list of things that need to be covered prior to your next meeting, contact us today, and our specialists would be happy to work with you on your next event.

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