Online meetings have been around for a while now. Meeting participants have learned about the 'do’s and don’ts' and have developed etiquette rules that make for efficient meetings. Most companies already have an 'online meeting code of conduct' that is applied across the organisation. This may include the obvious, such as: arriving on time for a meeting, wearing an appropriate outfit when broadcasting, and muting yourself while you are not speaking. But how about multilingual online meetings? Can we just apply the same guidelines - or should we develop a new code altogether?
The truth is that multilingual online meetings are not all that different. Participants need to adhere to much the same guidelines – with just a few extra elements to take into account. We have actually already talked about some of these in our blog post on working with interpreters during live meetings. In the case of online meetings with interpretation, it is even more important to take interpretation into account from the very beginning of the organising process.
Usually, online meetings are shorter than live meetings. They are also run more tightly. Why? Experience has taught us that it is easier to lose participants’ interest when they are sitting behind a PC being invisible to others, than in a live environment - where keeping up appearances is more relevant. And then there is their attention span, which is limited by the sheer fact that sitting still and concentrating becomes harder with every hour that passes (hence the coffee breaks in live meetings).
Another factor that comes into play in online meetings is that the ‘tighter’ the meeting schedule, the less room there is for troubleshooting during the meeting. A thorough preparation of the meeting, jointly with interpreters, is therefore essential. This preparation should, of course, also include some contingency plans in case things do not work out quite as planned.
So what should you think of when you prepare your next online multilingual event?
Inform presenters that they will be interpreted and what that means in terms of how they should present their information
Share all presentations and meeting documents with the interpreters before the event
Brief participants on how to select the language of their choice
Have interpreters connect to the meeting (at the latest) 15 minutes before the start of the event
Perform a sound check with interpreters before the event
Mute your microphone when you are not speaking (and ask others to do the same)
Give interpreters access to the audience’s questions
Make sure participants and interpreters know what to do if they encounter a problem during the event
Have the presenters’, interpreters’ and help-desk phone numbers at hand - just in case
Be a timekeeping pro
Whether you are working in a live or a virtual environment, consider interpreters as strategic allies in bringing your message across. If you create the best conditions you can for them to work in, you will have a team of language professionals who are happy to work for you. You will also have an audience that can sit back, relax and enjoy the online event you have so meticulously prepared. Audience members will become followers and these followers will spread the word… the exact 'word' you want to convey!