Conference interpreting – what your consultant needs to know

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Max Doerfler and Bertold Schmitt are Language Professionals’ expert conference interpreters and consultants and can provide assistance for all your conference interpreting requirements in Australia.

Both Max and Bertold have nearly 30 years’ experience each in conference interpreting and language services management and they are both members of the AIIC, the International Association of Conference Interpreters (Association Internationale des Interprètes de Conférence).

For your international conferences and conventions, trade negotiations, seminars, visiting delegations, parliamentary delegations, etc…, they can:

  • Select conference interpreters who are suitably qualified and experienced. Most of them are members of the AIIC.
  • Book flights and accommodation for the interpreting teams if required.
  • Organise interpreting equipment if required.
  • Liaise with clients, interpreters and equipment technicians.
  • Brief of all the interpreters prior to the conference and distribute pre-conference papers and any relevant material to interpreters or preparation and research.
  • Organise translation of any relevant material if required, before the conference or at the conference.

Don’t leave booking interpreters till the last minute!!

In order to provide you with the best possible conference interpreting service, it is important to first clearly define your requirements and to plan a long time ahead. Conference interpreters are very much in demand and are booked early. Bear in mind that your interpretation budget will depend to a substantial extent on whether the team can be composed of interpreters based in or around the conference venue in Australia. You should be aware that non-local interpreters will charge you for travel expenses and time between their home base and the conference venue, and will require a daily subsistence allowance for any day spent away from home. So don’t leave it too late, especially if your venue is in Australia.

Clearly define your requirements

It is important to decide right at the start of the conference interpreter recruitment process which languages will be spoken and into which language direction the interpretation is required.


It may be difficult to estimate which languages will be required at a conference, especially if a similar event has never taken place before. However, it is important to try and have a general idea of how the languages will be distributed to optimise recruitment, especially if 4 or more languages are likely.

If you have one speaker addressing a multilingual audience, you may need interpreting from the language of the speaker into several of the languages of the audience. If the audience is going to ask questions, you’ll also need interpreting from the languages of the audience into the language of the speaker.

If your event is a conference with little interaction from the floor, ask the speakers in what language they intend to deliver their paper. If your event is a meeting with much discussion, ask the chair and the meeting secretary what they will speak.

 Do you need simultaneous interpreting ?

Simultaneous interpreting means interpreting WHILE the delegate is speaking.

In simultaneous mode, the interpreter works in a soundproofed booth, preferably with a direct view of the speaker, with at least one colleague. The speaker in the meeting room speaks into a microphone, the interpreter receives the sound through a headset and renders the message into a microphone almost simultaneously, with a delay of just a few seconds. The delegates in the meeting room select the relevant channel to hear the interpretation in the language/s of their choice. Simultaneous interpretation requires two or three interpreters per target language who work in turns, alternating at regular intervals (usually every 20-30 minutes).

Simultaneous interpreting is used in conference situations.

 Do you need consecutive interpreting ?

Consecutive interpreting means interpreting AFTER the speaker has finished.

The interpreter sits with the delegates, listens to the speech and renders it, at the end, in a different language, generally with the aid of notes. With consecutive interpretation the interpreter and speaker are seated next to one another, reducing equipment needs to microphones and a regular public address system if the meeting is being held in a large room or with a big audience.

In the modern world consecutive interpreting has been largely replaced by simultaneous, but it remains relevant for certain kinds of meetings (e.g. highly technical meetings, working lunches, small groups, field trips, court).

Due to the nature of consecutive interpreting, using this method will increase the time required for proceedings.

 Do you need interpreting equipment?

Language Professionals works with reputable interpreting equipment suppliers and can help you estimate how many booths, microphones and delegate headsets you will need.

Enquire whether your conference venue has built-in simultaneous interpretation booths. It is important to make sure that interpretation booths comply with the relevant ISO standards.

Meeting rooms should be laid out so that the interpreters enjoy an unobstructed view of the speakers at the rostrum and of the projection screens. This is particularly important at technical meetings where slide presentations or videos are to be shown, as visuals will help the interpreters contextualise the speakers’ message.

To discuss future conference interpreting requirements, please contact Max or Bertold on +61 2 9356 1600.

Interpreters at the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit
The interpreters team with Suzanne (Chief on Site Team Coordinator), Ann (Support and Logistics Assistant) and Michael (On Site Team Coordinator Assistant)
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