Global Conference Preparation

Global Conference Preparation
February 9, 2015

Global Conference Preparation: How, What and Why Interpreters Prepare for International Conferences


Global conferences bring together people from across the world with the aim of sharing information, content and data. Often times the messaging is quite complex and preparation for global conferences is just as complex. Here’s the how, what and why, starting with the why.


Preparation is the invisible work that contributes to the success of international meetings large and small – and one of the main reasons why simultaneous interpreters are so often heard but not really noticed.

Interpreter preparation is essential whether working face-to-face at a legal deposition or medical appointment or within an insulated interpreter booth at a global conference or international meeting. We’d like to walk you through the how and why interpreter preparation is so vital.

Translation of any kind is much more that knowing languages or being bilingual – that’s just the beginning. To translate is the communication of the meaning of a source-language text by means of an equivalent target-language text. The key word is meaning. The core work of the interpreter or translator is to fully understand the meaning of the message they are portraying in another language.

Let me give you an example: “My nose is running.” If I were simply a bilingual interpreter, I might interpret into my target language “My nose is moving swiftly on foot.” Funny, but not really, and a big fail. Obviously interpreters deal with much more in-depth technical concepts than congested nasal passages. Think rocket science, quantum physics, or the biology of swift grass in relation to energy production. These are really intense subjects that require years and years of intense study. Yet simultaneous conference interpreters must be prepared to produce meaning-based translations of this material to world leaders, industry executives and groundbreaking scientists.

Conference interpreters in a sense must become subject matter experts but not over years but often times over days, or unfortunately, hours. There are many moving parts – knowledge, rapid-fire analysis, contextualization, subtlety or expression, terminology, idioms and jokes, etc.

This brief explanation of why brings us back to global conference preparation: How, What and Why.

How and What.

Interpreters preparing for an international conference will ask repeatedly, and sometimes on the brink of obsessively, for preparation documents. They want to see speaker bios, event agendas and power point presentations, reference material, research, etc. They will ask for links to speakers published papers and previous speaking engagements. They will dive deep into the presenters’ brain and try to pull out any bit of information they can about the deep knowledge the speaker possess. This is not meant to scare anyone away; they aren’t looking to steal anyone’s identity. Rather they are looking to gain any grain of information possible about what they will be interpreting.

With the information gained from this crash course, they will create robust glossaries and lists of keywords and vocabulary. Then they will dive into translating the terms into the target language. Again, this isn’t about dusting off the old bilingual dictionary; interpreters will look into studies and professional writings on the same subject, but in their target language. They will look at images, descriptions, anything they can get their hands on to make sure they they fully understand the concepts to be delivered.

Conference interpreters, always working in teams, will tag team and share information so that if one of them slips up in the high-pressure interpreter booth or doesn’t remember the exact term, her partner interpreter will slip a little note with the term to her so she can render a 100% accurate message.

To sum it up, it’s all about communication; the accurate relay of a message from one language to another. Interpreters are like word scientists and take immense pride in precise performance through methodical preparation.

INGCO International, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is proud to offer the highest level of global conference interpreters across the country. Our simultaneous interpreter teams travel for high-stakes conferences for clients like 3M, Medtronic and Cargill. Our global conference team provides full conference services for multilingual conferences including electronic equipment and interpreter booths and on-site project management services. Want to know more about our translation, interpreting or global marketing services? Reach out to us now!