Q&A: Inside the Role of an Onsite Project Manager for Interpreting Events

Q&A: Inside the Role of an Onsite Project Manager for Interpreting Events
May 28, 2024

INGCO’s Lead Corporate Interpreting Project Manager, Martin, recently had the opportunity to participate in an in-person conference in Barcelona. The event was a significant undertaking, requiring simultaneous interpreting from English to Spanish for approximately 100 participants. This experience highlighted the role of an Onsite Project Manager in ensuring the seamless execution of language services and event logistics. 

In this Q&A-styled blog, Martin shares his firsthand insights into the responsibilities of an Onsite Project Manager, the challenges they help mitigate, and the invaluable benefits they bring to the overall success of such events.

What does a project manager do on-site?

The Onsite Project Manager serves as a vital link connecting the client, interpreters, venue staff, and A/V technicians. The role encompasses comprehensive logistical support throughout the event. Onsite duties entail distributing updated presentation materials and managing logistical adjustments, facilitating interpreting equipment distribution to attendees while providing instructions on usage, supervising equipment load-in, setup, and testing, and collaborating closely with venue contacts to ensure a seamless process from start to finish.

What common things could go wrong that would not be fixed if a project manager was not onsite?

Without an Onsite Project Manager, some of the common issues that might arise during an event that could potentially go unresolved are:

  • Equipment malfunctions: The project manager constantly checks for any technical glitches with the interpreting equipment. Without a project manager onsite to coordinate with A/V technicians, these issues could persist, disrupting the event. A/V technicians are likely hired by the venue and may or may not have experience working with interpreting equipment specifically, making it extremely important to have a project manager onsite to coordinate with the interpreting equipment technicians. 
  • Logistical Hiccups: Last-minute changes in scheduling, room assignments, or attendee requirements might only be effectively communicated or addressed with the immediate presence of a project manager who manages logistics and communications with necessary parties on site.
  • Participant Assistance: Attendees may need assistance navigating the venue, using interpreting equipment, or addressing individual concerns regarding the interpreting services. Without a project manager onsite to provide support and guidance, these needs may go unmet, leading to event participant frustration or dissatisfaction.
  • Interpreter Assistance: Interpreters may have some communication needs, like informing the speakers to manage the time and pace of their speeches and presentations better. The Project Manager can offer support, such as refreshments or brief breaks, to help maintain the interpreter’s focus and energy levels.

What are the costs involved with having an onsite project manager? 

The costs involved with having an Onsite Project Manager typically include:

  • An hourly rate
  • Travel and accommodation
  • A per diem or daily allowance to cover food costs.

Of course, these will depend on the nature of the project. Most conferences and large events offer a buffet where the Project Manager can eat with the interpreters and the rest of the participants. Travel costs will vary depending on the location of the venue. Travel costs can be incurred for flight tickets or ground transportation.

What are the other benefits of having an on-site project manager?

One of the primary benefits of having an onsite Project Manager is that the client is never left to navigate the project alone. They feel supported and cared for, fostering a sense of growing confidence. Throughout the event, the client is accompanied by the language service provider, allowing them to focus on other tasks such as engaging with attendees and networking, knowing that the language interpreting aspects are being expertly managed.

What do you do during your downtime at the event?

I regularly visit the conference room to ensure that the interpreting equipment functions correctly and that the interpreters have everything they require. Additionally, I touch base with the client to confirm that everything is proceeding smoothly from their perspective. If there is any remaining time, I like to engage with volunteers.

How do you communicate with the project manager during an event? 

If the venue is large, the most efficient method is typically via phone call or a headset if available. Alternatively, for smaller conferences, the Project Manager is usually stationed at a predetermined location where the client can directly approach them.

Martin, what is your favorite part about being onsite?

One of the aspects I enjoy most about working as an Onsite Project Manager is the opportunity to interact directly with both the client and the participants. These interactions often involve explaining the workings of interpreting services, ensuring clarity and understanding. I also like interacting with the interpreters, as their diverse experiences offer continuous learning opportunities.

Additionally, I find great satisfaction in building trust and creating meaningful connections through networking. Ultimately, my goal is to ensure that the client feels confident in the seamless management of their language needs, allowing them to concentrate on other aspects of the event with peace of mind.