Posted by Manuela ● 23-Jul-2020 20:31:06

Best practices for Video Simultaneous Interpreting ( VSI ) / Video Remote Interpreting (VRI)

Remote interpreter on ZoomDefining the best practices for video-simultaneous interpreting is an ongoing task. The service has seen a sustained adoption following the limitations on in-presence events and face-to-face interpreters and social distancing requirements, making any current interpretation booth use nonviable (2 interpreters working shoulder to shoulder, sharing the same air for 5 hours is currently not a good option). 


Many conferences and panel discussions have themselves moved to a remote setting. What was initially perceived as an awkward experience, is becoming mainstream. Slowly we all learn to interact in new ways, overcome the limitations of video conferencing, and define strategies to support unhindered remote communication. New platforms are re-recreating virtual settings very similar to in-presence conferences to facilitate interaction among attendees (like and or webinar tools like Zoom), to create digital networking opportunities, discussion forums, and 1:1 meeting opportunities. All this comes with the added advantage of a reduced carbon footprint and a potentially wider audience.

This post by hootsuite explains some of the tools which can be used for specific purposes and which elements to consider for a successful digital event. Although mentioning clear font, language and colour requirements on every touch-point, it does not mention what really can make an event inclusive: the multilingual option through simultaneous interpretation. Just imagine what opening up your digital event to a multicultural audience could mean: you could invite talented speakers who do not speak, i.e., the main conference language and multiply your potential audience with each added language combination, without the space constraints imposed by a physical location.

Here some of the best practices to follow for the successful inclusion of remote interpretation in a multilingual digital conference.
  1. Decide on the tool to use. You have 3 options:  1. video-conferencing platforms with native interpreting function; 2. stand-alone Video Remote Interpreting system; 3. Connectors to existing video conferencing platforms with interpreting functionality. Nimdzi recently compiled an inventory of current RSI and conference interpreting technologies available. In other post, I will examine them one by one after having tested them. If cost is an issue, video conference technology with embedded interpreting function is more cost-effective. But some of the typical functionalities of a specialist interpreting technology are lost (like relay interpreting (using as source an interpreted language), listening to other interpreters, and better coordination when switching from an interpreter to the other).
  2. The time-zone.  If you run a multilingual remote conference, you should plan it with "meridians" in mind, and make it as comfortable as possible for all attendees targeted. For example, you could plan an event for Europe and Africa, up to the Middle East.  Or you could include in an event planned for North America all LATAM countries too (if relevant) and activate the respective language combinations. Or Japan, Australia and New Zealand and all other countries comprised in within those meridians. Anyway, I am sure you understood.
  3. The planned length of each speech. Simultaneous interpreters work in pairs (2 for each active language combination). So if you book interpreters, you will need 2 for each language combination (make sure you ask whether they have 2 active or just 1 active language): they will alternate at 30' intervals. When simultaneous interpreters sit side by side in a booth, it is pretty easy to coordinate the switch between them, so the length of the speaker's speech does not really impact results. But if working remotely, simultaneous interpreters are not always able to coordinate the switch. If you set the maximum length of a speaker's speech at 30', interpreters can decide whom to interpret before commencement, prepare the terminology accordingly and offer a pleasant experience to the listener (one person per speaker). If this is not possible because the speakers' speeches last more than 30', then interpreters need to be able to communicate with each other to coordinate the switch (some platforms and connectors offer a better coordination experience than others).
  4. Encourage your speakers to speak in their mother-tongue. Ultimately, that is the reason you booked an interpreter. It makes no sense for a speaker to use English if their mastery of the language is limited. Nobody will appreciate a difficult accent. Or a presentation read verbatim from a powerpoint.
  5. Encourage your speakers not to "read" their presentation, especially when it contains lots of numbers. Remember: when participating from your PC, it is easy to slip into "reading mode". The speaker should use a conversational tone, speak slowly and clearly and use a good a quality microphone: Interpreters lack other important proxemic information, and this can help improve the overall service.
  6. Provide a copy of the materials presented by the speaker with at least 3 days advance on the conference day to the interpreters. The interpreters need to prepare themselves with relevant terminology and understand well the subject matter. The more technical it gets, the more preparation time is needed.
  7. Remember that the interpreter is not assisted by a technician (as it happens in physical settings). Plan sufficient time to test the system with the interpreter BEFORE the conference and be sure to have solved every problem the interpreter may face.
  8. Ask the interpreter to use a direct Ethernet connection to the broadband router to reduce possible interruptions due to connectivity issues. And make sure the interpreter is using stable broadband. If the interpreter is working from a modern laptop without an Ethernet port and does not have an adapter, have a plan B should the connection go down and discuss it extensively with all interpreters involved (i.e., immediate switching to the other interpreter at a convened sign by the moderator or notification with messaging app).
  9. Remember that tech may glitch. Even if everyone has a good connection, broadband and internet issues always happen, and the interpretation will seldom be as smooth as in a booth. An 8 or 9-hour conference without connection problems, either on the interpreter’s side or on the panelist’s side, is rare.
  10. Make sure the microphones are off when the attendees/ panelists are not speaking. The extra noise would make the work of interpreters more difficult. And leave enough time when switching from one language to the other, so that interpreter can adjust accordingly.

In my opinion, remote conferencing and remote interpreting, possibly in a hybrid scenario, will establish themselves as a plausible and valid alternative to the traditional booth. With the extra advantage that you can really attract the best talent there is on the market for the specific specialty, since your interpreters can work from everywhere. 

InterpretDirect, our dedicated service to remote interpreting, will help you achieve results.

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Topics: Interpretation, How To, Remote interpreting, Remote interpretation, VSI, VRI