​​Conferences Management and Interpretation in Times of Covid

Interactio PR

On December 15th Remote simultaneous interpretation platform – Interactio – hosted a multilingual panel discussion with RSI industry leaders. The panel focused on conferences management and interpretation in times of Covid. The panelists – Uroš Peterc, President of International Association of Conference Interpreters, Nader Ibrahim, Representative of Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Naomi Bowman, CEO at DS-Interpretation, Frédéric Pirotte, Head of Technical Compliance at European Commission, and Agnieszka Kurant, Head of the Remote Conference Service Unit at European Parliament, discussed the lessons learned and outlook in 2022 and beyond. The panel discussion was moderated by Interactio CEO Henrikas Urbonas and Head of EU & UN Sales Asma Dakhouche. The event attracted almost 200 attendees and is available to watch on the company’s YouTube channel.

The Covid pandemic had disrupted the operations of the UN and the European Institutions, pressuring them to urgently adapt and switch to a business continuity model. It was vital for these international actors to maintain their diplomatic and multilateral meetings and conferences around the most important global issues.

“For all of these institutions providing the ability for their delegates and interpreters to work from distance and from locations across the globe simultaneously has been a crucial factor to operate and continue their business. But as we all know it came with a lot of challenges,”- said Henrikas Urbonas.

The discussion tackled the biggest challenges institutions and corporations faced since the beginning of the Covid pandemic. According to the panelists, the sudden change required a lot of learning in a fast-paced environment. One of the biggest challenges was the speed required to introduce and adapt remote participation into traditionally very physical infrastructure.

The institutions faced the challenge of managing the technical side of conference organisation: in particular, combining online participants and on-site interpreters. Before the pandemic, the meetings were managed by only 2 or 3 people. Suddenly, the necessity for a moderator, tech support, IT training, and the creation of new communication methods grew the need to 20 people for one event.

Together with the demand for speedy adaptation, the interpreters faced even more severe issues such as lower quality of sound and financial problems. Overnight many interpreters were left without income. This sudden change made them reach out to institutions for partnerships.

The institutions and interpreters were not the only ones facing the challenge of quick adaptation to the new normal. Corporate clients needed the support and guidance going through this new reality too. What was emphasized by one of the panelists – when organizing the event, many customers often would not understand the interpreters’ need for high-quality sound. In a sense, many corporate clients had to quickly become technologists. Postponing or canceling the events was not an option, thus, many companies were forced to go for a remote solution.

At the same time, it’s critical to acknowledge that a lot of events were not suitable for remote solutions due to the need for human contact and engagement. The organizations faced the challenges of recreating the human connection online and leveraging the available technology to meet their objective in setting up engaging remote events.

“Interactio, in particular, allowed us to provide customized solutions to meet the by-law requirements of some very particular client needs,” – stated Naomi Bowman.

Further, the panelists discussed the biggest learnings and recommendations on how to improve the events going forward. The panelists named many things that have to be taken into consideration: electricity, ventilation, IT, transmission security, and the content of a meeting.

Also, the panelists emphasized the need of preparing and educating the event attendees and participants on how to behave in an online setting. An interesting remark was mentioned – in the pre-pandemic online world, the visual content mattered more. Now, it is less about how you look and more about how you sound.

Finally, the discussion elaborated on the future of meetings with interpretation and trends for 2022 and beyond. The panelists were optimistic about the future of online and hybrid events, expecting many technological advancements such as implementations of AI, captioning, and language transcription.

“My vision of the future is a fully flexible system. Meaning that I dream about a system where you could have physical and distant participation, physical and distant interpretation, and everything is linked,” – stated Frédéric Pirotte.

The panelists expect the deed for RSI to increase significantly as more and more companies require global engagement. It is an amazing way to bring global teams together: even if people are not traveling or having on-site meetings, in some ways they are able to connect more effectively by using RSI solutions.