Interpreters and Event Planning

I recently attended the Global Meetings Industry Day event in Philadelphia with Robin Smith, CETRA’s manager of interpretation services.  Despite not being actual event planners, CETRA provides simultaneous interpreters and equipment for conferences, and it was an opportunity for us to network with potential clients.

event planners
CETRA’s simultaneous interpreters at an annual conference for the US Navy.

We both initially felt the event’s sessions, which were focused on hotel event planners’ responses to emergencies (such as a pool cleaning chemical spill) during events, were irrelevant to us.  However, we quickly wondered if interpreters and interpretation was considered in disaster preparedness at such events when there are attendees who speak different languages, including attendees who require sign language services.

Providing information in culturally and linguistically appropriate methods is an important and recognized component of community-level disaster preparedness from such organizations as FEMA, Red Cross and community government departments worldwide.

Yet, disaster preparedness plans or procedures are typically not discussed when interpreters are assigned to events at conference rooms, hotels, public spaces or other locations big and small.

While the interpreters would relay needed directions to attendees at the onset of an emergency, what happens once they leave the event space?  Should attendees keep their headsets?  Should the interpreters be prepared to split-up and work with different groups of attendees to continue to relay information?  Is it up to the interpreters to develop their own roles seemingly on-the-spot when responding to an emergency?

In many cases, the focus on interpretation services leading up to an event is getting advanced copies of any presentations to be given during  the event and other event materials to the interpreters. This is important to help ensure accuracy and high-quality interpretation at the event.

Yet, perhaps both language services providers and event planners should take some time to discuss the preparedness plans and roles of the interpreters in case there is an emergency during the event.

Editor’s Note: The Global Meeting Industry Day event was hosted by the Greater Philadelphia Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and the Philadelphia Area Chapter of Meeting Planners International (MPI).

Blog Authored by:
Richard Ochab
Marketing Manager US