12th January 2021
January is generally a quiet period for interpreters, which means it's a great time to invest in professional development. This year fellow English-booth colleague Sophie Llewellyn Smith, aka the Interpreting Coach, put together an action-packed three-day programme for simultaneous conference interpreters, the Terp Summit – Fit for the Future. It sounded like an excellent way to connect with colleagues online and get up to speed with recent developments, so I signed up immediately.
After an inspiring Day One on Self-Care (read more here), Day Two covered Professional Skills and Tech. Speakers had been invited to talk about marketing, quotes for clients, ways to identify one's purpose, making ourselves 'greener', and the equipment required to work somewhere other than your usual booth now that the COVID-19 pandemic has moved virtually all multilingual meetings online. Essential insights therefore into how interpreters can continue to offer what clients need in a new context.
Like Day One, several sessions ran in parallel, with replays available free for 24 hours, or 12 months for participants who upgraded to the Interpreter’s Toolkit. The day opened with a very helpful presentation from Arabic interpreter Maha el-Metwally on Your Remote Simultaneous Interpreting (RSI) Tech Set Up to a Tee. Now that the pandemic has made access to conference venues and travel for interpreters extremely difficult, or impossible in many cases, being able to provide clients with alternative solutions has become essential. One such solution is to log on to ‘virtual’ meetings, like delegates confined to their homes or unable to travel, and provide simultaneous interpreting via a variety of platforms and techniques (simultaneous and consecutive). This is what we call RSI in conference and terpspeak. Whilst not ideal because you are (often) separated from your colleagues, making team work more difficult, and leaving you at risk of being ‘kicked out’ of the meeting at a crucial moment due to unstable connections, it nonetheless offers clients a solution that allows them to continue holding multilingual meetings crucial to their business. But what sort of equipment does an interpreter need to invest in to provide the best possible experience for their listeners? Maha presented a Basic Setup and an Advanced Setup, along with a list of handy accessories and useful software. I hadn’t heard of krisp, which mutes background noise, or the timer cuckoo team, so I look forward to giving them a spin soon.
When it came to specific recommendations for headsets, Maha mentioned the list of ISO compliant headsets published by the AIIC Technical Committee (here) and Naomi Bowman’s recommendations (here), adding that RSI platforms may also provide lists of approved headsets. She concluded with a checklist for interpreters before each assignment: have a backup up everything (i.e. spare headset), check your Internet connection, restart your computer to make sure extra apps not running unnecessarily in the background, and make sure you have the latest versions of Internet browsers and RSI apps. A very practical session showing just how much interpreters need to invest to be ‘fit for the future’ on the conference interpreting market in 2021.
Next on my list of sessions was US interpreter Judy Jenner's session on how to Create Interpreting Service Price Quotes for the New Normal. I don’t usually draw up quotes for direct clients myself, but I was interested in finding out more about the work consultant interpreter colleagues put into agreeing terms and conditions with clients. Judy opened by observing how much interpreting had changed since 2015 in general, and even more so in 2020. She added that it is important to be clear in your own mind about the kind of assignments you are happy to accept. She quickly ran through the basic information that should be included in all written quotes, stressing the need for an agreement in advance in writing. She then moved on to additional factors to consider for online assignments.
Judy also addressed the issue of technical specifications that the client should consider ahead of the meeting. Interpreters should take the time to discuss sound quality with clients, giving tips on how it can be improved and explaining the risks of acoustic shock. She concluded by advising interpreters to enquire about tech support provided during the event, and to take the opportunity to recommend someone they know if necessary. Try to focus on what you can control, rather than let yourself be overwhelmed by what you can’t!
The last session I followed on Day Two was How and Where to Show up for your Ideal Client with Madalena Sánchez Zampaullo, a medical and life sciences translator. Last year I had more time to reflect on the kind of work I’d like to get more of in the future, so Madalena’s presentation seemed perfect, especially since it focused on connecting with potential clients online. Building an online presence certainly feels overwhelming at times in a world with so many different apps, social media channels, and networking sites, but Madalena shared six steps that seemed refreshingly achievable.
Lots of food for thought on how to make the most of my (shiny new) website (not as hard to build as you might think) and online networking opportunities. Thanks for the inspiration Madalena.
Unfortunately I didn’t manage to listen in to all the other fantastic sessions with tips on how to stand out as an interpreter, become greener, know your worth, or use technology to prepare for meetings. Hats off to Sophie for bringing so many inspiring speakers together at #TerpSummit!
Did you join #TerpSummit2021? Do you have any favourite tech equipment? I’d love to hear from you!
Johanna McCalmont is a freelance conference interpreter based in Brussels, Belgium. She works from French, German, Dutch, and Italian into English.