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  • Tania Saldívar

Tips and tricks: Effective communication for remote meetings

I have been working as a remote simultaneous interpreter (RSI) for some time now and I honestly didn’t think things would change much with COVID-19... of course, I soon discovered I had a lot to learn.

When I first started doing RSI, I had to go through a whole journey – from doing research on what equipment to use and leading practices, to learning how to use the available platforms and training my brain and body to juggle more tasks than what is already involved in traditional simultaneous interpreting.

It was a challenge and every event was different from the last. But I got to the point where reading, typing and pressing buttons became the new normal while interpreting and I began to understand what to expect from different scenarios.

Then corona virus showed up and changed everyone’s ways of working. It redefined meetings, training courses and conferences. New challenges soon arose with lockdown in place.

In previous VRSI (video remote simultaneous interpreting) assignments, attendees and presenters gathered in one room with professional sound systems, streaming equipment and wired internet connections. And even with all of that, technical difficulties were still something that had to be dealt with, either in terms of visuals, audio or sound (which is why remote interpreting platforms are still under development).

Since meetings now need to be completely remote, attendees and presenters connect from home offices, on Wi-Fi connections and either do not have or are not used to using a headset with an external microphone. This means that both the audience and interpreters cannot clearly hear what is being said. Sound cuts out, and visuals are often not clear enough to see speakers and their presentations in high definition.

Everybody is doing their best to adapt to this new normal and keep their business running (far from usual but running).

This has prompted me to share some tips that in my experience can help remote meetings be more successful. The goal is to achieve bona fide communication for participants (regardless of the number of languages).

  • Everyone who intends to speak at a meeting should have a hardwired internet connection that is plugged directly in to their modem.

  • Speakers must use a headset with a microphone or a USB microphone connected to their computers – in short, an external mic.

  • In worst-case scenarios, if speakers decide to use their cell phone’s earbuds, it is essential to get the built-in microphone as close to their mouth as possible.

  • Everyone needs to remember to mute their microphone if it is not their turn to speak.

  • Every remote meeting needs a moderator.

  • Remember to speak one at a time and to ask for the floor (again, it is crucial to have a moderator).

  • Mind the time for presentations and breaks.

And specifically for multilingual meetings where interpreting services are being offered:

  • Make sure that broadcasting is stable.

  • Speakers must remember to breathe between ideas – speaking quickly means it is difficult for participants as well as interpreters to understand what is being said.

  • Work with at least two interpreters per language.

  • Let attendees know in advance that interpreting services will be available, what languages are offered and how to use the platform’s interpreting function.

  • Use dedicated remote interpreting platforms with specific channels adapted for remote interpreting where attendees can choose to listen to the floor or one of the other languages provided.

And remember, we are all working toward the same goal: communicating effectively to keep businesses running successfully. If we all have these considerations in mind, we will get the best out of every remote meeting and neither language nor distance will represent an obstacle to success.


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