Interpretation Project Management
I’ve managed full-service interpretation for our corporate clients for more than three years. This involves contracting and managing our simultaneous interpreters, ensuring that all necessary interpretation equipment arrives on time, and managing the audiovisual technicians who set up and maintain the equipment. Additionally, I communicate with the interpretation client and deal with changes to the project scope. Or other curveballs that come my way. Make no mistake: managing full-service interpretation for a massive event is harder than it sounds!
Multilingual conferences and conventions
Our corporate interpretation clients hold conventions and conferences that involve multiple languages. These events range in size from a hundred or so attendees to several thousand. Typical languages include Spanish, French, German, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Italian, and Portuguese. Occasionally I provide interpretation services for other languages, such as Thai, Vietnamese, Turkish, Hungarian, Polish, Greek, or Arabic. Really, though, given enough advance notice, I can usually find simultaneous interpreters for almost any language one could think of.
Staying fast and flexible
As Kathy Sprouse (operations director for U.S. Translation Company) describes in “Making the Clients Happy,” we interpretation project managers must adapt quickly to unexpected developments. They happen a lot. It’s not even the client’s fault. The poor corporate event manager is usually trying to juggle so many different things. Our part — the language services component — is sometimes only a blip on her radar. As she’s wading through all of this stuff, and adapting to her own curve balls, she usually has no choice but to ask her subcontractors to adapt along with her.
My philosophy is that I’d rather make her job easier rather than insist on sticking to the original scope. Because I’m able to keep up with my clients’ needs, they remember me and appreciate how much I’m able to help them. They keep coming back. I’m no longer just another interpretation vendor; I’m a trusted friend and associate.
Beyond the interpretation contract
On paper, my interpretation clients hire me to do a specific job. If I did only the job for which they hired me, they would be satisfied. However, I want them to be more than satisfied. I go way beyond the contract. I actively look for ways for them to save money or do things more efficiently. If they don’t really need a piece of equipment that they think they need, I tell them my opinion on the matter. Or a particular language interpreted. Even though it lessens the scope of work. For example, a recent client thought she needed Finnish interpreters for a large conference. She had only two Finnish conference attendees. Because Finnish interpreters are quite rare, the cost was going to be exorbitant for such a small audience.
I reached out to a colleague in Finland to ask his opinion on the matter. He mentioned that English is widely spoken in Finland and suggested that perhaps the two Finnish attendees spoke English. I passed these perspectives on to my client, who decided to forego the Finnish interpretation.
In another event (covered in more detail in our Kyäni interpretation case study), I recommended that my client buy her own interpretation headsets directly from our supplier, rather than renting them from us. She was a bit surprised, considering my suggestion would result in less revenue for U.S. Translation Company, but it was clearly the best thing for her to do.
The job of an interpretation project manager
In addition to going the extra mile, I do all of the typical mundane things that an interpretation contract entails. I make sure the interpretation booths, headsets, receivers, and other equipment is available and arrives on time. I select interpreters based on best fit. Do they have a background in the conference subject matter? Do they have the right personality? Etc. I brief the interpreters on particulars, such as client instructions. Book flights and hotels for them, if I’m flying them in from out-of-town. Assuage client concerns and answer questions. Hire audiovisual technicians to set up, manage, and take down the interpretation equipment. Make sure that each interpreter is in the right room at the right time, with the right equipment. And so forth.
After the interpretation project is over
Post-interpretation, I always circle back to debrief with my client. We discuss what went right, what went wrong, if I could have done better, and whether anything could be handled differently next time. Maybe I noticed a way for the client to save money at their next event, in which case I bring it to her attention. We part ways with my client knowing that I’m genuinely looking out for her and willing to make any changes that I can for her. We call it white glove service; it’s sort of a company slogan. To me, its just good business and common sense.
Interpretation is important
People all over the world attend events. They need to understand what’s going on. They need to hear it in their native language. I allow them to do so. That is part of what makes my job so satisfying. I also love serving my clients and making them happy. They respect my high work ethic, and they know that I am always proactively looking out for their best interests. Because I’m so customer service-oriented, my interpretation clients stay loyal to me. They would never go to another interpretation provider just to save a few dollars. I give them something priceless: trust.