Author: Giulia Arletti

English translation: Fabiana Grassi

Traducción en español: Francesca Calabrò

Traduction en français: Federica Bonapace


Have you ever had to organize an event with foreign guests or speakers? Have you ever wondered how you can successfully face the language barrier? Have you ever explored the labyrinthine language market to solve this problem?

Do not panic: here’s another simple guide with the critical points you should keep in mind when organizing an event involving several languages.


What are you organizing? Is it a scientific conference, a B2B meeting, a round table, an interview, a book presentation or a lesson?
The first thing you have to define is the slant of your event, since all the other choices will depend on how you design it.

The physical setting is critical as well. An outdoor guided tour will not require the same equipment as a conference, which calls for a big room with great acoustics and – if possible – integrated booths for simultaneous interpreting. If fixed booths are not available, you can always set up mobile booths.


Who will participate in the event? Do you expect many foreign guests?
The type of event and the number of foreigners influence the choice between different interpreting techniques.

In this article we explained the various techniques, you can also find some examples of contexts in which you normally use them.


If you decide that English will be the working language and you are pretty sure that the audience will be fine with that, then maybe an interpreter would be unnecessary.

However, if you have any doubt or if you know that someone might find it difficult, then you should invest in one or more interpreters to help you communicate the message and the aim of the event.
When you decide to hire a professional, try to pay attention to how you write your request or your job posting.

In this article Claudia gives you a couple of useful tips.


While liaison interpreting requires no specific equipment – just a notepad and a working pen – other interpreting techniques call for microphones, booths (fixed or mobile), bidule systems, headsets and headphones for the audience, and so on.

Do not hesitate to ask your interpreter for advice on the most suitable equipment for your event.


Be very careful about this point.
Try to understand if the event will cover specific and technical topics.

Each interpreter tends to specialize in a few areas, which he keeps on exploring as part of his continuing professional development.
That’s because every sector requires specific knowledge (both concepts and vocabulary, the so-called jargons) that can only be acquired through time and practice.

Therefore, carefully read the resumes of the various candidates in order to understand which professional best suits your needs. You’ll agree with me in saying that for a surgery conference you shouldn’t hire an interpreter specialized in auditing.


Sometimes you can have speakers or guests coming from different foreign countries.

In case of a B2B negotiation you will just have to request enough interpreters to satisfy the different language needs.

However, a simultaneous interpreting service may be trickier.
First of all, you will need enough booths for all the language combinations (e.g. a booth for English-Italian, another booth for German-Italian, etc).
Moreover, you may not find an interpreter working with German-Chinese or English-Chinese. In this case, you will need to use the technique called “relay“, in which Italian will be the common language: the German booth will translate the speech in Italian, while the Chinese booth will connect to the German booth, translating their Italian version into Chinese.


Preparation is one of the critical phases of interpreting. The period before the event is necessary for the interpreter to explore the specific jargon.

Ask all of your speakers to send you their presentations in advance and give them to your interpreters as soon as possible, together with the complete list of the guests who will be taking the floor and any other useful material.

Interpreters are masters and craftsmen of words, they (usually) aren’t doctors, lawyers, engineers, claims adjusters, and so on. You should provide them with the tools they need to prepare.

This small effort will enable your interpreters to work better, which will result in a better experience for the audience.


When you have to organize a very big event it may be demanding to invest your time and mental resources in organizing and supervising the linguistic service.

If you have a trusted professional interpreter, you can ask him/her to organize all the interpreters in the different booths throughout the event.
He/she can also help you find all the other interpreters who best suit your specific topic.


The meeting of different languages, cultures and sensitivities can be incredibly enriching.

However, it is also a minefield of potential faux pas, cultural blunders and misunderstandings that may hinder the success of the event or may offend the guests.

Research about the habits and traditions of the cultures you will meet. This map of intercultural communication created by Labcom gives you some examples of what you should or shouldn’t do when meeting people from different countries.


Here’s the last tip of this list, which is also one of the most important ones. Don’t be afraid to get advice from the professionals of the language sector.

If you explain to your interpreter what kind of event you’re organizing, he/she will be able to advise you on the most suitable interpreting technique for your event, how the interpreting team should be designed, and so on.

All of this will only be possible if you succeed in creating a trusted and fruitful collaboration with your interpreter, as Fabiana explains in this article.

Here we are at the end of this short guide. In the next articles some of these points will be analyzed more thoroughly in order to provide you with more tools to organize your events.

Stay tuned!

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