Conferences, while something most of us in the corporate world are familiar with, involve planning the vast majority of attendees may never see. As anyone could gather, there are conferences for everything. Professional growth, corporations, sales, marketing, shiny crystals, and more. They’re out there! And they should all be accessible with the addition of American Sign Language interpreters. Below, we’ve outlined some of the basics surrounding conference interpreting.


Let’s start with the setup. Places like Flamingo Interpreting are awesome
and have fully fleshed out guides for this, but let me drop the basics. The
first thing to talk about here is interpreter location. The best bet for having a
great place for everyone to see the interpreters will be in down in front of
the stage to the left or right side (or both for events with huge audiences).
Typically from here there will be a designated area for ADA audience
members nearby with a clean sightline to the action happening center stage
while also being able to see the interpreter in action. Another option that
works great for larger audiences or events where the space between the
stage and audience is pretty wide is to add a platform. Having a safe lifted
square area for the interpreter to stand on between the entertainment and
the audience will linguistically and literally shrink that gap. Having a camera
on the interpreter for large events with screen projectors is great too! You
can even set up picture in picture!

Next up, lighting. It’s great to have your language accessibility specialists in
sight of the audience, but little good it will do if they’re in the dark. Typically
a single spotlight or any designated light on the interpreter that provides
good illumination will work. Having a specific light for this works best as
strobing or other colors etc. happening with the other lights in your setup
won’t be something you’ll want to implement there. We are going for clarity,
after all. And, speaking of clarity, the interpreters will also need to hear
what’s happening on stage clearly to be able to give an equally clear message to your audience. Monitors work okay in certain setups, and inner
ears with direct mic feeds work even better!

The Vibe

To piggyback on our last topic now that you know what will be expected of
the venue, let’s talk about the things you can request on the interpreting
side to match the vibe of your event. Specific colors, styles, and types of
clothing are absolutely okay to request. Keep in mind that the interpreters
should already know to avoid brand logos and loud patterns, but if specific
color palettes are wanted or not wanted to mesh perfectly with your brand
and event theme, please let the interpreting agency know! Typically the
content of your event will be a good indicator of the types of clothing one
should wear to be a part of your event, but if you specifically need business
attire or want everyone on stage to play it more casual, please let the
agency know this as well. Also, if you happen to have the desire for
interpreters of a specific ethnic background or cultural history to better
integrate into the themes and participants of your event, these types of
requests are also something that can be arranged! Just say the word!


Another important thing to mention here is the addition of captioning. Most
events will have pre recorded footage or media to show during their
presentations or breakout sessions. The addition of captioning either live on
site, or even better, added to all videos beforehand, can really be a game
changer when providing access to your entire audience. After all, not all deaf
and hard of hearing individuals know sign language for many reasons,
unfortunately. This can be lack of access, latent deaf individuals who grew
up in a hearing world, and more. Adding captioning can really help bring
your audience together in full and make sure that every participant has
access to the same wealth of information.

Credentials and Preparation

We love a good chance to knock something off the to-do list early when it
comes to planning these monsters we know our events can become.
Credentialing and preparation are an easy thing to place a check next to way
in advance! Once you have the interpreter information, it’s easy to contact
the correct parties to make sure they are on the right lists and have passes
and access to everything they’ll need during the duration of their services.
Don’t forget to pop over a simple message or map to the agency about
where the interpreters can find the location to pick up these items.
Sometimes if they’re available early the interpreters or a representative from
the agency will be happy to pick them up ahead of time. Two checks!
In addition, the best way to ensure all service providers give their best and
cleanest work is to provide as many sources of information before your
event as possible. You’d be surprised at all of the things that can help. Lists
of names, bios about the event presenters, video clips, scripts, run of show
schedules, maps, programs, and/or talking points for panels or fireside chats
can make a world of difference when it comes to interpreters having any and
all specialized vocabulary and preemptive practice ready to go!


So now what do you do if you have all of these additional people running
around your event? You must already have a long list of producers, A/V
staff, technicians, etc. to keep track of. Don’t worry about the extra! Just ask
the agency or agree to their recommendation to have an extra on-site
coordinator present to take care of all of that for you. After all, it’s best to
have a specialist present that knows the ins and outs of interpreting for
events like yours. They will make sure that everyone is in the right place at
the right time, while also managing their breaks and any last minute
changes or emergencies. This can really be a game changer for your entire