Here at Flamingo Interpreting, we do a ton of entertainment interpreting in New York and Los Angeles. We’re considered leaders and experts in the entertainment industry and have loved working in press circuits, junkets and on set for years to support projects in the Deaf community. When people see our work interpreting on the red carpet, they often don’t imagine that we spend the majority of our time interpreting on Zoom. Yet, we do.

Interpreting in the Pandemic

We were all forced onto Zoom when Covid really hit but for many American sign language interpreters, we already had years of experience interpreting on the platform. Many translators have used the service in order to connect and prepare translated documents with their colleagues. In group settings like this, many of us figured out the strengths and weaknesses, along with our clients pain points.

With that, we’ve compiled some common questions our clients have approached us with over the years. While interpreting consulting has always been a strong arm of our services, even we were surprised to find how many of our colleagues spent the majority of their time educating clients on the platform. To save you some time in your next meeting, check out our answers to common questions here!

What does it take to make an interpreted Zoom meeting successful?

Being comfortable with an interpreter in the room is often the first step. It’s important to know that you’re being joined by a team member who is there to provide a service in a unique role. Our work is to make communication smooth, not derail your agenda. While we don’t want to make ourselves the focus, it’s good to know that we’re there and will be participating on some level.

Do I need to announce the presence of an interpreter on Zoom?

This answer largely depends on the demands of the environment and the relationships of the participants. While some larger events are assumed to have access, if your intention is to alert the Deaf attendees that access is being provided you can trust the professional you’ve hired to find them. Considering they would be interpreting your announcement either way, you can leave the responsibility of connecting with the participants utilizing their services to them.

Should we name the interpreters something special?

Simply, no. Some interpreters prefer their full name, some just a first name. Many interpreters will add [ASL interpreter] ahead of their name. It largely varies on how you’ve hired them. Some agencies require their interpreters to follow a specific format. We don’t. As a collaborative, we trust the interpreters and translators working remotely to use their professional judgement.

Do I need to spotlight them?

Again, this widely varies. For webinars, it’s always helpful for the interpreters to have spotlight privileges in order to team and support one another as they turn their video on and off. Allowing interpreters all of the access a host would will reduce the chances of unnecessary interruptions and delays. There’s nothing worse than hearing the host of a meeting announce a pause and something to the effect of “let’s just get this interpreter spotlit, I guess they switched”. Do yourself a favor and just let the experts in the room handle the controls that will impact their ability to perform.

Do I need captions?

No. In many cases you don’t need them but considering there is no additional fee for automatic captions, why not keep it turned on. This will eliminate the need for participants to reach out and request it, bogging down your inbox or chat feature. If you leave it on from the beginning, you’re just providing an additional option for greater accessibility. When you don’t have it turned on but need to change that, you’ll need to quit the meeting and restart it to activate the feature.

Should I hire a captioner?

Absolutely. While captions on Zoom are free, nothing beats a live captioner for accuracy. If you believe what you are sharing is important, respect that and yourself but ensuring it’s landing with your audience. Captioners can provide more clarity to communication that might otherwise leave audiences confused with automatic captioned features.

Can I send them a transcript of the meeting?

You absolutely can, but it’s better to send them a recording. Also, if you have a note take who has some notes from the meeting, you can round out the final take aways. Often our clients want to take notes in there meetings but find themselves needing to focus on the interpreter to ensure they’re not missing any information. That means that writing down a few bullet points might not be the best use of their time. However, if you can share any notes or minutes in addition to the recording, you can be sure they’ll have a better picture of anything they might have missed.

What else should I know?

You should ask the service user. Folks in the disabled community know more about their needs than any consultant or interpreter could ever guess. Often, the best way to find what would work well for them is just to ask them. Allowing them to lead the charge in accessibility is a sure way to be confident you’ve not overlooked any potential accommodations or options.

With these tips you should be able to execute and reflect on a successful virtual meeting with an interpreter. As always, if you need interpreting services virtually or interpreting in the metaverse, reach out to us by phone or email!

Best of luck in Zoomland!