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How to Successfully Execute a Multilingual Virtual or Hybrid Meeting

All events involve a considerable amount of work in the planning and execution. But if you’re planning a multilingual hybrid meeting or virtual event, there’s a lot more to consider and plan for. Your attendees may speak languages that are different from the official language of the event, but they’re expecting an event experience that’s just as valuable as that of every other attendee. How will you provide it?

Why Are Multilingual Events on the Rise?

Multilingual events are more common than ever. According to one report, most events now include participants whose first language is different from the official event language. In the same report, 60% of survey respondents said that their events were highly multilingual. These respondents had events where their audiences spoke five or more languages, as well as English.

  • 76% of survey respondents said their use of event translation services had increased.
  • 79% had used interpretation services at live events.
  • 61% used interpretation services at virtual events.
  • 77% said that the shift to virtual events had sparked an increase in the number of event attendees whose first language isn’t English.
  • 72% expect to see an increase in 2023 of multilingual events with attendees whose first language isn’t English.

What’s driving this shift? There are a couple big reasons behind the change. The gradual but long-term change due to the easy accessibility of high-speed internet – Multilingual events in general have been on the rise for a long time. This is because internet-based technology—including high-speed connections and software such as web conferencing platforms—has made it easier to bring together people from different continents and countries. More recently, COVID was the main impetus for the short, sharp pivot from live to virtual events.

In short, multilingual events are more common because the tech that powers them—including real-time translation tools as well as high-speed internet—is now highly accessible. And the pandemic significantly increased the pace of a change that was already happening.

How to Run Successful Multilingual Virtual Meetings

To organize a successful multilingual virtual or hybrid event, there’s one key principle to keep in mind: Make multilingualism a primary focus—not an afterthought. For every event feature or piece of content you add, consider how it will be received and used by multilingual attendees. Will language barriers make it harder to access event content? If so, what can you do to make it easier or more intuitive?

1. Consider the Attendees’ Point of View

There’s one highly effective way to make sure your event prioritizes multilingual attendees: Make sure at least one person on your event team is multilingual. It’s even better if you can include multiple multilingual people. If you want to promote inclusion at an event, it’s always most effective to start at the top and form an inclusive event planning team.

If no one on your team can speak another language, try to approach the matter from the attendees’ point of view. If you attended an event in a country where your native language wasn’t their first language, you would be the one to need interpretation services. What stumbling blocks might you encounter when you accessed an online meeting hosted in another language? How can you prevent or counteract those issues in your own event? In other words, put yourself in your guests’ shoes.

2. Include Multilingual Media in Your Event Content

Space restrictions may come into play for an event where content must be translated into several languages. But, in general, it’s good practice to provide content in multiple languages whenever possible. This includes things like:

  • Presentations and slides
  • Agendas and schedules
  • Speaker bios and introductions
  • And more

Most importantly for setting the tone of the event, the welcome message should be provided in multiple languages. It’s also a good idea to include in the welcome message a reminder that language services are available and an explanation of how to access them.

multilingual hybrid meeting

3. Test Your Event Equipment

You might have the best virtual events platform and be using high-quality event tech, but if you don’t run audio checks, rehearsals, and other preparatory measures, you’ll be flying blind on the day of.

For any event, it’s vital to rehearse and run tech checks to make sure everything’s working as it should. This also means rehearsing with speakers and presenters—especially if you’re running a multilingual hybrid meeting and have speakers beaming in from their own homes or offices.

If you’re running an online multilingual meeting, you may need to provide tech assistance during the event. In this case, it could be useful to have firsthand knowledge of how the interpretation tools work. If your web conferencing platform or virtual events platform has integrated language interpretation tools, make sure to test them out yourself.

4. Prep Your Speakers

Your speakers will be giving presentations in their own native languages and may not be used to having their words translated. It can be useful to provide some presentation tips to help translators and interpreters do their jobs. Speakers should:

  • Use a hard-wired ethernet connection, rather than Wi-Fi – Hard-wired internet is faster, more dependable event technology, and it’s less sensitive to interference.
  • Speak at a measured pace and enunciate clearly – Realtime interpretation usually means the interpreter is around one sentence behind the speaker. Speaking too quickly makes it difficult, or even impossible, for interpreters to keep up, especially during remote interpreting.
  • Use a good-quality headset and microphone – This ensures they can provide clear audio that’s easy for interpreters to understand.
  • Directly face their webcam or other camera – This is important because interpreters often rely on body language and facial expressions to help them provide context for listeners.
  • Keep their microphone muted when they’re not talking – Background noise can make it hard for remote interpreters to hear the person who’s speaking.

5. Prep Your Interpreters

The people providing language services to your multilingual hybrid meeting also benefit from advance preparation. If it’s possible to do so, provide them with copies of speeches, presentations, and other scripted material ahead of time. This is highly beneficial for remote simultaneous interpretation (RSI) in particular. This advance preparation lets them:

  • Practice pronunciations of names and terminology
  • Put together a glossary
  • Learn about speakers and event content

The better prepared your interpreters are, the better the service they’ll provide for your attendees.

6. Promote Your Event’s Multilingual Services

Any interpretation or other multilingual services you offer are useless if the people who need those services don’t know they exist. As well as making them available, it’s also important to promote them in the days leading up to the event, as well as during the event itself.

  • Announce in emails and on social media that interpretation services are available – Include information on what language services are available and which languages are covered. Make sure to also include information on how to access the services.
  • Add similar information to the event FAQ or website.
  • Include detailed instructions on how to access and use language services within the meeting platform or interface.
  • Make sure all information is available in the native languages of your event attendees, as well as in English and/or the official languages of the event.
multilingual hybrid meeting

Make Your Next Multilingual Virtual Meeting a Success

There’s no doubt that planning multilingual virtual meetings takes a little more time and effort. But that time and effort definitely pays off. When you make your corporate events accessible to a wider range of people, you guarantee better remote participation. All attendees can benefit from new perspectives and knowledge shared from all around the globe. Whether it’s an in-house multilingual meeting or an industry-wide event, that’s always a win.

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