Using an Interpreter for a Presentation

If you are giving a presentation with an interpreter for the first time, here are some suggestions on how to make your event a success.

It is extremely important that you, the speaker, be prepared in advance. Help the interpreter by providing an advance copy of your speech including a PowerPoint presentation, written speech, and speaking notes. If you can not provide these in advance, at least provide an outline. A good interpreter will translate the materials before the event to be prepared.

Discuss the speech with your interpreter and explain any surprises such as technical terms, formulas, or numbers. If you can, provide written copies of any technical terms, formulas or numbers for the interpreter to refer to during your presentation.

While you are speaking, position yourself so the interpreter can see you but make sure to face the audience. You need to maintain the connection to the audience while also letting the interpreter see your expressions and gestures. Make sure you speak loudly and clearly. Speak at a moderate pace and allow the interpreter time to adjust to your accent. A good speed is 80 words per minute (about 8 – 10 typed lines). Arrange signals for the interpreter to let you know if you are speaking too fast. Watch for these signals and adjust to make sure you are speaking clearly, loudly and slowly. Prearranged signals are useless unless used.

Allow for pauses. Interpreters dread speakers who talk fast and have no punctuation especially when the speaker uses a lot of numbers and formulas.

Avoid slang, colloquialisms and abbreviations. We know that “take the bull by the horns”, “hit a home run”, and “be a top dog” all sound great in English. But, your non-English speaking audience won’t get the meaning. Instead, use clear language such as “take initiative” or “to be the best” that can be interpreted and understood by all.

Use humor wisely and discuss your topic in advance with the interpreter to see if the humor is culturally appropriate. If not, there may be a way to modify it. If you don’t have a chance to discuss the humor in advance, you are better off skipping it.

Using an interpreter during a presentation can be an exciting and challenging occurrence. As long as you are prepared and use a qualified interpreter, you will be successful. Rapport International, a full service translation and interpretation company based in metro-west Boston, is a great source for all your multi-lingual needs. Rapport can provide interpretation done by experienced interpreters in over 100 languages.

Categories: Spoken Communications


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