What is the interpreters’ booth?
The booth is a specialized see-through mini-room where interpreters have all they need to perform their job best. It is intended for this purpose and it is the industry standard as it is the best possible setting for quality speech interpretation at events of any scale. It is intended not for direct, but for mediated communication.
What makes the booth special?
- it has two consoles (or more for very large events) where interpreters sit during the event;
- it has good sound insulation (shielding the interpreter from the noise and allowing them to only hear and focus on what matters);
- is equipped with professional quality headphones (to hear the speakers as clearly as possible) and microphones (to deliver the speakers’ message to the audience);
- in ideal cases, it offers a clear view of the stage (so that interpreters can better understand speech tone and even read the speakers’ lips if needed);
- pens and paper are available (to help interpreters take helpful notes).
What is a tour guide system?
The tour guide system is designed to help guides tell stories, give instructions, show landmarks or museum exhibits to tourists or visitors. It is designed for mobility and it is meant for direct message delivery to a limited audience.
The tour guide system doesn’t have the same coverage as the booth, for the booth uses specialized devices that transmit the sound on a larger radius, thus covering a larger surface and, consequently, allowing for a larger audience.
When the event takes place in a small room with few participants, the tour guide system could be a compromise solution, but it is not what professionals would advise. It is somewhat better if:
- the interpreter can connect to the audio mixer and thus hear everything the speaker says through headphones;
- the participants have microphones (which is a rare occurence in the tour guide system, where the interpreter usually hears what is spoken in the room without any accessories, only from the existing loudspeaker).
If the interpreting services are required for a tour (delegations and factory tours, for instance), as it offers mobility, the tour guide system is indeed the solution, but this is not the case for stage and seating events.
Tour guide system challenges
Receiving the message
When interpreters use this system at events, they face several challenges that sometimes make their work very difficult. One of these is the good reception of speech, and it is one of the key factors in delivering quality interpreting services. If the interpreter doesn’t hear the message clearly, they cannot interpret. In a setting where the tour guide system is preferred by the organizer of the event the interpreter hears all sounds in the room and has to filter the relevant information through the noise; the speaker’s voice is not delivered to the interpreter through headphones directly from the speaker’s microphone, as it is the case with using a booth. During the event, the speaker may move away from the interpreter and it can be difficult for the interpreter to follow, someone from the audience may whisper with their friend, the acoustic of the room may muffle voices or amplify rustling and all this can become an interpretation nightmare, especially at events that host more than a few people.
Sending the message
On the tour guide system the interpreter has a lavaliere. This is a wearable professional type of microphone that may be of a lower quality and it cannot be easily muted. It is intended to capture all sounds and if the interpreter coughs, breathes a little heavier or drinks water, all of it is transmitted to the listeners’ ears, and it’s usually amplified, so it reaches the audience at an unpleasant volume.
The clear conclusion is that the tour guide system is not a system for simultaneous interpretation, it is for guided tours! While it may seem like an interactive solution, in reality it only adds noise to the message and unnecessary stress to the interpreter.
Why would you choose the tour guide system instead of the booth?
Sometimes event organizers fear the booth cannot fit in the space available or they just don’t want it in the room, as it is not very visually appealing and it poses branding and decor challenges. In these cases, as professionals, we always come up with solutions. We can place the booth outside the room and equip it with a TV screen for live transmission of the speeches. We can find ways to add interactivity to your event whenever necessary, detaching an interpreter in the event hall at the right time (usually for the Q&A sessions) or during all of the event.
We can solve potențial problems and will work with you to make your life as an organizer easier and your event successful.
But please choose the booth!