Pivoting to Multilingual Online Events
Enterprises that were used to holding in-person events for customers, employees, partners, or investors have been taken by surprise by the social distancing rules and reluctance to travel due to COVID-19. They must figure out – and fast – how to deliver rich participant experiences in a virtual format. And that is a tall order. Many localization teams have been forced to create miracles in short time frames to transition multi-day, on-location extravaganzas to similarly engaging virtual events.
Behind Every Challenge Lies Opportunity
When tasked with pivoting in-person events online, you may fear all the downsides. Face-to-face networking and sponsorships won’t be as effective. Buzz around the event will be tougher to generate, especially when attendees must give up the business vacation option. Virtual attendees are often more distracted. In short, you will not capture the same level of energy, attention, and participation as you would in person.
However, all is not lost. Our research shows that you also have a lot to gain.
- Broader reach of the experience. Moving online allows you to attract participants who were not able to attend previous events. Because these conferences may have lower registration fees, you may also end up with a larger audience overall. One organization reported that it drew 80,000 registrants and 56,000 actual attendees with their online event as opposed to its in-person conference that normally garnered only around 10,000 attendees.
- Language support as a way to engage and impress. You can add subtitles, dub a video ahead of time, or provide interpreting real-time or even after the fact. Our research shows that many organizations whose events were strictly in English are considering adding languages for their remote events as a way to wow participants. Those who already offered a multilingual component are now adding more languages and more multilingual session types.
- Increased year-round ability to reach customers. Virtual events do not have to follow the three days in a row format to be worth the travel. You can leverage them to offer regular touchpoints with participants to maintain and expand their engagement throughout the year.
- Ease of adding accessibility services. Virtual event technology may offer built-in accessibility tools and integrations with third-party applications. This allows greater accessibility to the deaf, deafened, and hard-of hearing via sign language interpreting or captioning. Captions also increase comprehension for people whose primary language isn’t the one used for the event.
Note: Captioning refers to the same language on screen as the language being spoken. Subtitling refers to a different language on screen than the language being spoken.
Understanding the New Range of Services Available to You
Our recent report on Multilingual Virtual Events enables organizations to make quicker, more informed decisions around multilingual support for event scheduling, format, platform selection, and presentation logistics. It’s no longer just about translation and localization services. There are a range of new offerings – whether delivered by professional linguists or artificial intelligence – that may be confusing, especially if you’ve never had a chance to experience them firsthand.
- Offline work performed by humans. Assuming you have ample time between the recording of the content and the event itself, you may want to use: 1) captioning services to provide accessibility in the language of the event; 2) subtitling to support attendees who want to read the presentation in their language; or 3) dubbing or voiceover to enable participants to listen to the content in their language. Subtitling can be performed ahead of time with a standard script translation process followed by input of the translation in a subtitling program. Dubbing and voiceover also involve a script translation process but are enhanced by voice talent recording the accompanying soundtrack in a studio.
- Offline work performed by AI. In the context of virtual events, we are seeing minimal use of machine processes for content ready well ahead of time except for a small amount of machine captioning and machine subtitling.
- Live work performed by humans. This meets short-notice or real-time delivery needs. Captioners use specialized technology to maintain the pace. Live subtitling is possible, technically speaking, but is not common – it requires transcriptionists to type what simultaneous interpreters are saying in real time. Simultaneous interpreting, during which the conference participant listens to the conference on a special audio track, is the mainstream practice.
- Live work performed by AI. Various machine-generated permutations enable real-time delivery of captioning, subtitling, and interpreting, all rendered through artificial intelligence. Don’t assume that AI output is not yet ready for prime time. While not perfect, AI services are not that far behind human services. They have their place and present non-negligible benefits tied to being able to offer multiple languages for a minimal cost.
Note: AI processes are a combination of voice recognition, automated script cleanup, machine translation, and voice synthesis to output what is being said. Depending on where you stop in the process, you will have different outputs. Realistically, few people use machine interpreting. Most people prefer to read subtitles in their language rather than listen to a synthetic voice render the machine translation.
If you’ve missed our live demos of some of these services, you can catch them on-demand at our research platform: remote simultaneous interpreting, live captioning and sign language, and automated captioning/subtitling/machine translation. Experiencing the various service options for yourself will help you make multilingual support decisions faster and with more confidence. For offline work ahead of time, don’t miss our Video Localization report.
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