Virtual Events: Time to Leave Your Comfort Zone
Enterprises that used to hold in-person events for customers, employees, partners, or investors had to find ways to move efficiently to a virtual format over the last few months. Despite the challenges, many organizations succeeded at the conversion. How did they do it?
- They pulled together cross-functional teams. They picked people from across the organization based on related knowledge and skills. That’s how many localization managers, who are used to dealing with translation only, were pulled into the event planning team. Reporting structure and responsibilities were not necessarily formalized, but everyone pitched in because they understood the urgency of delivering a superior experience for attendees.
- They relied on skills they had already mastered. When there is no time to research options, test them, and develop processes, the natural tendency is to go with the most familiar option. That explains why a disproportionate number of organizations turned to offline subtitling performed on prerecorded content to offer language support for their events.
As companies pause and reflect on the first wave of events, they realize that they can’t rely on individual heroics each and every time. They are taking stock of what worked well and what didn’t. Organizations that relied on subtitling or narration in a foreign language all struggled with the very narrow window of time between the recording of a session and its broadcast date, especially when presenters were allowed to make changes up until the last minute. Such efforts have left many teams drained and anxious about the next wave of events.
So, what are some alternative offerings that enable real-time language support?
- Live subtitling. While this option is possible, it is not common because it requires a team of simultaneous interpreters to translate orally in real-time and a team of transcriptionists who type what they say. The delay between when the speaker says something versus when the attendee sees it in their language is likely to be well over five seconds. The accuracy is also significantly lower than for offline subtitling and is often cost prohibitive.
- Machine subtitling. Using a combination of voice recognition, transcript cleanup, and machine translation, you can push subtitles on screen for a fairly minimal cost. There will be more quality issues, but the performance will not necessarily be far behind that of live human services. This approach tends to best support non-native speakers of the presentation language who need occasional assistance and who are willing to forgive some contextual mistakes.
- Simultaneous interpreting. For on-site events, the service is called “conference interpreting,” but when going virtual, you need to rely on what is called a “remote simultaneous interpreting platform.” These systems enable you to produce an audio language track that attendees can listen to with a very minimal delay. While interpreters prepare ahead of the sessions, presenters can make last-minute changes to their script because the linguists deliver the service in real-time based on the words that come out of the speaker’s mouth.
- Machine interpreting. This service relies on the same logic as machine subtitling, adding a voice synthesis step at the end of the process. Realistically, few people use machine interpreting. Most people prefer to read subtitles in their language rather than listen to a synthetic voice render machine translation.
To help organizations navigate through the various options available to enable real-time language support, CSA Research has developed a guide entitled “Multilingual Virtual Events.”
We also published an in-depth analysis of 18 remote simultaneous interpreting (RSI) platforms to help event planners decide which RSI solution will best assist them based on their event format (“Remote Simultaneous Interpreting Platforms”). While you may expect that there is one best solution that wins it all, that’s not the case. As documented in our earlier blog on RSI, you have to make a series of decisions that then dictate which solutions you should consider.
What’s important at this stage is for you to gain experience with services you may be less familiar with. This will expand the range of solutions you have available to deliver strong experiences for event attendees but also adds flexibility for presenters if changes are likely to happen until the last minute. Many complex multi-day events tap into various offline and real-time services to deliver language support based on the content and importance of each session.
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