Selecting an Interpretation Services Vendor * Ask what level of interpreters the vendor would provide for your meeting. If your meeting is technical in nature, you don't want a court-level interpreter.

* Ask how the vendor selects its interpreters, rather than asking for interpreter resumes. Resumes are usually not up-to-date. The representatives should be able to explain the qualification process to you and what kind of credentials their interpreters have. For conference interpretation, look for professional affiliations like AIIC (International Association of Conference Interpreters) and TAALS (The American Association of Language Specialists). If the vendor cannot explain the process, you will not know what you are getting.

* Ask for references from similar meetings. You will want to be certain that the vendor has a track record of matching the most appropriate interpreters with its clients' needs. A vendor who has the ability to staff your meeting with interpreters who are familiar with your business and industry will better ensure the success of the interpretation.

* Find out exactly who your bidders are. Are they audiovisual companies and language schools that offer interpretation on the side or companies that specialize in providing interpretation services?

* Ask vendors to explain their price, whether high, low, or somewhere in between. The answer should include information about the qualifications of interpreters and type of equipment they are providing. Be clear on exactly what is included in the price and what charges are additional. Be sure to compare this information among bidding companies.

* Ask what type of interpretation equipment the vendor uses. Find out more than simply whether the system is infrared or FM (radio frequency). Ask who the manufacturer is, and why the vendor chooses to use this equipment. Ask about the sound quality of the system and the likelihood of interference. If you select a system that does not meet I.S.O. (International Standardization Organization) standards, you risk such interference during your meeting and sub-standard working conditions for the interpreters.

* Ask if there will be an interpretation equipment engineer--not just an AV technician--on-site full time to operate and monitor the equipment. Leaving a full set-up of equipment (with booths, interpreter consoles, and so on) without trained supervision puts the success of the interpretation at risk. Only whisper systems for very small groups are generally operated without the aid of an engineer.

How to Ensure On-site Success With Interpreters Appoint one knowledgeable person to coordinate with the interpreters, equipment engineers, hotel staff, and meeting planner (before, during, and after the meeting).

Provide your interpreters with background material, in each language, well in advance of the meeting. This information will give the interpreters a good command of the subject matter and intended messages, as well as help them clearly understand the speakers. Include the following nine items to ensure success: * A comprehensive agenda, detailing the order in which presentations are to be delivered and clearly noting all scheduled breaks

* Transcripts of all presentations, or, when not scripted in advance, detailed outlines or synopses (If some speakers choose to refer only to notes, these notes must be provided in legible form to the interpreters in advance.)

* Glossaries of preferred terminology in each language

* Registration materials, bro-chures, and all other documentation sent to the attendees in advance

* Handouts and other materials that will be given to attendees on site

* Transcripts of audiovisual presentations

* Technical and promotional material regarding the products and services to be discussed

* Minutes from previous meetings on the same subject

* Curricula vitae for key speakers

Plan an advance briefing with the interpreters to answer any questions they may have about your industry's terminology, the agenda, or any other issue. This briefing is usually held in person on the day of the meeting. If possible, you should include your speakers in this meeting as well to answer specific questions that might arise.

Successful conference interpreting is a team effort--introduce the interpreters and the equipment engineers to your staff before the meeting.

Use only interpretation equipment that meets the specifications of the International Organization for Standardization. This will ensure that your interpreters have adequate working conditions--in terms of booth size, lighting, ventilation, and so on--to perform effectively.

Use a technician-controlled delegate microphone system for interactive discussions. And make sure to tell your speakers to always speak into the microphone so the interpreters can hear them clearly.

Control discussions by using a chairperson to recognize speakers. Only one voice can be interpreted at a time, and the interpreter must know whose voice to interpret next.

Position the interpreters so they have a clear, unobstructed view of the speakers and of any projection screens or displayed reference materials.

Schedule periodic coffee and meal breaks during the day. Interpretation requires tremendous concentration and can be exhausting. Breaks will allow the interpreters to return refreshed and help to maintain a high degree of accuracy.