A Man in a Woman’s World
Being a man in a woman’s world proved no barrier to providing seamless multilingual communication, as Christoph Renfer, Calliope’s Swiss member, discovered at the 29th Global Summit of Women in Basel, Switzerland. The experience showed once again that interpreting is all about trust, and that working harmoniously together client, consultant interpreter and a team of qualified professional conference interpreters can make a decisive contribution to the success of an event.
When Larry Grady, Executive Director of the Global Summit of Women, contacted Calliope Switzerland in early August 2018 to request a quote for interpretation services at the 29th Summit of Women to be held from 4 to 6 July 2019 in Basel, Switzerland, Christoph Renfer, Calliope’s Swiss member, was relieved to have a lead time of eleven months. He expected to have no difficulty putting together a team of qualified conference interpreters covering English, French and German as requested by the Summit’s organiser.
However, Christoph also had a long list of questions that Larry managed to clarify in a first round of emails and a couple of calls. No, the Summit did not require the interpreting team to be exclusively female, because the event was also open to men, although the overwhelming majority of speakers and participants would naturally be women. Yes, there would be additional languages: Chinese, Korean, Russian and Vietnamese. The Calliope team would have to interface with the interpreters covering those languages, who were going to be provided by the delegations of China, Kazakhstan, South Korea and Vietnam. Yes, there would be three parallel breakout sessions apart from the plenary meetings and yes, the Summit would take place at Congress Centre Basel (CCB), Switzerland’s largest convention centre with state-of-the-art conference equipment and spacious built-in booths for all interpreters. And yes, Larry promised to provide scripts and slide decks to help the interpreters prepare for their assignment.
Not a Man’s World
Although the Summit’s leadership had not formally requested female interpreters, all other things being equal, it seemed logical to have a majority of women on the team. The solution: three out of twelve interpreters were male, the reason being that they were all locals and hence available at zero travel and accommodation costs. All the other interpreters were female, eight of them based away from Basel, the Summit’s venue.
The Tower of Basel – well under control
The interface with the interpreters covering Chinese, Korean, Russian and Vietnamese worked smoothly thanks to careful technical preparation and coordination. Before the sessions at which those additional languages were to be offered, Calliope’s team leader checked the settings of the interpreter consoles in all booths with the conference technicians and made sure the relay mode was working properly. This allowed Calliope’s interpreters to translate from one or more of the additional languages into English, German and French.
Breaking Out is Easy to Do
Most of the second and third days were devoted to breakout sessions taking place in three parallel tracks. Three full teams were therefore required covering the official languages of the Summit. Since English was by far the dominant floor language (approx. 95%), only two booths were needed per breakout session, with every booth working back into English in the rare cases when French and German were spoken. This was good news for the Summit’s Executive Director for whom interpreting was just one of the large event’s many budget items.
Knowing the Experts
Calliope Switzerland’s representative found it easy to liaise and work with the technical staff at Congress Centre Basel (CCB). As a local consultant interpreter, Christoph Renfer regularly recruits teams for assignments at the CCB and has developed a trusting relationship with the permanent staff in charge of the CCB’s conference equipment.
Building a Trusting Relationship
The cooperation between the Summit’s Executive Director Larry Grady and Calliope Switzerland’s Christoph Renfer ran smoothly from the very beginning. Communication was seamless and both sides worked hard to support each other in this mutually rewarding endeavour. While the Summit’s Executive Director lived up to his promise to provide preparatory material for the interpreters that Christoph shared with the team members via Calliope’s end-to-end encrypted, password-protected file sync and sharing platform by Tresorit, Calliope Switzerland delivered its service at exactly the price quoted and agreed on eleven months before. By so doing, Calliope not only enabled its client to rely on a dependable interpreting budget but also contributed to global communication across language barriers among the Summit’s 1000+ participants, which, after all, is the global network’s raison d’être.
Larry Grady, Executive Director of the Global Summit of Women, confirms this assessment: “It was a pleasure to work with Christoph and Calliope-Interpreters. Key was pre-event communication which allowed me to “rest easy” about the interpretation, which I could trust would be top-notch. I appreciated Christoph’s and the team’s enthusiasm for and interest in the material presented at the Global Summit of Women. It makes a difference when there is a high level of engagement in the substance of the event from the interpretation team.”
The 29th Global Summit of Women was a huge success and Calliope Switzerland is proud to have been part of this large-scale event. Once again, it has become clear that interpreting is all about trust: from establishing mutual needs and agreeing on the best possible language solution to cooperating seamlessly throughout the event – together, client, consultant interpreter and a team of qualified professional conference interpreters can make the difference.