When connecting is key: multilingual virtual conferences

Connectivity has never been more important. Companies are outgrowing their countries’ borders, colleagues no longer work in the same office and customers are spread across the globe. Reporting lines get stretched, languages are more diverse and competition appears in new places, waiting for the slightest mistake to lure the customer or employee to their organisation. Because let’s be honest, now that the internet is available worldwide and that it has billions of users, we all get access to a wide range of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, one flashier than the other. This brings us to the fundamental question that organisations are struggling with in this day and age: how do we stay connected with our target groups?

The answer to this question used to be quite straightforward: everyone was convened for a meeting.  Be it a staff party, a presentation for customers or a conference for a particular target group, organising a nice event did the trick to keep everyone on the same page. This is no longer valid, though. Live events are not totally passé yet, but the larger and the more international the organisation, the harder it becomes to get everyone in the same place at the same time . Not to mention the price tag that comes along with that.

Webinars were a good alternative at the outset, especially for smaller events held in one language. For multilingual events, however, only the labour and budget-intensive on-site option existed, and organisations lacked the time, the money and the manpower to make them happen. This resulted in a lose-lose situation, as organisations disengaged from their target groups and the latter reverted to organisations that did give them the attention they were craving for. These international organisations and companies asked us for a solution, and it is exactly what we developed together with our partners.

Multilingual webinars

Live interpretation is added to an online platform. Think Skype, spiked with professional conference interpreters, presentation and chat functionalities. Participants do not require special hardware. A laptop or smartphone suffices for them to log in and participate in the webinar from anywhere in the world and in the language of their choice. Moreover, the event can be recorded, including the interpretation, so it can easily be replayed afterwards. This platform is perfect for smaller events such als internal financial updates,  but is is also very well suited for larger happenings like shareholder meetings.

B2B Marketers are big webinar fanatics. A staggering 62% of B2B marketers use them as part of their content management strategy[1]!

Multilingual conference calls

These are conference calls with simultaneous interpretation. No specific hardware is required, even an old-fashioned telephone does the job. This platform is mostly used for conference calls with few participants or as an alternative to webinars when participants do not have a reliable internet connection. Think of NGOs having to brief people in remote locations, or of short discussions with customers or colleagues who speak a different language. These calls can also be recorded and replayed after they are finished.

Hybrid meetings

We can of course also combine the live and virtual meeting alternatives. What if half of the participants can participate in the live event, while the others want to participate from other locations? We link the live event to our online platform, so that participants can engage from wherever they are, with or without interpretation. Speakers do not have to be present at the conference venue, they can also use the platform to give their presentation to an audience that has gathered elsewhere

Remote interpretation

A live event is the only option, but the venue does not have the capacity to install booths. Should you leave interpretation out altogether? Will everyone understand the exchanges? We can invite all interpreters to one of our technical  hubs, and stream the interpretation to the participants in the meeting room. Interpreters  follow the event and the presentations thanks to a live video feed and they interpret everything as if they were present at the venue.

What is the added value of these virtual and hybrid solutions?

We have already explained how virtual platforms can be used. Are there any statistics that confirm their added value? In 2011, Citrix Online published the conclusions of their research at the American Institute for Certified Tax Consultants. The study shows that the use of webinars reduced travel costs by $100.000, emissions by 200 ton per year, while their employees’ productivity increased substantially.

Do we actually need translations? Everyone speaks English nowadays, right?

Nelson Mandela once said: “When you talk to someone in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” A study by the Common Sense Advisory, market researcher for the language industry, shows that 72% of consumers is more prone to buy a product that is offered to them in their own language[2]. The same piece of research states that 56% of consumers say that the ability to to obtain information in their own language is more important than price. Need we say more?

Communication strategy

So should we organise everything in the virtual environment from now on, and have everything translated in all of the world’s languages? Of course not. Organisations have to define target groups and analyse whether multilingual virtual platforms add value and foster engagement. The importance of real-life meetings should by no means be underestimated, and translations do not add value in every situation. But when organisations use virtual communication technologies strategically and add interpretation where needed, they will find that they can efficiently interact with people who were out of reach up until then. They will also take some pressure off their employees’ shoulders, as they will have to spend less valuable time hanging around in airports, hoping that their flight leaves in time.

We help our customers develop an effective  communication strategy and make our digital platforms available to them so that they can connect with their target groups. The results of this approach have proven that when each of the partners contributes their expertise, the sum is greater than the parts.

Would you like to us to help you analyse your communication strategy or would you like to register for one of our free demos? Contact Gerard Jansen at: +31 6 2919 6053

maaike villavicencio Author Maaike Villavicencio helps organisations to shape successful multilingual events. She uses her experience as a professional conference interpreter and event planner to let customers shine at their events. Language expert, runner and blog writer. Specialized in the organization of European Works Council meetings, live and online.

[1] B2B Content Marketing:2014 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends – North America
[2] Common Sense Advisory “Can’t read, won’t buy: why language matters on global websites”, 2014