evoke Blog

Vernon Roberts is an author, master instructor, coach and speaker. He founded Evoke in 2003.

5 Tips for Speaking Through an Interpreter

5 Tips for Speaking Through an Interpreter

Vernon Roberts interviews Peter Floyd, Experienced Interpreter

As the business world becomes increasingly more global, you may find yourself in a situation where your language is not spoken by your target audience. If you don't successfully bridge the communication divide, your virtual presentation won't have the impact and the outcomes that you intended.

While I was teaching a presenting and messaging workshop last week, one of my participants presented mainly through an interpreter and wanted to know the best ways to be successful in these situations. After that workshop, I sat down with Peter Floyd, an experienced interpreter and Spanish department head at a private school in Charlotte, NC. Peter is also an engaging speaker. Here are Peter's 5 tips for speaking through an interpreter.


1. Connect With Your Audience

Look at your audience when speaking so you can make a connection. Eye contact is vital so you can get visual feedback from the audience. Show emotion in your presentation to help the interpreter really understand the context. This gives the interpreter something to work with. Don't give away your role as a communicator of passion simply because you have an interpreter. 

2. Be Clear

Speak plainly with no fancy words and be very clear in your points. Speak in shorter sentences for a brief sound bite that ends with a logical thought, then stop and look at the interpreter. It's important that both of you get in a rhythm. It's a dynamic process and you and the interpreter have to get in sync with each other. If you do this you might find that on some occasions you'll go for longer stretches and on other occasions, for shorter segments. 

3. Prepare Your Interpreter

The interpreter needs to know the key ideas, technical terms and the structure of the talk. If appropriate, send him or her a copy of the presentation in advance. Also, regardless of how busy you are, make time to go over your slides with the interpreter in person before delivering it. If it’s a particularly technical talk, try to include a native professional in the field in that conversation. He can give the interpreter some pointers on key terms. Sometimes the client doesn't realize how important this meeting with the interpreter is, so it's your job as the presenter to request to meet with the interpreter.

Treat interpreters with great respect and they will back you up. If you're a dud, they'll go to great lengths to make sure you sound good anyway!  

4. Avoid Jokes and Word Play

Jokes can fall flat in another culture. Avoid puns. They are untranslatable. Avoid other word play, which is also usually untranslatable.  For example: "Ladies and gentlemen, remember the principle of the three P's." The problem is that the first word with P in English, starts with a K sound in the target language; the second, with an M sound; the third, with a V sound. If the presenter goes on and on about the three P's, the presentation unravels. 

5. Keep a Slower Pace

If you have a simultaneous interpreter (sitting in a booth with earphones and a microphone), slow down. Spanish, for example, requires more syllables than English. If the speaker in English speaks at average speed, the interpreter can speak fast in Spanish. But if the speaker in English speaks fast, the interpreter has to start editing him, cutting out details. In an important presentation, where every point is critical, you don't want your interpreter making editing decisions.

The best advice ... If you forget all else, just remember to be the best presenter you can be. It's difficult to interpret for a poor speaker, but easy to interpret for a really good one.

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Thursday, 27 February 2020

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