A few years back, I shared some opinions and best practices dealing with telephonic interpreting on this portal. These came from a world in which 'remote' was not yet a relevant alternative to on-site interpreting. Old school telephonic typically holds limited currency in the hands of a mature conference interpreter, yet it can be a way for newbies to gain experience and connections. Now that remote interpreting has arrived, I've come to believe in its ongoing value for select parts of the conference interpreting market. Here's one interpreter's comparison of best practices for telephonic and remote interpreting.
I'm talking here about just three areas...
Telephonic best practice: Have a rock-solid cancellation policy with your client/agent, because clients will likely cancel more often than for face-to-face events.
Cancellation policies are important in any contract situation. Yet, for telephonic projects, it's super easy for clients to cancel for reasons that don't work in face-to-face environments. For example, a client could easily cancel a meeting with a simple 'Sorry, something came up. We have to reschedule.' This leaves the interpreter all dressed up, and no party to go to.
Remote projects seem to sit in the middle ground in terms of ease of cancellation. Not cancelled as often as telephonic projects, but more often than face-to-face projects. For this reason, it's still important to establish norms regarding what happens where a project is cancelled, especially for tricky situations, like a cancellation just prior or even as a project begins.
Remote best practice: Maintain that rock-solid cancellation policy, but be willing to customize where justified. The win-win outcome must exist for all parties.
Next up: Visual Clues
Telephonic best practice: Because visual clues are limited, focus on designing clear and consistent intonation change in your voice as your spoken turns end.
I prefer when everyone can see each other (at least in CI settings), and discussed the interactional benefits of this here before. The idea is that shared viewability makes it easier for an interpreter to establish rapport and for all parties to know the best time/way to start speaking. Telephonic means that speaker transfer happens without the benefit of visual cues, so alternate cues, like intonation, become super important.
In the remote environment, an interpreter may have the option to be on video. I generally keep my video closed during meetings, except for just before and afterwards where possible. A short time on video seems to go a long way towards building rapport. Honestly, I don't pay much attention to how I might adjust my intonation during an event, as I'm fully oriented towards the act of interpreting. But supposing speaker transfer became an issue, this is one of the first things I'd focus on.
Remote best practice: Look for ways to develop rapport with meeting members, no matter in how seemingly small or short a manner. Monitor turn exchange and adapt accordingly by integrating deliberate strategy with prosodic elements.
And finally: Preparation
Telephonic best practice: Treat telephonic with the same, or better, care of preparation as you would in an on-site environment.
Calls tend to be focused on the business at hand, commonly sidelining social projects, like small talk. This makes for rather pointed and linear conversation. Preparation helps here, because the context around a topic may not be eased into, but rather rushed into - leaving the interpreter little room to access words and concepts hidden in the nether regions of memory.
The remote interpreting experience is quite different. For one, remote meetings are commonly scheduled over days or even weeks - just as happens with traditional conference interpreting work. Many meetings allow for small talk, especially as people log onto the meeting platform. As far as the pointed or linear nature of meetings, I've seen examples both tight and loose.
Remote best practice: The interpreter is best situated if prepared to go with the flow of things as they unfold and be sure to take advantage of any rapport building opportunities made available by the simplest of actions, like being present as others are logging on.
I found it interesting to go back and read my prior post on telephonic interpreting. Honestly, I'm surprised to find that I bothered to write up any thoughts on the subject. The mode never became a cash cow. Perhaps it's simply a relic of a time in which I was less confident in my position in the conference interpreting market. Remote, however, seems to be a mode with some staying power. For the time being, it seems worthy of careful consideration as it, and the services we provide, evolve towards a changed world.
Photo: Taken by Michael Grez. Copyright Intran Solutions LLC, 2021