THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO MULTILINGUAL ONLINE EVENTS: THE PLATFORMS
After having laid solid foundations for a truly multilingual online event and having put together the best team of interpreters to help you deliver an engaging and smooth experience for your polyglot audience, let’s talk platforms!
A small disclaimer before we proceed: FSL Language Solutions isn’t affiliated in any way to the companies and services listed in this article. These will be reviewed based solely on our experience as a provider of interpreting services for online events since before the start of the pandemic.
After the boom of virtual events, the number of teleconferencing and ad-hoc platforms skyrocketed in a short amount of time. Most of them were already present on the market to a certain degree, but the pandemic really drove a sudden increase in demand, with very different needs compared to before.
Not all platforms were created equal, though, and selecting the right one can make or break your multilingual online event. This chapter of the guide is for you if you want to discover:
What platform is the best for multilingual virtual events?
What online event platform should I use for translation?
Does Zoom have translation?
Let’s start with the bad news: if you want to run a multilingual event, your choices will be quite limited. Most of the platforms out there, in fact, don't offer the live translation function.
This means that popular solutions like Teams or Google Meet, on their own, are automatically off the table.
When it comes to web-based platforms, like Hopin, the market is seeing more and more extensions becoming available, although they are still very much in their beta phase and don’t offer a service solid enough to support the delivery of a full-scale multilingual event. We’ll keep an eye out for them and monitor their progress.
This is why today we’ll mainly focus on the more established options available, who have proven themselves reliable enough over the course of the last two years.
Before we dig in, it’s time for the second disclaimer of this article: many of the RSI (remote simultaneous interpreting) solutions were still in their infancy when the pandemic hit, and have experienced a steep learning curve throughout the pandemic. This means that all platforms and services that enable interpretation are still very much in their developing stages, with new functions being added all the time and improvements being constantly implemented.
As a consequence, there is no ‘perfect’ solution when it comes to RSI for multilingual online events as of yet, and event organisers need to find a compromise between user experience, language constraints and costs.
This is why we’ll analyse the pros and cons of the main players of this sector, giving some pointers on what to take into account before selecting one for your next multilingual online event.
Platforms for multilingual online events
A fundamental distinction must be made between two different types of online platforms that allow for simultaneous interpreting being supplied during multilingual online events: on the one hand we have videoconferencing services with an integrated RSI function, whilst on the other we have RSI-native solutions.
What is the difference?
RSI-native platforms were designed first and foremost to provide interpretation during virtual events, and have been created putting the interpreting service first.
This means they can handle a great number of languages during the meeting, and offer advanced interpreting functionalities, such as relay interpreting*.
They also recreate the environment of the interpreting booth creating a virtual alternative where interpreters have access to all they need to offer a quality service: they can hear their booth partner, they can see the speakers, the room and slides with dedicated audio and video channels, as well as communicating with the AV technician, amongst themselves or the client thanks to ad-hoc live chat - everything is integrated in one platform.
The console is also much more sophisticated, and interpreters can handle most of the routine tasks like muting their microphone, regulating the volume of different audio inputs, and, crucially, requesting the handover to their partner, from the console.
This means the interpretation team is free to concentrate on delivering a great service rather than having to split their attention to fiddle with several different devices to make sure the interpretation runs as smoothly as possible.
Mainstream platforms offering an integrated RSI function focus instead on the delivery experience, on top of which the interpreting is added.
In most cases, RSI is offered as a premium add-on and it’s extremely basic: the function creates separate audio channels for the interpreters which the audience can access with a dedicated menu and nothing more.
This means the interpreting team has to find workarounds to carry out all the crucial tasks we’ve already mentioned, oftentimes using several devices and multiple secondary services, all of which subtracts their attention to the service.
Let’s have a look at some concrete examples of platforms and what they offer, starting from two mainstream services offering an RSI functionality.
Arguably one of the winners of the pandemic, Zoom offers the audience a familiar environment and the organisers a versatile tool to create interactive and customizable events.
Is Zoom a good platform for multilingual events?
Zoom offers a very basic live translation function suitable for remote simultaneous interpreting, with some limitations.
This is available for all Business, Education or Enterprise accounts, otherwise you’ll need a pro subscription with the Zoom Webinar add-on.
There are 9 pre-set language channels, with 5 customisable interpreting channels per event.
Crucially, the function isn’t available in breakout rooms, so keep this in mind when considering the structure of your event!
Another key issue with Zoom’s live interpretation feature is that it doesn’t allow for relay interpreting*. This will impact the language profile of the interpreters you need to book for your event, or you’ll need to ask them to sign in with a second device to listen to the pivot channel**.
PROS: familiar interface, no added costs in most cases, good number of languages.
CONS: the function can be glitchy at times, interpreters aren’t sometimes assigned automatically to their booth, no relay interpreting, interpreters can’t listen to each other.
Another household name in the online events world is Webex - which recently added an interpreting function to its offer.
From a user/host perspective, the function works exactly the same as in Zoom, but the function is much more sophisticated and allows for more flexibility when it comes to the interpreting team:
Interpreters are able to listen to their booth partner and, crucially, to other interpreters, making relay interpreting possible in a streamlined and efficient manner
Interpreters can manage the hand-off at the end of their shift from the platform itself
Another key advantage is that the language interpretation function is available at no extra cost for all Webex accounts.
PROS: no added costs in most cases, good number of languages and functionalities for the interpreting team.
CONS: you need to be familiar with Webex.
How about RSI-native platforms?
We start with Interactio, who became the main provider of interpreting technology for some of the more important EU institutions during the pandemic.
Interactio works as a standalone browser platform, but it can also be integrated in hybrid settings.
Prices start at 450 USD.
Interprefy is one of the oldest solutions on the market, and can be used as a standalone or integrated with Zoom, Skype, Webex, Microsoft Teams, and similar.
Prices start at 200 USD and reach 1600 USD for a full day (8 hours).
Both an online event and an RSI platform, KUDO is the most expensive solution out there, with prices starting at 770 USD and reaching 2225 USD for a full day (10 hours, from set-up).
Both an online event and an RSI platform, VOICEBOXER is a standalone solution.
Prices start at 250 USD and reach 1000 USD for a full day (8 hours) for a 2-language set-up.
Here are the pros and cons of these platforms:
PROS: virtually unlimited number of languages, a more stable and solid interpretation function, good event interactivity.
CONS: familiarity with platforms, cost.
How can you choose the best solution when it comes to your multilingual online event?
Here are a few pointers to take into consideration:
How important is familiarity to you and your audience: if your answer is “a lot!”, then opt for a mainstream solution.
How crucial is the interpretation to the stakes of the meeting: if your answer is “a lot!”, then opt for an RSI-native platform.
How many languages need to be interpreted into/from: if your answer is “many!”, then opt for an RSI-native platform.
What is your budget: if your answer is “restricted!”, then opt for a mainstream solution.
How interactive is your event going to be: if your answer is “a lot!”, then opt for a mainstream solution.
Do you fall somewhere in between? We’re here to help: feel free to reach out for a personalised consultation, thanks to which we’ll help you find the best platform for your online event!