The continued disruption to business meetings and world travel, and shift of emphasis to virtual meetings and events, has been well documented over the last 18 months. But one critical aspect of this trend that’s less well known has been the shift of corporate budgets from business travel to web-conferencing services that include real-time interpreter services - enabling participants from around the world to interact, learn and share ideas in their native language during the virtual sessions.
If we taken the complex field of life sciences as a case study, it’s easy to see why such services have risen in prominence over the last two years. The intricate, specialist vocabularies, the plethora of industry acronyms, and the subtle variations in emphasis and audience-specific nuances, can trip up even native speakers. Add to the picture the potential impact to patient safety - which leaves little tolerance for misinterpretation - and the demands on healthcare professionals’ time, and the need for high quality interpretation becomes clear.
Interpreting technology advancements
Looking back less than two years, simultaneous interpretation was delivered predominantly, if not almost exclusively, on site. Since then rapid innovations in the field of interpreting have led to impressive advancements. Today, advanced technology solutions that reproduce the functionality of professional conferencing equipment allow us to run multilingual meetings with simultaneous interpretation in fully remote settings. Each meeting participant can interact and listen to the meeting in their desired language.
The user experience, high security and imperceptible latency are critical success factors to meet when it comes to simultaneous interpretation for high-profile meetings.
For the management of multilingual internal and external communication for on-demand and/or scheduled meetings over the phone, as well as remotely and on site, we can rely on fully automated systems from request to invoicing. The requestor can access the system from anywhere, at any time, and connect with an interpreter with the required credentials, thanks to the high precision the interpreting technology guarantees. The selection criteria include, but are not limited to industry and type of meeting or interpreting engagement (and for example therapeutic area or surgical specialty in the healthcare sector). The selection criteria can be customized for each request.
Maximizing international meeting outcomes
Beyond customer-facing interpretation (also known as community/liaison interpreting) needs, demand has soared for highly-skilled interpreters who are also subject matter experts. As the world has adapted to functioning virtually, so have life science companies re-prioritized budgets to get the most from their virtual events - whether symposia, ‘town halls’, remote training events, international sales meetings, quarterly shareholder/investor meetings, or something else. The required language coverage is extensive, too, as might be expected in today’s global business ecosystem across industries, spanning APAC, EMEA and LATAM regions.
These language experts and professional interpreters must come to sessions well briefed and rehearsed, adept in the specifics of the topic at hand. For attendees around the world, this creates an immediate sense of ease and confidence that may be missing where non-native speakers are expected to default to a common business language such as English. Providing such a facility is more empathetic and inclusive, too – and builds engagement from participants, however wide the physical and cultural divide.
In a change management context, or when trying to communicate a new idea, going the extra mile to provide a live translation can make all the difference to the outcomes. After all, it can be hard enough to get the most from a remote meeting even when language isn’t a barrier. It is no wonder, then, that global corporations such as Fortune 500 biotech, med tech and health tech companies are redirecting their events and travel budgets toward professional specialist interpreter services.
Overseas health hotlines
Another area drawing increasingly on live interpretation services involves call centers – specifically those connecting patients to real-time health and advice services in their own language.
Particularly in a post-Covid world, pharma companies are finding that patients are most comfortable discussing symptoms, seeking medical advice, or accessing vaccine or testing-related services in their own language. Again, this is possible thanks to highly-trained interpreters using specialist medical terminology who can act as the bridge between the call center agent and the patient.
In these situations, artificial intelligence (AI) offers substantial value in connecting the call center agents automatically to live interpreters. Every minute counts: shortest ‘call answer time’ being the holy grail that Over the Phone Interpreting seeks to achieve. AI provides a great advantage here, which helps tremendously in ensuring a favorable call experience for both the patient and the HCP.
Faster turnaround times
AI solutions are progressing linguistically too
While specialist professional interpreters are known to be critical in ensuring patient safety, there is a role too for machine-based interpretation: for less mission-critical content where there is some tolerance for imperfection.
Such options can be important for smaller companies with more modest budgets and can meet a tangible need. We’ve seen major biotech, med tech and health tech organizations draw on this option for internal training in manufacturing plants, for instance, where technology can play a powerful role in delivering content to teams in their own language.
AI and neural machine translation (NMT) capabilities are evolving at an impressive pace and there is certainly a strong and growing appetite for solutions which enable smart automation. It’s an area we continue to track closely.
Meeting tomorrow’s interpreting services’ demand today
Across the board, at Acolad, we’ve seen demand for our comprehensive range of specialist interpretation services soar as companies have adapted and, in many cases, permanently changed the way they plan and manage events and meetings. And we’ve been immensely proud of our ability to deliver the scale and caliber of service our clients expect and need during a very challenging time.
That’s because we are able to draw on a global network of 18,000 certified and highly-skilled language professionals (including interpreters, translators, and terminology specialists), capable of delivering high-level language services across a wide range of specialist disciplines and undergo regular training and assessment, under our close supervision. And it’s an area we continue to keenly invest in.