Effective Stage Interpreting

Stage interpreting is conveying the message with the right words, tones, gestures, and body language from beside the speaker. It is, in fact, the mimicking of the speaker in the target language and culture. It works best when the interpreter is considered as a partner.

Such presentation brings more attention to the interpreter so it is imperative to provide the conditions necessary for a quality service. It serves the shared interest of the audience, the speaker, the organizers, and the interpreter.

Before the event

Arrangements well in advance

When the need for stage interpreting comes up, discuss your ideas with the interpreter well in advance. This will provide a better chance for availability.


One major key to success is being well-prepared. For that, we need all available written, audio and video materials as well as instructions. The organizer should also provide a comprehensive picture about the background, purpose, and target audience of the speaker, the speech, and the event.


If there are presentations involved, they need to be translated beforehand. We do suggest translation by the interpreter (for an additional fee) because this will help the preparation while also getting a quality service. If the translation is done by someone else, the interpreter must receive it well in advance to be able to review it and make comments about it. If there are changes recommended, there should be time allowed for editing.


It is always useful if we can have a brief personal discussion with the speaker before the speech. This is to be done in a quiet environment. If possible, schedule 10–15 minutes for that.

During the event


In events exceeding a few hours in length, proper catering is usually provided by the organizer. For multiday events, proper hotel accommodation is also to be provided for the nights affected.

Dressing room

Stage interpreting is a rather stressful work so we do need a separate dressing room near the speaker’s dressing room.


Interpreters run on water. (Obviously, still water.) Provide a couple of unopened 500 ml bottles per half days.

In-ear monitor

It may seem utterly obvious, but a surprisingly high number of organizers forget the fact that interpreters, first and foremost, must lean on their ears. This means, they need to hear the speaker really well. Even when he/she speaks with a lowered voice, turning away. It is NOT a professional solution if the interpreter always has to look at and read the speaker’s lips.

A suitable monitor is needed – the best solution is the in-ear monitor. In it, the interpreter needs to hear the speaker’s and his/her own voice (and anybody else’s who needs interpreting, e.g. people asking questions or making comments from the audience).

If traditional monitor systems are used, ‘deaf spots’ are to be eliminated (these are spots on stage where monitor speakers cannot be heard, e.g. the edge of the stage), as there are speakers who love to speak from unconventional spots. The worst possible scenario is when the speaker goes down from the stage while speaking.


It is very useful if there is a speaker’s screen where projected images and the video footage can be followed. This will help the interpreter to follow the motion without having to look at the speaker (or the presentation without turning around).


If special terminology is to be followed, communicate it well in advance, don’t leave it to the last minute.

Entire message

The interpreter’s task is to convey the whole message in the target language and culture, in an authentic way. This can cause situations where the organizer thinks the interpreter is supposed to ‘filter out’ some of the things being said.

Holding a Bachelor of Theology degree and being a practicing preacher myself, some speeches do while others don’t fit into my biblical view. However, irrespective of such circumstances, my job is to precisely convey the entire message and that is what I try to do – even if I consider the message ‘heresy.’ The audience should not be able to detect it in any way whether or not I agree. This is the only way to rule out mental blocks that interrupt flow and momentum.

After the event


Being a conscious professional, I highly regard feedback about my work. It is one of the ways to learn and become better. I’ll be happy to receive at least a brief written summary of my strengths and weaknesses. I also collect endorsements on my website.

Images and videos

It is extremely useful, and I do appreciate it, if I can receive images and videos, which I can use in marketing my services.