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Habla español? Featured

12:59pm EDT February 26, 2002
When planning a conference, trade show, or convention, don't ignore the needs of attendees from other countries. Make the effort to accommodate them, and not only will the event run more smoothly, you'll earn the participants' attendance at future events as well.

Pre-registration

Offer interpreters. Attendees often hire their own, but you can also make arrangements for them. On pre-registration materials, include a checkbox to request an interpreter for a set amount of time for a fee, and contract with a professional interpretation firm.

Assessment

From pre-registration materials, determine where attendees are from and what languages they speak.

Get professional translations of simple instructions like how to check into hotels, obtain registration packets and get to the event site. Send the translated material to attendees early.

On-site

Provide greeters with printed translations of basic questions such as, "What's your name?" and "Have you found your hotel yet?"

If possible, prepare for a United Nations-style headset arrangement and use professionals skilled at simultaneous interpretation. As a second option, have copies of the opening speeches translated into the appropriate languages and include them in registration packets.

Arrange for several interpreters to be available during event hours at a central location. They can assist with basics like negotiating transportation to and from the event and improving face-to-face business meetings.

Set up a place where international attendees can relax and read magazines from their countries, enjoy familiar foods and beverages, and even watch the international cable channel.

Off-site

Arrange for hotels to provide interpreters. See if a bank will set up a temporary money exchange counter at the hotel with the most international participants, and ask your translation service to create culture-specific welcome packages for guests. Kristine Wilson is president of Languages Unlimited Inc. She can be reached at 228-3336 or www.languagesunlimitedinc.com.