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Serial Learners and Interprefy: Moderator's Notes

In April 2021, I moderated the session entitled "Continuous Professional Development for Conference Interpreters. Do We Need to Bother If We Have Enough Work and There Are No Complaints from the Clients?", which was held as part of the Global Dialogue forum. It was the fourth time that the forum had been held and the first time that it had featured three representatives of the AIIC, the International Association of Conference Interpreters. It was a great honour for us. They even mentioned us on their website.

We used Interprefy, a special interpreting platform, to host the session; my job was to ensure that the discussion was lively and engaging. That is why I am going to talk about the following: first, I'd like to share some tips to help moderators work at such sessions, and second, I am going to tell you what I think of Interprefy.
How a Moderator Can Manage a Discussion
During the session, we talked about working on the foreign language, the accent and some difficult new topics; as a result, we all agreed that continuous learning is essential for all of us. After all, interpreters are serial learners and usually very aggressive ones, according to Michelle Hof.

The discussion was quite lively: none of the panelists turned off the camera, there were many questions from the participants and cross-questions between the speakers. We even went as far as to answer one question from the audience.

I've put together a few of the best life hacks that have helped me as a moderator.
Life Hack 1. Choose a session topic you are well-versed in.

Since I wanted to understand the topic myself, I spent quite a lot of time preparing, communicating with the speakers and thinking through the concept.
Life Hack 2. Make the title of your session controversial:

it will help you gather different opinions. That is exactly what we did with our session: "Do We Need to Bother If There Are No Complaints from the Clients."

During the discussion, participants expressed a variaty of points of view: some said that it was important to keep learning new things, while others complained we shouldn't get the eternal student syndrome.

Why this life hack will be good for you: an unusual topic always attracts more people and gives them a chance to debate, and the moderator is more likely to ask participants questions.
Life Hack 3. Invite speakers who know each other and think along similar lines.
They will enjoy and engage in dialogue with each other.

This time, I made sure to ask one of the speakers in advance who else in their view could be a good fit for the discussion and then invited that person.

Another tip: create a special chat for the speakers. Tell them how you see the overall concept of the meeting and what message you want to get across. In my case, the message was that professional development is important, but sometimes it is even more crucial to work on building self-confidence instead of gaining new knowledge.

This preparatory work is rather time-consuming, but it is a great investment in ensuring your session is lively and unconventional.
Life Hack 4. Keep communication flowing between participants during the session.
That is why I began the meeting by saying that questions from the audience were very important to me, because they help us engage with each other rather than just listen to another online lecture. I also asked the speakers to use mics or the chat room when asking each other questions.

You can also ask speakers to have the video switched on during the whole session, as they can keep up the dialogue and show their agreement or disagreement with other speakers' statements through non-verbal means.
Life Hack 5. Start the discussion well in advance of the session.

Let me explain.

I was keen on attracting more people for the session, so I had started posting about the event on social media to get people to learn about it and join in.

For example, I had posted a selection of educational resources for interpreters. People shared this post and left links to new resources in the comments, and even commented for or against the main idea of the session - "Interpreters should always keep learning."

You might also want to consider carrying out a poll among the participants beforehand. For this session, for example, I organised a poll and asked how much money and time interpreters spend on training. You can share the replies with both speakers and participants.
Thoughts about Interprefy
Interprefy is a cloud-based simultaneous interpretation platform. I hadn't had a chance to use it before, and it really came in handy. Although I had been sceptical about it at first since we already have our good old Zoom, I'm willing to take back any reservations now.

Interprefy has a user-friendly interface and many useful features: chat, polling, channel volume adjustment, possibility to hear your interpreter colleague and control modes for speakers and the audience in the event you are a moderator.
There were some cons, too: a complicated conference login procedure (you have to enter two different passwords to confirm login), and mobile phone viewers can't enjoy all functions available. In the Facebook comments, a Global Dialogue colleague of mine told me that you could log in directly using a link sent via email, but I didn't find out about this until after the session.

In my opinion, Interprefy gets an A-.

In conclusion, I would like to thank the speakers for their amazingly thorough preparation, informative presentations and full engagement in the process:

  • Olga Glotova: an independent interpreter and teacher of English and Russian phonetics;

  • Lyudmila Oberfeld: an independent interpreter, author of a course on mastering new topics for simultaneous interpreters;

  • Julia Poger: a professional translator, AIIC member, author of the Know Your Worth: Understanding Marketing for Interpreters workshop;

  • Chris Guichot de Fortis: Lead NATO Interpreter, AIIC member, Co-director of the Cambridge Conference Interpreting Course,

  • Michelle Hof, an interpreter and trainer, member of the AIIC and AIB Consultant Translator.

Over the next few days of the forum, participants kept thanking me for the session; though, of course, it is our wonderful speakers that deserve all the credit.
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