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June 3, 2009

Jo Debono:We could all be better communicators

The chairman of Congress Rental Network says that these days there is no excuse for the effectiveness of meetings and events to be stifled by the language barrier.

In today’s complex world of rapid change and economic uncertainty, the way we interrelate and exchange information with our global neighbours has never been more important. It is clear that the more we can constructively communicate with each other regardless of cultural, geographical, racial and linguistic barriers the more we can achieve both individually and collectively.

This simple truth was acknowledged by Stephen Hawking, the world’s foremost theoretical physicist and mathematician, when he said: “Speech has allowed the communication of ideas, enabling human beings to work together to build the impossible. Mankind's greatest achievements have come about by talking and its greatest failures by not talking.”

Found in translation
Good quality communication is, therefore, the essential prerequisite to enable understanding, trust and cooperation between people who do not share the same language or cultural traits.

This is nowhere more apparent than at large multinational conferences where the words of the speakers need to be translated clearly and accurately in real time. Get this wrong, and not only will the costs of staging the conference be potentially wasted, but the delegates will go away feeling frustrated and dissatisfied.

The right tools
One of the keys to success in arranging any multicultural conference is dependent on the charisma and quality of the keynote speakers, but if the supporting technology is not adequate, then the message, and the opportunity, will be lost.

High-quality audio visual technologies, coupled with the best ‘simultaneous interpretation equipment’ and personnel to enable instant language translation are essential.

The technical systems chosen to do this job must be reliable, scalable and robust enough to cope with a variety of venues and situations.

Factors for success

A good example was provided by the opening ceremony of the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) in February 2009, the largest defence exhibition staged in the Middle East. This is a hugely prestigious event and logistically challenging event, attracting more than 50,000 visitors, 150 delegations and 897 exhibitors from 50 different countries.

The Opening Ceremony is held in a large outdoor stadium, which means that the conference organisers must take account of weather and temperature fluctuations, while ensuring that reliable, clear and faultless communication systems are in place.

At IDEX, as well as similar forums and conferences the world over, there are a number of factors to be considered in order to ensure the event is a success.

Effective communication
Technology should be viewed not as the ‘solution’, but rather as an ‘enabler’. Successfully implemented technical solutions by the local Congress Rental Network member ensured that conference attendees could focus on the agenda and the key content without having to worry about annoyances like poor quality sound or translation services.

At the heart of all communications systems is the need to bring together the technology and the spoken word translation experts, while understanding that people are different.

Good quality communication must appear effortless and translators must be able to convey not just content, but the myriad subtleties of each country’s rich linguistic heritage, creating a bridge between speaker and listener.

Only across this bridge can truly effective communication take place.

Jo Debono is chairman of Congress Rental Network.

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