Today I gave a talk at From the Front in Bologna, Italy. It's the first conference I've spoken at that has been simultaneously interpreted, and over the past few weeks I've been fretting about how it might turn out.

My friend Jessica is a translator and has been an interpreter at events, and she wrote a fantastic post on interpretation for speakers.

interpretation (signed or spoken**) is an issue of accessibility, and this accessibility goes two ways: Interpreters are there to make your presentation accessible to others, but they can only do that if you make your presentation accessible to them.

Jessica's words resonated a lot with me, and I wanted to make my talk as accessible as possible to all the attendees. So I did a few things that I hoped would make the interpreter's job easier:

Normally, I'm working on my slides right up until I'm about to get on stage. I still was today, but I'd sent my slidedeck to the interpreters a week before with my notes so that they could get a feel for what I was talking about. The slides weren't that different on the day, and by forcing myself to complete them well in advance, the days leading up to the conference were much more relaxed.

My original slides had lots of quotes which I don't read out. These quotes aren't intergral to the point I'm trying to get across, they're more just proof that this is what someone other than me has said, so I let the interpreters know that they wouldn't need to read them out either. I also reduced the number of these types of slides and showed examples where possible instead, so the people watching wouldn't have to do two things at once (read while listening). Probably not a problem for someone who speaks English as a first language, but maybe not as easy for someone who has English as a second or third language. Plus, I think that made it a stronger talk.

I also checked that my talk didn't contain any cultural references that people might not get, or jokes that might not translate well (or just weren't funny in the first place). Where I had slides mentioning UK or US-centric organisations, I either explained what those organisations were (rather than assuming they already knew), or swapped them out for a more global example.

I slowed down my delivery. I made sure that the way I spoke was more direct, and that I put greater emphasis on certain words where appropriate, to help get the meaning across. I tried to speak a lot more clearly, and not rush over technical words or acronyms. I used more body language and gestures to help with understanding, and I paused slightly before switching to the next slide, which I normally rush into.

The result was a talk that I felt really, really happy with. By being concious that there was someone sitting across from me who had to turn my words into a different language, I think I also made it easier for everyone to understand. Hearing the distant sound of my words being interpreted was a constant reminder for me to slow down, and maybe take a sip of water to give the interpreter more time to catch up, which I am normally terrible at doing and end up out of breath and parched!

Also, I never really know how to start a talk, so I used the opportunity to thank the interpreters for the job they're doing. And I really appreciate the work that they do – it's a very difficult job.

There's a lot I think I could do better for next time, but fortunately I have another opportunity at Web Expo Prague in a few days time.