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How to use video-conferencing successfully for global communications

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in Education and Training

Video conferencing has helped to revolutionise how employees communicate with each other, allowing businesses to interact irrespective of where they are in the world. From market research to e-learning, the ability to engage with audiences in their native language delivers highly interactive and personalised communication. 

Programs such as Skype and Google Hangouts are making it easier for staff to collaborate with their global colleagues and complete group work visually rather than being forced to use phone calls.  

For a number of years now, companies have been relying on these video technologies to communicate and make well-informed business decisions, but interpreting is a challenge that many companies have not been able to tackle through the medium. A successful multi-lingual video conferencing experience is not as simple as connecting with another colleague. The structure and style of these sessions need to be properly planned to maximise the benefits of video, with time difference, video quality and translation the three most important factors to take into account.

Smart Videoconferencing: New Habits for Virtual Meetings by Joanne Barlow, Peta Peyer and Lewis Barloer explores these considerations, offering key advice to make sure global calls run as smoothly as possible.

“It is easy to offend someone from your own cultural group – when you intend to offend. It is even easier to offend someone outside your cultural group – without ever knowing you did so,” the book reads.

The authors advise that more time should be allocated to international colleagues, especially if you do not have the benefit of knowing their personal history, as it is challenging to smooth over communication difficulties with people that are not known personally.

“Determine how close you can get without being offensive – before your video conference begins. Find out how people want to be addressed: by the use of titles, for example, or by surnames,” the book advised.

Professional interpreting is often seen as an additional and premium resource; however, the benefits of time savings, reduced travel costs and communication effectiveness realised far outweigh the cost of interpreting.

How to introduce multi-lingual video calls

One approach that can prove to be effective are multi-lingual focus groups, which allow workers to engage in detailed discussions about decisions and make sure they take all of their team’s opinions into account. A focus group is generally used to move a group of users towards a consensus over a particular topic and it is important that they use specialised interpreting services to ensure everyone involved has a good understanding of the topic.

By allowing team members to engage in conversation in their preferred language, they are often able to express themselves more clearly and this ensures that the true sentiment of all participants is captured.

When interpreting video in focus groups, it is important that companies look into the cultural differences between different offices and make sure they tailor the experience to suit their needs.

Appointing a call moderator and interpreter ensures that the conversation flows to the planned agenda and that all participants are engaged throughout the call. 

Barbara Moser-Mercer from the University of Geneva has written at length about the topic in the Handbook of Translation Studies, which advises businesses on how they can interpret video calls effectively with minimal mistakes. 

Ms Moser-Mercer explained that experienced translators focus on target-language-related issues in the post-draft phase, but do not pay much attention to accuracy. 

“In the drafting phase, some translators consider several possible wordings, then finally write one of these down and move on to the next sentence; some do not ponder much but instead write down a hasty translation and move on to the next sentence,”the author explained. 

It is absolutely vital that companies use interpreters who are confident and efficient at translating video communications. Specialists must also have a strong understanding of how to localise their language and consider all cultural differences. 

After each video conference, perhaps send out a survey to gain feedback on the experience and look at where you can make improvements. This way, you can gradually improve your video conferences until they exceed expectations.

Overall, video conferencing can be a massive advantage to any multi-national company, though it needs to be planned efficiently. 



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