Conference Preparation 2.0

Take preparation up a notch by collaborating with fellow interpreters on the web.

Photo credits: © Ivelin Radkov -

Preparing for an interpreting job can be hard enough as it is. Most often the subject matter is tricky, there is not enough material coming in from the client – or too much material! - and your busy schedule doesn’t always permit the leisure of undisturbed research and study time. But whether this is a two-person job with your very favourite colleague or whether you’ve just been named as chef d’équipe of a team of 10 for a five-day job with 4 parallel workshops going on at any given time, you can make your life easier by sharing files and creating glossaries online.

One important issue is managing incoming documents. Clients nowadays tend to send digital files, which is great. However, things can start to fall apart when there is a flood of documents of various levels of importance coming in, or when documents keep getting changed and updated. Nobody likes their inbox overflowing with e-mails titled “Re: Re: Fwd: NEW: updated - Agenda Version 5”, and you also run the risk of accidentally using an outdated file with obsolete information. An easy way to keep track of your documentation and make all files available to every team member is to use Dropbox or Google Drive. Both are cloud-based storage systems, and both are free – at least to a certain extent. You can organise the conference documents in folders and give your colleagues access to them. Take care to restrict access though, for example by making them invite-only – you don’t want the clients’ confidential files to end up in the wrong hands. To be on the safe side you might want to check with the client to make sure they don't mind.

Once you have set up an account with Dropbox or Google Drive, you can sync it to your desktop PC and any other laptops or mobile devices you have, meaning that all information contained in your cloud-based folders will automatically appear on your local devices when you connect them to the internet. The same goes for any files in someone else's folders that you have been invited to join. A huge advantage to this is that you don’t need to manually transfer your files from your PC to your laptop anymore (and panic when you realize you forgot to and the super-important file is at home on your desktop PC with no way to access it while you’re already on the train on your way to the conference). The most current versions of all your documents are always there for you to access.

Both solutions are fairly easy to set up and to use. Dropbox gives you 2 GB of free storage space when you sign up; anything more will cost you. Google Drive has roughly the same functionalities as Dropbox, but they give you 15 GB of free storage. In addition, they provide a free browser-based pared-down version of Microsoft's Office suite, with tools for creating spreadsheets, documents, presentations et cetera, which I think is a fantastic tool for interpreters who are preparing for a conference. Not only can you store, organise, access and share your conference documents on Google Drive, you can also create new ones – and you and your colleagues can work on them together in real time.

The best way to put this feature to use is, in my opinion, to create a shared glossary. Obviously you have already developed your own tried-and-tested method of preparing for a conference. Maybe you prefer to have your glossary as a print-out, or maybe you use specialised glossary software – but the cloud-based method has a few compelling advantages. Try creating a spreadsheet that you virtually share with the team. Each team member can copy and paste anything from their own archives that they think might be useful, and also add new entries while making their way through the conference materials. You could also split up the work within the team and share the load, since any member's contributions will be immediately available to everyone. If you want, you can add an extra column in your spreadsheet for comments and discussion points. Everyone can edit the document at the same time, and you can always see who else is currently accessing it. There is even an integrated chat function, so you can clarify any terminological issues right then and there for all team members to see. The glossaries you come up with together will also most likely be better than the ones you create by yourself, since any errors have a far greater chance of being spotted, and you will benefit from your colleagues' knowledge and perspectives.

I have tried this way of collaborating in the cloud several times, often with colleagues who were unfamiliar with it until that point, and have always found it to be extremely successful – it's convenient and efficient, it saves time, and it also forges a stronger connection with your colleagues and builds confidence, which is a great foundation for working together in the booth. You've prepared for the job together, so you know you can rely on each other. Plus, most of us spend so much time on the Internet anyway – why not take your preparation routine to the next level, too?

Leonie Wagener is a professional conference interpreter and translator living and working in Cologne, Germany.

Recommended citation format:
Leonie WAGENER. "Conference Preparation 2.0". March 3, 2014. Accessed January 29, 2020. <>.