Defining your requirements

It is important to decide right at the start of the interpreter recruitment process the languages that will be spoken and into which languages interpretation is required.

If many languages are involved, you will need to use the speediest form of interpreting, which requires simultaneous interpreting equipment.

Which languages does your meeting need?

You'll need to know which languages will be spoken and which ones the participants understand. On this, and on the mode of interpretation, will depend the number of interpreters you need.

For example:

You may have one guest speaker addressing a multilingual audience. You would need interpretation from the language of the speaker into the languages of the audience.

If the audience is going to ask questions, you'll need interpretation also from the languages of the audience into that of the speaker

Of course there are many different possibilities, which the consultant interpreter can help you define.

How many interpreters are needed?

The number of interpreters for a specific language combination and for each mode of interpretation is determined by the AIIC Professional Standards, which are applied at virtually all conferences.

For example:

Assume your meeting needs interpretation from English, French, Spanish and German into those same languages. This would be best done by simultaneous interpretation, which requires four interpreting booths with two interpreters working in each, relaying each other every 30 minutes.

So you need 8 interpreters with the appropriate language combination.

Scheduling and the interpreters

Session length

The timetable of a conference can affect the number of interpreters required. To provide consistent, quality interpretation, interpreters need to rest from time to time.

The AIIC Professional Standards specify that interpreters should not work more than two 3-hour sessions a day, which should be separated by a break of at least 90 minutes.

Longer sessions are possible, provided the team strength is increased. Breakout sessions should be carefully planned from the outset so that more teams of interpreters can be recruited if need be.

Rational planning

Some conferences include days on which there are no meetings. Many conferences start on an evening with a welcome dinner and speech, but no actual meeting.

Your consultant interpreter can help you hire interpreters for the actual time they are needed, thus saving money.


The size of your interpreting team depends to a large extent on the event set-up. It is always best to discuss this in detail with your consultant interpreter.

Give your consultant interpreter the provisional conference agenda and timetable. This allows them to see whether there are concurrent sessions during the conferences.

The agenda also shows the expected duration of meetings, important to determine the workload of interpreters.

Language availability

Demand for specific languages determines to some extent the availability of interpreters. Two main factors are involved – seasonal and geographical.

For example:

At certain times of the year the demand for interpreters is greater– it may be easier to reschedule your meeting if local interpreters are busy.

In Europe there are few interpreters with Asian languages such as Japanese, Korean or Thai. In Asia, there are only a few interpreters with French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic or German.

Travel and accommodation

If your meeting takes place in a city where meetings are held regularly, such as Brussels, Geneva, Paris, Vienna, Rome and others, it is likely that all of the interpreters can be found in that city. You will only pay their fees for the days they work.

However, if the meeting takes places in a city where there are few or no interpreters, you will need to count on paying for interpreters’ travel days, airfares, hotel accommodation and daily subsistence allowance (DSA).

For example:

If you hold a meeting with English, French, Spanish and Chinese languages in Hong Kong or Singapore, you can anticipate the need to import all the interpreters except Chinese.

On the other hand, if the same meeting were to take place in Madrid or Frankfurt, you can probably find all the interpreters there except the Chinese.

When interpreters work in a place other than their home (professional address), they are paid for travel to the venue and back, accommodation, meals and incidentals, visa and transfer costs. All these costs are itemized in a consultant interpreter’s quotation.

Booths and SI equipment

Please see section Conference equipment basics for the number of booths and the equipment you will need.

Recommended citation format:
AIIC. "Defining your requirements". November 28, 2011. Accessed July 5, 2020. <>.