The Five Basic Types of Multilingual Events

Historically, we have consulted with organizations to help them with planning and staging multilingual virtual events. Part of our task at ZipDX is to help them understand the various types of events, and how each brings a different set of considerations.

Our philosophy in providing this assistance is basically, “Teach a man to fish.” That is, we help with their initial events so that they become familiar with the process. Thereafter, they transition to organizing and running future events entirely on their own.

In assisting with many multilingual virtual events we’ve gained considerable experience in their planning and execution. To more efficiently share that experience we’ve decided to craft a series of blog posts on the subject. We begin with an introduction to the five possible types of multilingual events.

1. In-Person Conferences

The benchmark for multilingual events is the traditional conference, where all participants gather at the same location. People from many different backgrounds can engage in discussions of matters common to the gathering. Such gatherings may involve participants who speak many different languages.

In order to ensure the entire gathering is able to participate productively interpreters are employed, allowing participants to engage in their preferred language. Interpretation at such events is performed using specialty equipment. This equipment might be a permanent part of the host facility or rented for the occasion.

The classic example is the United Nations, which conducts meetings at its facilities in NYC, Vienna, Nairobi and Geneva in six official languages; Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish. Official UN facilities are both staffed and equipped to allow participation in any of these languages.

While physical gatherings remain the gold standard for multilingual events, they are tremendously costly and time-consuming to stage. They are the special events that happen periodically which is not a practical way to conduct daily business.

2. A Multilingual Virtual Meeting

ZipDX multilingual was born from the desire of a particular UN agency to enjoy the productivity and engagement found at their in-person gatherings, but during times when participants were not gathered at a major UN facility.

What they sought was a completely virtual gathering that leveraged their existing team of interpreters, allowing participation in any of their official languages.

ZipDX multilingual mirrors the function of the technical resources at major UN facilities. It provides a completely virtual gathering, where all participants are at different locations, connected by telephone. Each participant has their own, unique connection to ZipDX. This allows them to select their preferred language channel, without impacting anyone else who is also participating.

Interpreters connect to ZipDX over the internet using a computer, web browser and a headset. The interpreters use the ZipLine web phone, which mimics the familiar interpreter console, controlling the flow of interpretation.

In-person conferences and ZipDX multilingual conferences are very similar. The first is a physical gathering, while the other is a purely virtual gathering.

In one case everyone is assembled at the same location, with a team of interpreters supported by specialized equipment. In the other case, literally everyone is at a different location, with ZipDX providing the technology solution that connects both the participants and the interpreters.

There are also several kinds of hybrid events, which may combine some people gathered and others participating remotely.

3. Remote Participation (RP)

The pressures of time and budget impact literally everyone. As a result, not everyone can attend major conferences. The inability to travel needn’t keep people from participating entirely. A conference organizer may elect to support remote participation. While the event remains rooted in a physical gathering, those who cannot travel may still participate via remote means.

If the core event is multilingual, interpreters will facilitate participation in various languages. The technology deployed in support of the event is similar to that used for a traditional in-person conference. However, it must be extended to allow multilingual participation by those who are engaged remotely, in addition to those who are physically present.

4. Remote Simultaneous Interpretation (RSI)

Remote Simultaneous Interpretation (RSI) is becoming increasingly popular with organizers of traditional conferences. In this type of event, there is a traditional physical conference, so all of the participants are travelling to the event.

Since the conference is a multilingual event interpretation is required. However, the organizer may opt to have the interpreters not travel to the event. The interpreters engage remotely, working over telephone lines or the internet.

A conference that leverages remote interpretation must still provide the same sort of equipment as if the interpreters were on-site. However, that equipment must be extended to facilitate the interpreters who are working remotely.

5. Remote Simultaneous Interpretation (RSI) & Remote Participation (RP)

A conference organizer may opt to leverage a team of remote interpreters, while also allowing remote participation by event attendees.

This multi-faceted approach presents the most complicated set of technical requirements. To ensure a high-quality, multilingual experience it requires:

  • Multilingual sound systems be deployed at the event to service local participants who have travelled to the conference.
  • The remote interpreter teams be able to engage with both local and remote participants.
  • Remote participants can engage with the various activities at the conference, via interpreter when required.


While originally created to facilitate purely virtual gatherings, customers are constantly finding new and different ways to leverage our unique ability to provide simultaneous interpretation over-the-phone. We’ve encountered projects involving each of the different modes described above.

As this series progresses, we’ll share an example of each type of event. In each case we’ll detail the various operational and technical requirements, and how they may be addressed.


If you have questions about any aspect of ZipDX please contact our support team at:

We’re here to help you get down to business.

Posted in: Multilingual

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