I recently had an experience with a group of interpreters in a conference setting that was a bummer. While the interpreting went off without a hitch, everything else was off. The soft skills they brought to the table were a bit rough to say the least. When, at the end of the gig I considered working with them again the answer was a very resounding no.
I always consider interpreters I work with in the community as potential candidates for my network. As an interpreter we are often asked for referrals to other practitioners, whether it’s because we’re unavailable for the work or a client is looking for a specialist in that arena. I take great pride in referring people who will shine and with that, spill a little sparkle to my own name in the eyes of the client. When I meet those people, I like to make a note of who they are, what they bring to the table and consider how they might work with some of the clients I’ve received requests from no matter the size of the ask. I usually try to set up a time for us to meet for coffee or drinks, a nice opportunity to converse about rates, standards, terms etc… but in a friendly environment. Talks during debriefs can feel so stuffy and often rushed.
When I have the opportunity to engage with colleagues, I consider how I can support them and how we might find opportunities to work together again in the future. I personally love to recommend teams to agencies or accept work with the contingency I do it with a specific team. If I only work with the best, I can help them continue doing the work they love and I can have a fantastic time doing it by their side. It allows me more freedom in my practice but also the ability to really shine. We all know an interpreter who just makes their team look incredible. We love working with those people.
So when I’m meeting people that are so focused on the total line from the invoice, infatuated with what a conference is serving and packing swag into their bags before rushing out the door I cringe. In my own work, I make it standard practice to both arrive and depart with a nice greeting and farewell to the client. I like them to know that I had a great time, I was thrilled to partner with them and most importantly, I want my face in front of theirs. That moment needs to be a positive one. That moment is often the reason why I am asked back. They now feel they know me, we have a rapport and I will do as good a job if not better than the one I did before.
Sometimes you can’t squeeze that in, it’s a bummer but it happens. One thing I can avoid however, is a client spotting me leaving with an armful of free stuff they spent a large portion of their budget on for attendees. It’s a disappointment I think, to realize that the people you asked to come provide services are costing more than intended. If you’ve ever worked on a large scale event you know that often last minute numbers change. The champagne is going to barely cover everyone on the list or the kitchen didn’t make enough chicken because one of the boxes fell on the floor and was tossed. It’s not always poor planning but the nature of the beast when working with such large numbers of people.
The clients we work with are exhausted by the end of the night. They’re arriving hours before we even check in and they’re not getting back to their hotel until the wee hours of the morning. I like to consider that if an extra bottle of wine is found, or the kitchen has some additional meals boxed up that the staff/crew then don’t need to swing by a 7-11 for a plastic sandwich and a Diet Coke. It may seem insignificant but little decisions made from the clients perspective often carry a butterfly effect. I’d like that effect to be a positive one.