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RSI and its limitations

Now that we seem to have got used to the New Normal, our video conferencing habits have caused a shift in people’s thinking: Many companies believe they can now turn full-day, in-person events into virtual meetings, without taking into account the special demands that are placed on the participants. Video calls are here to stay, we all know that. But up until now, it was recommended to put a time limit on video calls to make them less tiring, and rightly so. In the beginning, such calls did not exceed a maximum of 90 minutes, but now I’m asked to organise interpreting teams for 8-hour virtual events without any proper (lunch) breaks! It seems that we have all had to wait too long for "real" conferences, and now we’ll have to try do offer the same content online instead. Sadly, however, it is not that simple. Not only participants will suffer from video call fatigue after an entire day in front of their screens, but us conference interpreters are particularly affected by such long meetings. The reason behind putting a time limit on video calls is the high level of concentration required by each individual, especially when offering remote interpreting. Not only does the sound quality suffer as it is very heavily compressed during transmission. Keep in mind that we work with two screens and two headsets to be able to hear and see our colleagues and to enable a smooth handover when taking turns every 15 minutes when interpreting your virtual meeting. The result is lack of concentration, fatigue, and a higher risk of misunderstanding a speaker, which has an effect on the interpreting output. When a meeting lasts too long or lacks focus, both the participants and us interpreters will lose concentration and efficiency. Therefore, keep your video conferences brief and assign a well-briefed moderator to make sure you stick to your agenda and take enough and sufficient breaks. And please do not overrun the time limit.