A booth for an interpreter is what an office space is to every business individual. The difference, however, is that an interpreter does not have the same booth in every interpreting assignment; it is a moving and borrowed office. Usually, it belongs to the interpreter for the duration of the assignment and then it returns to its legal owners (usually to the conference organizers).
The location of the booth is for the interpreter of vital importance as it is his/her ears and eyes throughout the assignment. The interpreter needs to be able to have a clear view of the conference, even though in most assignments I have completed, the booth is located at the very back of the conference hall, just like a little punishment corner!
The Chamber of Commerce in Heraklion, Crete has a well-organized permanent booth right on top of the conference hall. This is an ideal booth for the interpreter as there are no obstacles possible to block the view. Keeping in mind that the interpreter needs to be able to have a clear view of the presentations and the slides shown during the assignment, this build-in option is to the interpreter’s advantage. Having the knowledge of this, I never have to worry about the location of the booth when I interpret at the Chamber of Commerce in Heraklion, in fact it is a joy for me when I get informed that I will be interpreting there. It is one less problem that I have to worry about and I can concentrate on my studying for the terminology of the field I am going to be interpreting about.
Sometimes, conferences take place in large hotels and resorts, where the booth is build from scratch. Conference organizers tend to supply the booths for each individual conference. Although organizers should be aware that the location of the booth is quite important for the interpreter, yet sometimes the layout of the conference hall does not allow them the flexibility needed to position the booth at the right spot. This may cause problems to the interpreter while at work. In a recent assignment that I completed, the booth was placed at the very back of the hall, just behind a pillar! And the cherry on the cake was a video camera placed there blocking whatever view the pillar had left me! I had no view of the presentation slides. Unfortunately, the layout of the hall was such that the booth could not be placed anywhere as the same problems would occur no matter where it was set to be.
Arriving earlier than the commerce of the conference is of course the norm. What I tend to do is to allow ever more time for me to inspect the location of the booth, to check the sound with the engineers on site. Sometimes, when arriving early and seeing the booth, I manage to make a few alterations with the helping hand of the organizers to the location or the equipment that present an obstacle to me. In cases where there is no other option for the location of the room, what I tend to do is to have all the presentations of the conference in the row set by the conference agenda and manually change the slides on my computer. This adds a little more stress to me, however, there is not much else to be done and I need to go with the flow!