Simultaneous Interpreting Equipment – How it Works

Simultaneous Interpreting Equipment – How it Works

If you’ve never organised interpreting equipment or you are just looking to improve experiences for delegates, it can be challenging to know what equipment is out there and available to you.

Microphones, booths, receivers, headsets – there’s a lot of tech behind the scenes to make simultaneous interpreting happen. So, how does it all work?

To help, we’ve put together a list of what’s available in the market, how it works and why you may need it.

How simultaneous interpreting equipment works – in 3 easy steps

1- The speaker talks into a microphone. This is known as the ‘’floor language” and can change throughout the event depending on what languages the speakers use.

Speaker at a conference


2 – The floor language is broadcast to the interpreter who listens through a headset in a soundproof booth. Booths allow for interpreters to work in silence, while blocking their own voices from distracting delegates. They should be placed in clear view of the presenters and any screens streaming video content and/or presentations.


Interpreter, interpreting to a conference

Interpreting Booth

3 – The interpreter simultaneously speaks into a microphone in the “target language” (aka the foreign language) which is broadcast to delegates through wireless headsets. This allows for delegates to understand what is being said in real time, as though the presenter were speaking to them directly in their native language.

Conference hall

What to consider when sourcing interpreting equipment

It may seem fairly straightforward but there are lots of things to consider when sourcing simultaneous interpreting equipment:

Size of Event

Once you know the size of the venue and the number of attendees, you can work out how many receivers are required and what type of equipment will be needed to cover the space adequately. Make sure you order just over the confirmed number headsets in case of any unexpected arrivals and in case of any technical problems which can happen at any time with any technology!


Will the equipment need to be moved around or will it be set up in one room and remain there? If the equipment is needed for a walking tour, you’ll need a tour guide system.


Some conferences will be confidential and require a secure transmission. Infrared and encrypted digital systems offer this, FM systems do not.

Number of Languages

This will determine the number of channels required and may increase cost if complex technology is needed. Simply put, the more language combinations you have, the more channels you’ll need… which means more equipment.

The Booths

You’ll need one booth per language combination and they must be sound proof to allow the interpreters to work in silence, free from any distractions. Simultaneous conference interpreting requires a lot of concentration so it’s vital that an interpreter can work in a booth.

Microphones and Headsets

Conference microphones will either feature built in speakers or a headphone insert. Headsets have a channel selector to allow delegates to choose their preferred language.

Don’t forget to test!

Last, but certainly not least, it’s vital to check that your equipment is working properly before the event. Ask your interpreting coordinator to check with the technician that all microphones, receivers and headsets are working so you don’t have to worry about any technical issues during your event.

Need any help?

If you’d like to discuss an upcoming event or need a quote for hiring our simultaneous interpreting equipment, we’d be more than happy to assist.Speak to us.