Both systems enable a single interpreter (or a team of interpreters) to speak to an entire audience through earpieces that are distributed at the beginning of the event, but each has its advantages and limitations. Ultimately, the system you choose will depend on your event’s requirements, so prior to the day of, you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions:
1. Where is the event taking place?
2. How large of an area needs to be covered?
3. How many languages will be spoken?
4. Will there be competing devices and signals at the venue?
The above questions make a good starting point, but they aren’t the only ones that you’ll be faced with. Let’s look at other key items that will need addressing as you narrow down your options.
Keeping Things Budget-Friendly
Budget carries a lot of weight and you will often run into situations where cost is the “end all” factor for the interpretation system you end up selecting. With costs in mind, you’ll probably also notice that an FM system is more budget-friendly than one that is IR. Audio receivers are normally priced per unit or per batch, so when you are dealing with hundreds or thousands of them, costs can add up fast. When every member of a large audience will be receiving and using them, you will also need to consider the potential for equipment loss and the costs associated with it. Typically, 1 to 5 percent of receivers used are missing by the end the day, so as you can imagine, with the more expensive IR gear, the cost of losses puts a sour note on an otherwise great event. These are things to keep in mind.
Working with FM Frequencies
In one way or another, each of us has encountered frequency issues in our personal lives. Hasn’t there been a time when you couldn’t tune into your favorite song on your car’s radio due to poor signal, or perhaps the radio in your house? And surely you’ve experienced the frustration of poor cell phone reception, walking from one corner of a room to another searching for the perfect spot to connect with that important call! We’ve all been there and, unfortunately, the same can occur with interpretation receivers, so if you’re opting for FM equipment, there are some things that you should know.
When it comes to FM transmission, a signal is being sent out from a single source base and the strength of that device determines the amount of area that can be covered. If more than one language is being interpreted, then each one is assigned to a radio frequency of its own, meaning that extra precautions must be taken to prevent the frequencies of each device from overlapping or conflicting. It’s important to know that the more channels you use, the higher your chances are of hitting “dead pockets” (or interference). Also to be considered is that all electrically-powered equipment gives off a small electromagnetic field. It can be emitted from other sound and lighting equipment in the room, attendees’ laptops and cell phones, or even the wiring in the walls, and all of them can potentially interfere with your FM signal.
While we see frequency interruptions in radio broadcasts and phone calls as simple irritations, the impact is escalated when guests and clients are struggling to listen to your speakers. In instances like these, a skilled technician can alleviate potential challenges.
Ensuring Maximum Confidentiality
There are times when some multilingual events require a higher level of security. Take the following, for instance:
- Board of Directors Meetings
- Confidential Briefings
- Contract Negotiations
- Stockholder Meetings
- Strategic Planning Sessions
IR systems are great for highly-confidential discussions that require simultaneous interpretation. Their high-performance technology and sophistication ensure that the individuals in the room are the only ones receiving messages through the transmitters and signal radiators (devices that ensure full venue coverage). This is because IR technology is limited by the “line of sight.” In other words, if the radiator can’t “see” you, and you can’t see it, then you will not receive transmission; only those holding onto the correct IR device will get that classified information. These limitations give the extra reassurance of knowing who the only recipients of your message will be, so if security breaches are of concern to you, then an IR system is what you’ll want to look into.
If you are concerned about interference from other devices, such as high-level security systems and other audio equipment, then the IR setup, again, is a better option than FM would be.
An added bonus to opting for IR is its upscale design, which can contribute to your event’s perceived levels of sophistication and prestige.
What is your preferred system, between FM and IR? Do you have stories on how either has impacted your events? Share your thoughts or questions by emailing us or commenting below!