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I'm an interpreter in training and I am looking into booth manners for conference interpreting. I've found a lot of information online about the do's and don't's. However, I was wondering if anyone who's actually worked in a booth could give me any insight on their experience?

Are there things that are quite rude but that people often forget or not realize? What's the most frustrating thing a colleague could do in the booth? Are there things your colleagues did that you found particularly considerate or helpful? etc.

Any advice is much appreciated! Thank you for your help

asked 03 Feb '18, 15:42

marielavigueur's gravatar image


Here are two pieces that hold some truth, and that are a bit more recent than the 13-year-old page suggesting that you shouldn't smoke in the booth.

Tips for Millennials on Working with Older Colleagues

Booth Etiquette for Old Timers

The only thing that personally drives me up the wall is people typing loudly, who get too absorbed as they are messaging on their smartphone (writing is another level of lack of attention than just reading) and who don't know that you can deactivate vibration and sound feedback on a smartphone rather than have that feedback for EACH key they press or message they receive.

Sound pollution is also something that can quickly be disturbing. Mind the volume of the loudspeaker and always turn down both the loudspeaker and your headphones when you leave the booth.

Bear in mind that some of the generic advice doesn't apply to all markets and to all booths. In institutions where the fixed booth is larger than a Parisian studio-apartment, it bears little importance if I get to chose where I will sit, when I, as the rookie, come in an hour early.

No senior colleague will expect me to jump and stand at attention, only to submissively suggest that I might now offer to unplug and move all my things, to let them have the far right console, just three minutes before the start of the meeting.

When I started out, I once tentatively asked if they had any preference, only to be (a bit dismissively) told that I shouldn't worry, as the local custom is first come, first served. Trying to fit in, I just had showcased my ignorance. Ouch.

In turn, since I'm there early for my personal 'pre-flight procedure', I'll take the time to sort all the documents and spread out the piles, get a cup of water for the two or three other colleagues, make sure that the relay channels are set for the vision-impaired, go duplicate documents for which there aren't enough copies, etc.

Every now and then, a colleague might ask me, before the third person has arrived, if I don't mind sitting in the middle. Which is an invitation to be the buffer zone between two people who don't get along that well.

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answered 03 Feb '18, 16:29

Gaspar's gravatar image

Gaspar ♦♦

edited 03 Feb '18, 16:56


Gaspar, if you "enjoyed" that 13-year-old page, this 22-year-old one should have you in stitches ;-)

(07 Feb '18, 14:46) msr

"Normal mike on-off sequence, if more than one is being used, shall be thus: first his/her mike off, then yours on".

I'm wondering about this. This is how I usually do this. However, I was once told it's good to leave the mike on for a second, switch on the other mike, and only then switch off the first one. This way the audience doesn't get the signal from the floor in between, which is supposed to translate into a better listening experience. On the other hand, this is a bit more difficult to coordinate (Obviously, you would not want to mics on at the same time for more than a sec). What's your opinion on that?

(07 Feb '18, 15:07) Joanna

It depends on the consoles' configuration. EU fixed booths will have the last-come-stays-on feature. There are never two mics on, but you can switch your neighbours off by turning yours on. Makes smooth transitions.

For systems that allow two mics simultaneously to be on, one could test a first mic on+mute, second on, first off sequence and check if that has any downsides for the delegate... and bear with the short moment of red lights flashing all over the place.

This being said, when a channel never stops emitting, you then will have to announce changes in speakers or languages, in case someone is tuned in on you for relay.

(07 Feb '18, 15:40) Gaspar ♦♦

Joanna, any system beats no system :-) and this is obviously not a make or break issue, my view remains however that it's best to go 1st mike off, then 2nd on, despite the split-second of original that may indeed flow into the delegates' earpieces, inasmuch as the other option will call for extra coordination... which may not always be feasible.

(08 Feb '18, 07:54) msr

Be sensitive to how much your colleague seems to want to interact. You might have done this meeting a few times, but maybe it's my first time and I need to be tuned in. (This goes in particular for the EN booth since so often our days are a long desolate stretch of Globish with the occasional two-minute intervention in 'foreign' from the floor). It's awkward to tell a senior colleague you need to listen to the meeting when they've launched into a self-absorbed account of their recent snowpocalypse airport nightmare.

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answered 06 Feb '18, 00:52

Louise's gravatar image


On top of all the useful dos and don'ts already mentioned... I always appreciate colleagues who pay attention when it's not their half hour and help your colleague. (Of course this is more difficult if you are a beginner and not an expert in that meeting). 'Helping' might include:

  • offering to share any unusual terminology that you may have come across while prepping the meeting;

  • writing down names and numbers while your colleague is working;

  • but also finding the right document in a stack of documents;

  • and/or the place in a document referred to or speech script. (Look for the place in your copy of the document and hand it to the colleague on mike only if they haven't already found it in their copy. This has become less practical in paper-free institutions as you have to pass them your I-Pad or computer).

All of the above should be offered but not stuck under the colleague's face. Usual custom would be to present whatever you have just in from and to one side of them.

  • sharing any relevant background info/ context that you aware of when the mike is off

  • if you are going to get clean paper, water, tea or coffee for yourself then offer to get some for your colleague(s)

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answered 07 Feb '18, 08:48

Andy's gravatar image


edited 07 Feb '18, 09:03

I think most of the things you should/shouldn't do in the booth are fairly self-explanatory and apply to normal human interactions in a work setting.

But the one thing that makes me crazy is when people wear perfume. Even a little bit is too much. Don't put it on. It's not doing you any favors. I know in many cultures people feel like they have to wear cologne or perfume. Forget that custom. If you're afraid you smell bad, just take a shower with soap before coming to work.

Many of us are sensitive to artificial fragrances, and when a colleague has bathed in perfume I can't even think straight and end up having to walk out of the booth when it's not my half hour.

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answered 04 Feb '18, 15:43

InesdC's gravatar image


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question asked: 03 Feb '18, 15:42

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