How to Run a Serious Training Program for Chinese Delegates and Attract More Business

Chinese delegates on training programs – a great money earner for the organiser – and great for Australia too as they spend money in droves.  But like the Chinese and international student market – the golden goose – such programs can fall victim to dodgy practices and pretty soon the delegates move on and travel somewhere else for their learning.

Hosting businesses too can suffer in reputation by being associated with these ‘tours’.  Many have learnt the hard way, hosting site visits, speakers and giving valuable time to meet Chinese delegates and share their proprietary information and experience, only to find out later on that most of the ‘valuable information’ was lost.  You know where I’m going, don’t you – poor translations!

A Model Program

By contrast, to set up an enduring relationship, and pave the way for ongoing programs, we reckon the Australia and New Zealand School of Government’s program which ran for ten years – was the model. Setting a very high bar and scooping any competition, Professor Allan Fels’s organisation put together a perfect program – the China Advanced Leadership Program which led to more business and closer ties (for a time, anyway), plus benefits to participating organisations.  An impressive agenda like theirs may not be accessible to all of us – receptions at Government House, meetings with Governor-General, PM and Foreign Minister, tours and functions hosted by major players in China relationships, access to Department Heads in Australia and New Zealand and presentations by leading businesspeople.

ANZSOG identified very early the need for a top interpreting team to ‘deliver’ the important training to the Chinese executives. The team was engaged over 6 months prior and consulted on how to achieve the best results. Presentations were translated by the team too so that delegates would have Chinese materials to underpin their learning. Plenty of time was provided to the interpreting/translating team to assimilate all of the information across topics as diverse as Emotional Intelligence and the revolution of technology in the media.

You might say – most Chinese speak English!  Why do they need interpreters?  That is a good question, and, indeed, some educated Chinese and some of the delegates do speak English to some extent.  A delegation of trainees will contain people who have good English and many who have none.  But factor in the Australian situation, accents and practices and even someone with good English will struggle to follow and understand the Australian perspective. With a good interpreter, your valuable information will be fully imparted, face protected and your stakeholders rewarded, such as was delivered in the ANZSOG program.

So what is good interpreting?

Good interpreting and therefore good results for the listening audience comes from selecting trained, experienced, professional interpreters.  Engaging them early (good interpreters are generally very busy), briefing them, passing on all information, presentations and itinerary early, and treating them as valuable team members will bring the best out and ensure happy delegates.  Happy delegates lead to more business. Good interpreting is NOT achieved by leaving interpreter choice to the last minute, choosing someone cheap and assuming that they can just turn up and know everything they need to know about complex and varied topics. We see this approach often and unfortunately the monolingual organisers don’t realise just what a disaster ensues.

There are two modes of interpreting to consider. Consecutive interpreting – many of you will be familiar with an interpreter consecutively interpreting a speaker’s words – speaker speaks for a minute or two, interpreter takes notes (watch for the good ones who get it all down), speaker pauses, interpreter interprets the words fully into the other language and so on.  The downside is that any program will take twice as long or you have to cut the content.  The other mode – Simultaneous Interpreting (SI) – is just that – done in real time, simultaneously or live. Simultaneous Interpreting requires special equipment, including receivers and headsets, and, most importantly, trained Simultaneous Interpreters.  Not just any ‘bilingual person’ can undertake this work – a popular misconception. So more information can be included in a program and attendees don’t have to sit through double content.

Budget and timeline will dictate which mode works for you.  ANZSOG has used Simultaneous Interpreting throughout its three week program.  At its training facility permanent SI equipment has been installed; on site visits portable systems have been taken – the result has been continuous engagement and maximum information flow. The other important decision was to engage a team of 3 interpreters. The UN and other major conferences will have 3, 4 or more interpreters on a team – we rarely see this in business due to cost constraints.  In addition at networking functions or dinners, additional local interpreters have been hired to assist with conversations between the parties.

Any type of interpreting is extremely demanding on the brain – especially SI, interpreters must rest every 20 – 30 minutes or the brain melts down! So bear these points in mind when factoring interpreting into an equation.

Another Model for long-term Engagement

The City of Melbourne and RMIT ran a ” Tianjin Government Leaders’ Program” for ten years. Enlightened leaders on both sides saw the opportunity for up-and-coming managers in Tianjin to learn business and management tools from Australia, and the City of Melbourne saw the opportunity for linkages between the two cities to be deepened.  Many, many business deals and ventures have grown from this decision. Tianjin and Melbourne are the absolute model in a Sister-City relationship – one we’ve been associated with for all of this time. One of the key planks in this program is the use of capable, trained interpreters in the classroom, on site visits and networking functions.  Without good interpreters, the program would never have lasted the distance. This program engages Consecutive Interpreters and the long-term relationship between interpreters and presenters ensures a high-quality engagement.  Over 220 leaders from Tianjin benefitted – some have gone on to senior roles and all have been great advocates for Melbourne and the participating organisations.  Needless to say, business has followed and will continue to flow on.

So, if you are serious about offering proper training and engagement with Chinese delegates – there are a number of important factors to consider early on – the most vital is the choice of your interpreting team. Without them you are wasting your time and jeopardising any future business.



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