Love Language. Building an event in two official languages.

By Kimberley King

A successful event considers the comfort of the attendees from every angle.  The venue is accessible, conveniently located, and well appointed.  F&B considers all dietary restrictions and offers great options for everyone.  Schedules, activities and transportation are planned with all levels of mobility and comfort level in mind.  And content has to be delivered in the same way. Preferred language is no different.

When planning a meeting that includes both English and French speaking audiences, take good care to ensure everyone is receiving the information in a way that allows them to best absorb the material.

From our experiences working with client’s right across the country, we see three levels of bilingualism incorporated into events. We asked two of our very own bilingual speakers to add their professional input as well.


1. Simultaneous Translation.  While a very expensive undertaking, full translation of every (or most of the sessions) allows attendees to choose their preferred language to consume content. A quick in person meeting prior to the session will also help connect the speaker and translator as they will soon become a team of one, together breathing energy, education and entertainment into the room! Speakers need to do their best to slow down their delivery to enable the translator to keep up; however it can never impact the quality of their delivery.

Janice Butler believes “it is important to consider the majority of uni lingual individuals in the room and ask the speaker to deliver most of his/her message in that language”.

Martin Latulippe also adds to the conversation, saying:A quick pre-convention conversation between your keynote speaker and your team of simultaneous translators can significantly improve the quality of your event. Not only you want the speaker to provide some notes (if possible, ex. PPT or script) but you also want the translators to understand and be ready “energy wise” for your presentation especially if you have a fun and engaging presentation style.  It will boost your ROI”!


2. Two Languages- One session.  While this is not the optimum choice, we have seen clients ask for a speaker to deliver the session in BOTH languages by going back and forth between French and English. This is usually the choice for audiences who have a command of both languages.  It is not the easiest way to receive information and it certainly puts the speaker through his or her paces to switch back and forth between languages while keeping their momentum, timing, energy.

Janice Butler states: I always make my breakdown at the end of a specific key message and then switch to the other language. Even though I am a good observer, I always pay more attention to body language here to make sure everyone follows”.

Martin Latulippe – An easy way to organize a “2 languages-one session” presentation is to first start by defining which language you want your speaker to focus more on. The good old 80-20 rule is the best ratio, if your audience is mainly Anglophones (80% English, 20% French) or francophone (80% French, 20% English). The mistake you don’t want to make is to try to get a 50-50 ratio. It will break the momentum and the spirit of your presentation. The best way to still aim at a 50-50 feeling is to ask the speaker to provide bilingual slides that will visually capture his key points and maybe ask him to do a very quick recap of his key messages from the stage.


3. Key messages/Welcome. Sometimes it is enough of a courtesy to simply have select messages and housekeeping remarks in both official languages. We reached out to two of our most sought after bilingual speaker’s for their advice on how to best approach this with the best interests of everyone involved.

Janice Butler adds “ I always get in the room early to chat (pour jaser) with the audience beforehand (if the schedule permits), which allows delegates to realize that I care about their language of choice and that I am very flexible. This way, they relax and can fully enjoy the event”!

Martin Latulippe states: “The key thing to keep in mind when organizing a bilingual event is to sincerely demonstrate respect to every participant in regards to their respective language without breaking the rhythm, the energy and the soul of your event. Remember this: Weeks after your event, your audience will probably forget what you said and in which language you said it, but they will never forget how you make them feel”.