Tradeshow Speech Accessories Translate Into Winning Event Marketing

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People who attended this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas saw speech translation in action in the booth of Lael Alexander, founder and CEO of Noitavonne and renowned as one of the top mobile hardware and software inventors in the world, with some 170 patents to his name. Alexander has won Best Product at CES in six of the past eight years, and this year, his second-place-winning product included automatic voice translation and can stream simultaneous interpretation channels, United Nations style, as well as play music.

Another product was a pair of eyeglasses that translates both what the wearer speaks in real time and the reply from the other person, with the translation available both through dial-in-dial-out telephone and internet audio. The accuracy of the glasses’ speech recognition is breathtaking, mostly due to the premium microphone built into the “screw hole” of the glasses. The microphone preserves the treble and bass in each voice and provides superior noise-canceling. During tests at CES, there were no differences in transcription accuracy between a person wearing these speech glasses and talking in a quiet room versus doing so while walking the loud, raucous CES tradeshow floor.

These glasses demonstrate how speech translation is on the rise as a genre of what could be called “tradeshow accessories,” designed to enhance the visitor’s experience at a booth or demonstration. Such tradeshow accessories have a variety of promotional applications, including automatically translated-and-narrated video clips and sales pitch subtitles. As sales reps speak, a translation of their words appears on monitors and tablets—even on the visitor’s smartphones. There’s also an option to convert to text to speech (TTS), all in basically real time. This process has the added benefit of assuring that the company is ADA-compliant, because the first step to subtitles is the creation of real-time captions.

The use of subtitles for product demonstrations is a game changer for companies interested in international sales. The demonstrators are often already wearing microphones, and with just a little equipment preplanning, the words of the demonstrator become subtitles. Some rehearsal is required for demonstrators to generate good subtitle translations, but once demonstrators learn to pronounce clearly and slow down, they can expect international audiences to flock to their booths. At a technology tradeshow in San Francisco, an exhibitor had voice-to-subtitles in three languages and played aloud a TTS translation in Mandarin Chinese while demonstrating its product. The booth was swamped with visitors from dawn till dusk, leaving adjacent booths with a trickle of guests.

Side-by-Side Speech Translation Apps

Other tradeshow accessories include side-by-side translation apps that enable a conversation between booth staff and visitors on devices, usually smartphones. With some, the speaker utters one sentence then waits for the translation, but the more advanced types enable a smoother exchange as they detect your language and translate on the fly. The latter type works better in a convention setting because sales staff can speak their pitches as continuous paragraphs. The application breaks up the pitch into usable (playable) sentences spoken as TTS while the pitch continues. Then the language identification switches both the speech recognition engine and translation software when it detects that a visitor has asked a question in a different language.

These side-by-side apps can be used in the onsite registration area, by the conference organizers to answer questions posed by guests and exhibitors, and even by the attendees themselves to speak with one another across languages.

Pre- and Post-Event Speech Accessories

Accessories also exist for use before and after the event itself. Multilanguage customer service chat and speech apps ease communication with overseas exhibitors, freight forwarders, and international registration. For international meeting planners, attempting to speak English to all exhibitors or attendees from abroad generates confusion due to limited vocabulary, heavy accents, and general miscommunication.

For post-event follow-up, audio and video messages as TTS may be sent to attendees thanking them for attending and promoting the next event or viewing of the video archives. A conference’s translated subtitles could be saved in databases along with timecodes and exported as SRT files to overlay on YouTube, Vimeo, and other online video library players.

While the use of speech translation for event marketing is new to major conferences and tradeshows, the future is bright, and as more and more event planners and managers look for ways to win bids and RFPs over competitors, such tools will soon become a decisive factor. 

Sue Reager is president of Translate Your World, developers of software for across-language speech communication. Reach her at sreager@translateyourworld.com.

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