Building conference facilities: preliminary questions

Checklist for architects, planners and builders

What is the purpose of the facility and how will it be used?

  • Is it a dedicated conference facility or will it be used for other purposes as well (multipurpose hall, exhibition centre, banquets, etc.)?
  • What type of meetings will be catered for?
    • Business and commercial
    • International agencies
    • Professional associations
    • NGOs
    • etc.

How often will the facility be used for multilingual conferences?

  • Only a few times a year
  • Regularly

How many languages and what combinations?

  • Mainly 2 or 3 languages
  • More, usually the most common languages in the region
  • More, often including less common languages

If the facility is a small one intended mainly for activities involving 2 or 3 languages, there is no need to build in large numbers of booths for the rare event when more are needed. Mobile booths can be added on such occasions (provided adequate space is available in the conference room).

If it is a large facility to be used by international bodies that work with several languages--including less common languages which require relay systems involving two-way booths--an appropriate number of larger booths should be built to accommodate at least 3 interpreters in each one.

How many microphones will be used for speakers and delegates and where will they be located?

  • Fixed or flexible speaker/delegate positions
  • Roving microphones

The most reliable SI system--an absolute essential for large facilities used regularly with multiple languages--will require cabling from microphones in the conference room to the booths.

The transmission from booths to conference room can be by cables or infrared.

Some thought should be given to the positioning of room microphones so that provision can be made for laying cabling ducts.

How do SI booths fit into the design of a conference hall?

The AIIC Technical and Health Committee will be glad to take a look at the plans and discuss them with you. It is in our mutual interest to see that conference facilities are well designed to provide the best service for organisers.

The following plans should be made available:

  • the general layout or floor plan of the room, indicating booth positions
  • a vertical cross-section showing booth level related to the room
  • booth layout on a larger scale, with details
  • vertical cross-section of booths (see ISO 2603)

Booth location (4)

The aim is to see clearly the speaker's podium, the persons seated on the rostrum and the projection screen, as well as the audience.

The scale of the room should be considered and the type of meetings likely to take place:

The booths should be placed:

  • - At the rear of the room, facing the rostrum/screen: The distance from booths to rostrum or projection screen should not be over 30 m (20-25 is preferable) or it may be difficult to read figures and graphs.
  • - Along the side of the room: The minimum angle sideways at which a screen can be read is 30-35 degrees.

Things to remember:

  • - Are the booths placed impossibly high?
  • - Are they too far away or at an awkward angle from speakers and/or screen?
  • - Is the view from the booths obstructed in some way?
  • - discussion
  • - lecture
  • - with or without projection

Booth level (4.1)

If the room floor is flat: The booth floor should be about 1 m above floor level (no more!)

In a small room it can be less, provided the interpreter can see across the room clear of delegates' heads. If located any higher than 1.5 m above the room floor level, the viewing angle into the room becomes too steep and part of the audience will disappear from view.

The line of sight must be taken from the eye of the seated interpreter, at least 70 cm behind the front edge of the work-table. If the booth level is higher than 1 m, make sure that the front edge of supporting structures finishes well below the lower edge of the front window, so as not to obstruct further what may already be a restricted view of the room.

In a large tiered hall: A booth position half-way up from the rostrum is likely to be more satisfactory than behind the last row of seats.

Access to booths and nearby amenities (4.4, 6)

Floor covering in access passages and booths should be sound-absorbent and not hollow, to avoid disturbing resonance effects from footsteps.

An interpreters' room with daylight (for sorting and studying documents, taking breaks) and toilets should be close by.

Access from booths to the conference room should be handy, to facilitate document availability and contact with the meeting.

  • independent--not through the conference room;
  • in a separate soundproof area so individual booths do not open onto a public area. This will prevent unwanted outside noise from going through the interpreters' microphones and into the listeners' earphones, or disturbing the working interpreters
  • free of hazards (wide enough passage, no spiral or awkward stairs, properly lit, etc.);
  • with adequate fire-escape provision.

Communication with technicians and conference room (4.2.2, 9.9, 9.10)

The technician should have a clear view of the conference room and screen.

A qualified technician must be present at all times; hence a booth/console for the technician must be provided in every room.

To facilitate dealing with problems as quickly as possible:

  • The technician should be visible from the booths, and vice versa.
  • The technician should have quick access to the booths.
  • There should be direct communication between individual booths and the technician's booth.
  • There should be communication between individual booths and the conference room, preferably directly to the rostrum.

Obstruction and glare (4.6)

  • Are there any columns or chandeliers likely to block the view from the booths?
  • Is room lighting at booth level or immediately above likely to dazzle interpreters?
  • Windows looking outdoors are desirable, if there is adequate protection from glare.

Recommended citation format:
Technical Committee. "Building conference facilities: preliminary questions". March 24, 2000. Accessed May 26, 2020. <>.

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