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Multilingual remote conferencing and interpreting platforms in the era of COVID-19

Turning the pharmaceutical language behind vaccine development into engaging, accessible content

The coronavirus has presented a new challenge to the pharmaceutical industry. Never in our lifetime has the sector’s line of work been under such an enormous spotlight – and in a simultaneous, global capacity.

It has brought with it an extraordinary pressure; against unique challenges and restrictions, the industry must accelerate vaccination programmes faster than ever before, and deal with the enormous challenge of communicating the developments, issues and opportunities it presents in many different languages.

While there is a need to inform the media and public about when vaccines might be available, it is even more important to ensure that pharmaceutical companies can efficiently collaborate with one another and achieve a level of business continuity.

The industry looks very different from how it did at the beginning of the year. Conferences are cancelled, meetings are virtual, sales representatives are unable to visit their customers and researchers are having to rely on tech to collaborate with other organisations and institutes.

Traditional practices and ways of working have been abandoned, with new, alternative tools utilised to strengthen relationships with colleagues, partners, investors and other stakeholders. Throughout it all, there is a reliance on translation technologies that are designed to enable pharmaceutical businesses to communicate globally.

These platforms and services will become a key part in helping the industry navigate the changing business landscape and ensure it can continue to build momentum long into the future.

Virtual collaboration

Each year, the calendar of pharmaceutical conferences around the world gets busier and more sophisticated. Clinicians, academics and policymakers use these events to connect with their community, establish new partnerships and increase their clientele.

The conference listings for 2020 were well established, but as the coronavirus became a more severe threat, the months of upfront planning were put on hold. Ordinarily – and pre-COVID-19 – organisations taking part in international conferences would hire interpreters to translate conversations live.

However, in a bid to save costs and time, as well as reduce the impact on the environment, there has been an increase in demand for services such as multilingual, remote conferencing and interpreting platforms. They facilitate an unlimited number of virtual interpreting booths, accessed remotely by organisers and participants around the world.

Each user is allocated a qualified linguist who not only translates in whatever language users select as their preferred choice, but is also highly experienced in the pharmaceutical sector so they can translate even the most complex sector terminology in real time.

Although they were designed to help businesses achieve greater efficiencies, in the current climate such systems are proving to be invaluable in virtual meetings where there are participants or audiences from around the world who want to achieve a similar feel to the one they would enjoy at a conference or event.

An online education

Training, workshops, demonstrations and knowledge sharing are all key in the pharmaceutical industry – not just from an R&D point of view, but for HR, operations, finance, marketing and more. With travel restrictions and social distancing in place, teams need to find alternative ways to stay motivated and keep on top of the latest industry developments – which is where e-learning can come in.

Webinars and podcasts which facilitate digital learning remotely enable firms to remotely upskill their teams to drive the industry forward, while those that enable multiple parties to come together on one platform will act as a vessel for collaboration, offering the chance to work together on projects.

Businesses that can adapt their usual tutorials to be more interactive, during a time when we feel very much apart, will be identified as those which place great value on human interaction. And for an industry which relies on international relationships, this practice will become vital.

As such, it’s important that any content created for this purpose is made accessible to partners around the world. The use of foreign language voiceovers and subtitles will make the learning materials more accessible, helping to build engaged audiences across all countries.

Driving clinical change through language

Now more than ever, it is essential to communicate the critical role of trials in the development of medicine, so those taking part understand any risks to their health and the role they play in creating a better future.

In April this year there were 650 groups around the world carrying out 460 different coronavirus vaccine trials on hundreds of thousands of individuals from different nationalities.

Messaging about these trials must be accessible across multiple platforms – a variety of online, print and video – and requires the production of swathes of collateral, including patient information leaflets, patient questionnaires, patient reported outcomes, informed consent forms and more.

Each must be tailored to the audience it is intended for: not just translated into their language but adapted to ensure it is culturally relevant and provides clear, accurate information on the health and safety aspects of clinical trials.

Transcreation is a type of highly creative translation service, which falls somewhere between translation and foreign language copywriting, which can transform marketing campaigns for clinical trials from informative and jargon-filled, to impactful and colloquial, and is equally effective when it comes to promoting vaccines which make it to market.

Turning the pharmaceutical language behind the development of a vaccine into engaging, accessible content will play a huge part in accelerating the medical science developments in response to COVID-19 and will lead to even greater engagement with medical and clinical trials well into the future.

A universal mission

The pharmaceutical sector plays a constant – but often hidden – role in keeping the world safe. The pandemic has put it under the spotlight, but there are changes that can be made now which will define the future of the sector.

The industry must ensure it can continue to develop new medicines using expertise from around the world and support business growth when we can’t communicate face- to-face, in a physical capacity.

Through effective translation and the technology and services which accompany it, the industry can still achieve a strong level of continuity and communicate not only the vital role pharmaceuticals play in society, but how the public can help drive it forward too.

Alan White is business development director at The Translation People

6th October 2020

Alan White is business development director at The Translation People

6th October 2020


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