WORDsmart Guide to Successful Transcripts

Technical/Recording Tips:

Monitor sound levels.  Discuss meeting needs with the audio technician and be sure the technician monitors recording levels throughout the meeting.

Use quality recording equipment.  Use professional external microphones for optimal sound quality.  Don’t rely on the internal microphone of the recording device.

Provide sufficient microphones to record all participants in the meeting.  When possible, provide each participant with his/her own microphone.  For one-on-one interviews, place the microphone closer to the interviewee(s) than the interviewer.

Choose an appropriately sized venue for the number of participants.  If there is a small number of people in a large room, white noise and reverberations can adversely affect the quality of the recording.

Do not record long meetings in one audio file.  Audio files ideally should be no more than 90-120 minutes long.  For half-day and day-long conferences start new audio files after the breaks and after lunch.

Beware of overly compressed digital audio files.  The more a file is compressed, the poorer the sound quality.  Use the "normal" setting whenever possible.

Do not use voice activation.  If your recording device has a voice activation option, make sure it is turned off before you begin.  The feature can cause frequent dropouts in recording.

Meeting Management/Interview Tips:

Inform participants that the event is being recorded.  Ask them to speak loudly and clearly, directly into a microphone, if possible.

Minimize extraneous noise.  Do not place microphones near slide projectors or air conditioning units/vents.  Shuffling papers, pouring water, coughing or sneezing near a microphone can obscure the speech you want to capture.  Ask participants to turn off cell phones and other mobile devices; even in vibrate mode, they emit signals that can interfere with the recording.  Avoid conducting interviews in noisy venues, such as a busy restaurant.

If proper attribution of speakers is important, have participants verbally identify themselves at the beginning of the event.  If it is a long event or there are more than three participants, you can aid the transcriptionist by having participants identify themselves each time they speak, having the participants address one another by name, or having the moderator identify others when they speak (i.e., “Dr. Jones, you had a question?” or “That was an interesting comment, Mr. Smith.”).

Some clients find it useful to have someone take notes on a laptop to capture the order of speakers. This can be as simple as noting the name/initials of the speaker and the first few words spoken.

Request that participants speak one at a time.  Avoid crosstalk, sidebar conversations or whispering near microphones.

After the Event:

Clearly label media (tapes, CDs or DVDs) or name audio files with the event name and date. If there are multiple tapes, discs or files, clearly indicate the sequence.

Provide supporting materials, such as the agenda, list of participants, and interview notes/guides, to WORDsmart.  PowerPoint slides (preferably in electronic form) can greatly aid the transcriptionist, especially if the content is highly technical.  Lists of acronyms and specialized vocabulary can also be helpful in providing the most accurate transcript possible.

Audiotape Tips:

Use new tapes.  Reusing old tapes can result in poor audio quality and thus a poorer transcript.

If your tape recorder can be set to either normal or slow speed, use normal speed for optimal sound quality.

Use fresh batteries so the tape doesn’t slow down or stop during the event.

For long events, use two tape decks, starting one 5-10 minutes after the other so you can have a backup recording and prevent gaps in recording during tape changes.  Keep the tapes from each deck separate, and clearly label each tape “Deck 1” or “Deck 2.”



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