6 steps to a great recording so you’ll have a great transcript
By: Pam Deyerle
I’ve been providing transcription services for a long time, so I have a lot of experience and am great at handling bad recordings. But some have been so bad that there wasn’t much I could do. I’ve even had blank ones. I feel terrible for my clients when the audio is that poor or the entire recording is blank. Vital information from that interview, meeting, or focus group is lost, probably forever.
Good recordings not only promise great transcripts from me, but they will also cost less. My goal is to provide the best transcript I can. In order to do that with a bad recording, I have to listen to portions of it over and over. I certainly don't mind doing whatever is needed, but that extra time means extra cost to you.
Here are some suggestions to help you get a great recording:
- Check out equipment or recording software ahead of time to make sure it’s working properly and that you’re familiar with the recording procedures. This holds true whether it’s a handheld device or a sophisticated recording system on your computer or phone network. And if relevant, make sure you have fresh batteries or a full charge. The last thing you want is to finally connect with that needed interviewee and then after the interview discover the device didn’t record anything.
- If you’re using a handheld other similar recording device, it might be a good idea to use an external microphone. And if that recorder is sitting in the middle of a table to record a group, make sure that a conference or omnidirectional microphone is used, otherwise the person sitting farthest away may be too faint to hear clearly.
- Quiet atmosphere. Although a completely silent area is often not feasible, try to record in as quiet an atmosphere as possible. Loud background noises such as televisions, traffic, and unrelated conversations, can make it difficult to hear the voices you recorded. If you're interviewing outside or the person you're interviewing over the phone is outside, be aware that the sound of wind comes across a lot louder on a recording than you would think!
- Don’t be afraid to ask your interviewee to speak up. If you feel the person you’re interviewing is talking too softly, encourage him or her to speak up. If all else fails, you can repeat important parts of what he or she says to make sure it’s picked up by the recording device.
- For handheld voice recorders, do your research for the best one at the best price for your recording needs. Seamus Bellamy at
The Wirecutter did quite a bit of research and provides his thoughts on the best voice recorder.
- If you must do a phone recording, check out these apps for Android and iPhone: Best Voice Recorder Apps for Android and 6 Best iOS Apps to Record your iPhone calls. There are also devices to record over a landline. And of course you could use the speakerphone and record that way. (Don’t forget to get the other person’s permission before recording a phone conversation!) A note from the transcriptionist’s point of view here: Cell phones often do not give great recordings regardless of how the call is recorded. Cell service often cuts in and out. This either leaves blank spots on the recording or audio that is distorted and inaudible.
I know this is a lot to think about, but if your interview or group discussion is important enough to record, it’s important enough to make sure it is the best recording possible.
Thanks for stopping by and happy recording!