One of the biggest factors to getting an accurate transcript is the quality of the recording. Transcribing a recording is challenging enough in itself, but add in external factors such as background noise and people talking over one another then the level of difficulty increases.
So what makes a recorded audio “good”?
Typically, a recording is “good” if the participants are easily understood (i.e., no to little accent and enunciates well) and if there are no background noise or interference present. Interviews between two or three individuals recorded in a controlled environment tend to be better understood (and thus transcribed better) versus interviews conducted in less than stellar locations, a packed restaurant for example. A controlled environment, however, might not always be possible to achieve, so below are some tips you can follow to ensure better audio quality.
✔ The Right Tool For The Right Job
A recorder is the must have equipment when conducting an interview, but with so many options available in the market, how do you know which one to go with? Consider investing in something heavy duty if you plan on using your device more than a handful of times. Factor in features such as audio quality, battery life, and storage capacity in your decision. If you aren’t particularly keen on shelling out extra for a device, there are a lot of free apps available that allow users to record directly to their phone. Keep in mind though that whatever you record will be stored in your phone so make sure you have enough storage.
✔ Location! Location! Location!
While conducting your interviews in a professionally sound-proofed recording room would be the ideal solution, it isn’t exactly the most practical one. Not everyone has access to those and even if they did, the cost would be another thing to factor in. The next best thing would be to find a location that would provide the following:
- Privacy – this not only lessens the chance of capturing external conversations in the recording, but it also provides a sense of security, especially if the topic of the conversation is confidential.
- Low to no ambient noise – before conducting your interview, check the location if possible. Some room appliances emit sound that can be easily picked up by your recording device.
✔ A Time And Place For Everything
We get it – everyone is busy with something or another and an interview is low on their list of priorities. Make sure you schedule your interview ahead of time and give ample time for your participants to carve out time in their day. The last thing you want is to have your interview in between bites of lunch.
✔ Do the Prep Work
Once you’ve finalized your interview location and have the necessary equipment, conduct a test recording. This allows you to listen to any room noise that you might not have otherwise realized was present.
✔ Better Safe Than Sorry
Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong so it’s best to have a back-up plan! Whether that means having extra batteries or another recording device, it’s always better to be prepared for anything that could potentially happen.
✔ Feedback Is Not Always Welcome
Electronic devices can emit interference or feedback especially when in close proximity to each other. Keep this in mind and place your recording devices accordingly. If you are using your phone to record, make sure you have your notifications set to silent.
✔ Less Is Not Always More
Having one recording device for a one-on-one interview might be enough, but that isn’t the case for a focus group of six or more. Consider having multiple recording devices if recording a large group discussion to ensure that everyone’s input can be captured.
✔ There Is No “I” In Team
A lively discussion might be a sign of a good interview, but it’s not always a sign of a good transcript. Producing a good recording requires effort from all participants. Have people speak one at a time to ensure that no one speaks over one another. You can also ask your participants to speak at a slower rate than normal or even saying their name before speaking to identify who said what in the conversation.
✔ Software Is Your Friend
If your recording is still challenging, there are different software programs available in the market you can use to edit out your recordings. Some of them are free or offer free trials while some require you to purchase the program or a subscription. It’s best to know what issues are present in your recording then look for a program that best handles that issue.
Now that you’ve gotten some tips on improving your audio quality, you can now upload your recordings to automated machine transcription services such as FreeTranscriptions to have them transcribed automatically. If you still find the quality of your transcripts to be lacking, FreeTranscriptions offers editing/proofing services so you can get accurate transcripts.