Recording for transcription

Recording for transcription

Recording tips for interviews, focus groups and conferences

To receive a good quality transcript, the best place to start is with a good quality recording!  If the transcription service provider is listening to a nice clear sound file, then there are less chances of mishears, inaudibles and typos appearing in the transcript.

At Business Friend we recommend following the below tips to help improve the quality of your recording, and therefore the quality of the transcript you receive:

  1. Use the correct recording equipment.  Digital equipment does generally provide a higher quality recording, and you do not need to worry about analogue cassettes losing quality over time.  There are many suppliers of dictation and recording software out there, with manufacturers such as Sony, Philips or Olympus offering specialist equipment for recording dictation, telephone interviews, face to face interviews and conferences & focus groups, and Skype has software options for recording Skype conversations.  Ask colleagues for recommendations, or contact Business Friend and we can advise of the equipment used for some of the nicer recordings we receive!
  2. Record in a quiet environment.  Transcriptionists will be able to work quicker and more effectively if there is little background noise on the recording to distract from what is being said by the speakers.  In particular radios, TVs, children, pets and restaurant or bar noise are a common problem when trying to transcribe a discussion, so ideally hold the interview or meeting in a quiet location with little distractions.
  3. Reduce over talking in focus groups.  This often happens in focus groups as the participants can get very animated about their subject!  Ask for speakers to introduce themselves before they begin so the transcriber can identify the participants as accurately as possible throughout the transcript, and try to facilitate the focus group so there is minimal over talking to allow the transcriber to pick up as much of the conversation as possible.
  4. Minimise interruptions.  Sometimes the interviewer does need to interrupt as a question springs to mind whilst the interviewee is speaking, or if the interviewee is going off-track from the subject, but wherever possible it’s advisable to let the interviewee finish what they are saying without interruptions or too many acknowledgements (hmm-hmm, yeah, I know), as this can make the transcript difficult to read.  If you do not wish these interruptions to be transcribed you can always request they are omitted by the transcriber or transcription agency.

If you would like any further information on the above, please do not hesitate to contact us.  Business Friend has been providing transcription services in the UK for over nine years and we’re more than happy to share our knowledge with you!


  1. All true enough, but – depending on the subject matter being discussed – I have found it necessary to review the recording and send what amounts to a glossary to the trnascriptionist who may have no clue what the transcribed words mean. I am interviewing retired general officers — Military who therefore speak in tongues, and who are addressing things of long ago – like 20 years! Amazing how swiftly language changes.

  2. It is always very much appreciated when a client provides summaries – although it is part of the transcriptionist’s role to research jargon and subject specific terms for minimal errors, this can be carried out a lot quicker and the transcript less likely to have phonetic guesses if a glossary is available for reference. It sounds like you are working on a very interesting subject Douglas, I hope your project continues to progress well!

  3. Kerry:

    An excellent article; I appreciate your sharing of your insights and experiences. I have a couple more tips to add:

    1. Hat tip to Douglas. After an interview, I draft up an abstract that has key data (date, location, subject name, etc.) and include and acronym list along with any other relevant comments that can help the transcription team.

    2. When possible, I conduct interviews away from the subject’s office. This minimizes drop-in interruptions, plus gets the subject away from their computer and the distraction of incoming emails. If I have to interview in the office, I politely ask the subject to mute the computer – I learned this tip after sitting through a 90 minute interview with multiple interruptions from the annoying Windows “new mail” alert.

    3. Take shorthand notes of the interview, especially to highlight key interview points. Very helpful when doing edits with the transcriptionist.

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