Recording a group of people and getting an effective written record of that recording, i.e. a transcription, is usually fairly straightforward, provided you follow these simple five top tips:
- Make sure the device you’re using to record the group discussion, conversation or meeting is situated in the centre of the room, unless you have directional microphones. Using specialist equipment is no longer necessary because of the power of smart phones, mainly the Samsung and iPhone ranges post- 2014. These phones are more than adequate to provide you with a good quality and clear recording.
- Make sure you tell all the participants in the group that the discussion or meeting or focus group is being recorded. This is really important because not only do you ensure that you have everyone’s consent to the recording taking place, but also it means that they are conscious that when they speak, whatever they say is picked up.
- Inform the participants of the focus group, meeting or group discussion that they need to ensure that they do not speak over the top of each other at any one time. This can be hard to do, particularly for students and graduates who are used to the rule of the jungle, in that those who speak the loudest and fastest get heard the most! For the purposes of transcription and actually writing out a record of the discussion, if people speak over the top of each other it is a complete nightmare trying to determine exactly what has been said.
- If the speaker is important to you during the group meeting, you need to identify them each time they speak. The easiest and quickest way of doing this is simply to give everybody who’s taking part a number. Every time they speak, they say the number first which means the transcriber can then identify the speaker for you. This is particularly important when there are groups of more than 20 people, as it is virtually impossible for the transcriptionist to individually identify each of the speakers from the recording.
- Make sure you keep the start of the meeting and the end of the meeting as short as possible for the purposes of recording because you will be paying by the minute for the recording to be transcribed. Every extra minute discussing the weather or how Celtic did last night is going to put your bill up.
Test your Equipment
These are our tips for a successful recording of a group. It is not difficult to do, but maybe the most important piece of advice is to get everybody into the room, ask them all to speak and record about 60 seconds of discussion. Take the device you have used to record, whether this is an Olympus DSS recorder, iPhone or Samsung, and go out of the room and listen very carefully to the recording played back. If you can hear everybody speaking fairly clearly then the device is doing the job. If it isn’t you need to consider moving the device into a better position so that you can detect all the speakers. Finally, remember, if you cannot hear voices on the recording when you play it back then unless our specialist software can boost the particular frequency a speaker’s voice is pitched at, then it is very unlikely we will be able to hear the speaker either.
Rogue Transcription Companies
Beware of transcription companies who give you the same price for groups of people speaking as they do for a single speaker or interview with two speakers. The work involved in transcribing groups of people is particularly complex and often requires the services of a specialist transcription company who are capable of dealing with this work. It takes considerably longer to transcribe, requires a particular level of experience and only certain specialist transcribers are even prepared to do it. For details of any specialist transcribers who undertake focus groups, meetings and group discussions please visit www.universitytranscriptions.co.uk.