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Poor transcription is often the result of bad recording. Here are some simple suggestions for improving the quality of your recordings and, consequently, the quality of your verbatim transcripts
For an interview, place the microphone closer to the person you are interviewing than to yourself. For a group discussion, a roundtable or a focus group, use an “omni-directional” microphone. Inexpensive ones are available at Radio Shack stores.
If remote, headsets with microphones that plug into the computer or phone provide the most consistent sound since the microphone is close to the participant’s mouth. Also, if the speaker moves their head, the microphone moves with them.
If two people will be attending a proceeding remotely from the same room, they should take care to avoid feedback loops by never having more than one microphone in use at a time.
All participants should mute themselves when not speaking in a remote conference.
Record your interview in a quiet place. Restaurants are never quiet enough. Cars, other people, coughs and paper shuffling will always be louder than you and your subject, even in a small group.
Remote participants should do all they can to ensure they will be appearing from a location free of extraneous background noise and with good telephone reception.
If your remote meeting recording program permits, the court staff or court reporter should mute all participants unless they are speaking to minimize simultaneous speech which cannot be understood on the recording.
If remote, note that landline phones provide a cleaner record than cell phones and should be used if possible. If using a cell phone, the participant should ensure they have full cell coverage and should stay in one place so that the coverage does not waver as they move around.
If you record on a regular basis, invest in a good quality microphone. A couple of hundred dollars invested in equipment will save you thousands of dollars in transcription costs and improve the quality of your transcripts.
Announce and spell the names of subjects at the beginning of the recording. If it is important that individuals in a 2- or 3-person group be identified in the transcript, please have them identify themselves at the beginning of the session. Note that more than three people in a discussion are usually impossible to identify on a recording. Give us a terminology list whenever possible; any document or PowerPoint presentation will help. Last but not least, test the recording. Stop and listen after a few minutes of conversation to make sure everything is working properly and the most important voices can be heard clearly.
Wait a full second after you are unmuted before speaking to ensure your first word isn’t cut off by a technological delay.
If remote, note that cell phone technology creates distortions, even when you do all you can to ensure the signals are all strong. Consider repeating the most important information, e.g., guilty v. not guilty, to ensure that no audio interference distorts the record.
Speakers should introduce themselves briefly every time they start speaking so that there is no confusion. This becomes especially important if a transcript is ordered; without the court-specific reporting software that facilitates speaker identification through log notes, transcribers cannot determine who is speaking.
If two or more people speak simultaneously, both will be inaudible. Therefore, you should wait to be recognized before speaking. In the case of objections, pause after objecting so the basis for the objection can be captured in the record.
For those participating in person, be aware that masks create muffled distortions, even when the person is speaking clearly at a microphone. If you have any trouble understanding a participant, ask them to speak louder and clearer to ensure the record is clear.
Participants should speak clearly and slowly to help overcome the issues caused by remote appearances and masks.