“I don’t use transcripts that much, the quality is always bad and it’s difficult to make sense of them”. This comment came up in a client conversation recently, and it’s not the first time I hear it. I pushed a bit, and the client elaborated. “There’s always so much noise in the raw transcript, stuff that’s not relevant to the topic. I usually just rely on my notes.”
Transcribed expert calls can be extremely powerful. Knowing that a call is recorded and transcribed gives you the chance to focus on the conversation with the expert instead of note taking.
Transcribing calls is also a great way of safeguarding and sharing knowledge internally within your firm. The project that you’re working on now might later become relevant to one of your colleagues. Studying transcripts from past calls is a great way to kick off the research process, and can save your firm a lot of time and money.
But why are automated transcripts often so difficult to make sense of? Do you really need to pay for an expensive service that “fixes” the transcript for you? Well, luckily, there’s a lot you can do yourself to improve the quality.
1. Get rid of the echo
For the best sound quality, conduct the call in a sound booth or silent room. This might sound obvious, but a surprisingly large number of expert calls are conducted in noisy environments. The best place to record audio is in a small room with textiles (carpet, curtains etc). The textiles swallow harsh sounds and reduce echo.
2. Slow down
Simple but efficient. If you go slower and make sure to articulate every word it will be easier for the computer to figure out what you’re saying. As a bonus, the expert is more likely to understand you, and you reduce the risk of misunderstandings and having to repeat yourself.
3. Avoid interrupting
An expert call is as much a conversation as it is an interview. Treating it as a conversation is a good way to make the expert feel comfortable, but it’s not ideal for the purpose of transcription. A lot of the “noise” that the client described in our conversation is actually sounds we make to keep a conversation going, like “hrm”, “ah”, and “ok”. The problem is that each time you make these humming sounds, the transcription engine will treat it as a sound track and transcribe it. This doesn’t only create unnecessary noise, it will also interrupt the expert in the transcript.
4. Use the web link
Are you like most people, prone to sticking to old habits? The next time you join an expert call from an office or another location with strong and stable wifi, try joining through the web link instead of dialing in from your phone. You’d be surprised by the sound quality. Another advantage is that by joining with the web link you can easily mute your microphone when you don’t speak, reducing the frequency of the “hrm”, “ah”, and “ok”.
Are you curious about how you can use transcripts to improve your research process? Inex One offers free transcripts with every call, and a Knowledge Management Platform with a searchable transcript library. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org, or sign up here!