If you haven’t invested in a digital recorder yet, do check the reviews at such sites as Amazon.com, or Staples.com to learn about the various features available and the quality available at different prices.
Always try to record in a quiet location. For obvious reasons, a busy restaurant or cafeteria is not a good choice. A quiet office or conference room with all phones turned off and the door shut would be a good location.
Before beginning to record, make sure that your recorder’s battery indicator is at full strength. Always carry spare batteries with you and keep an eye on the meter as you record.
Ensure that you have enough memory available before beginning to record. If you're using a digital recorder, you can transfer some files to your computer to free up space.
Record in SHQ or HQ mode. It is best to avoid the long-play mode because it will almost certainly lead to poor quality audio.
Before recording an interview, focus group, etc., practice using your equipment.
Avoid placing the recorder near an AC power source, a fluorescent lamp, or a mobile phone during recording.
Try not to shuffle papers or touch the recorder while someone is speaking.
Ask your subject(s) to speak louder if they are very soft spoken.
Your transcriptionist will always research the spelling of names or acronyms using the Internet where necessary, but if it is an obscure entry, it helps to ask the subject to spell it.
You will get better results with an external microphone; it need not be a very expensive one. For group recordings, you can purchase an omni-directional tabletop conference microphone for under $30.00 from PCDictate.com, Amazon.com, Radio Shack, Musiciansfriend.com or other sources.(When you record, be sure that windows and doors are shut as an omni-directional microphone will pick up ALL sounds.) Place the microphone equidistant from the speakers.
Important: Use earphones while recording so that you can hear exactly what the transcriptionist will hear and make any necessary adjustments in placement of the microphone, seating of participants, or other factors.This will help to avoid the possibility of discovering later that some participants' voices are barely audible or worse yet, totally inaudible.
Turn off your recorder’s voice activation feature. If you use it, some dialogue may be missed.
Remember to let your interviewee finish a thought completely before going on to the next question or topic. If both of you speak at the same time, then that section might have to be transcribed as “Crosstalk,” and you may lose something important. Avoid saying “um huh” and “okay” and the like while your subject is speaking.
If you must take notes on your laptop during the interview, be aware that the sound of the key clicks will adversely affect the quality of the recording and make it difficult for the transcriptionist to transcribe the audio correctly. You might want to invest in one of the flexible keyboards. These keyboards are easy to carry with you because they roll up. But the main benefit is that they are much quieter than a laptop keyboard. (Practice with the keyboard before the recording session because it has a different touch.)
For telephone interviews, avoid using the speakerphone. Instead, use a telephone recorder (but not the one that uses a suction cup, and not one that uses tapes unless you use these as a secondary backup). Again, check the reviews at Amazon.com or elsewhere for information and helpful customer feedback.
Please, always be sure to listen to a few minutes of your recorded session before proceeding with the entire session to be confident that what you're recording can be heard by your transcriptionist. Thoughtful preparation, a little research into available tools, some relatively small investments while still purchasing the best equipment your budget will allow, and a practice session before beginning your recording sessions should lead to excellent results, namely: high quality recordings, speed and convenience in transferring files and, ultimately, more accurate, more useful transcripts.
If a phone interview can be handled without any fees for the participants (e.g., they both/all have unlimited long distance plans or the same cell phone provider, etc.), then an excellent and free way to record the phone call as a .wav or .mp3 audio file is to use www.freeconferencecall.com. Just be sure to practice with it first; use the *keynot the # key to log in as host; and remember to press * 9 to record your phone conference and * 9 to end the recording. Be sure to ask all participants to speak clearly. You will know from your practice session what an acceptable voice level is for everyone. After the call, you can easily save your audio file and send it to Transcription Department via our Send Your Files page for transcription.
If all participants in a recording session have Skype, you can record the call for free using MP3 Skype Recorder.
In a face-to-face interview, turn off all mobile phones. Voice mails and text messages will emit a radio frequency that the human ear cannot detect, but they can cause a buzzing sound to be recorded, drowning out the dialog you are trying to record. Turning the phones to silent or vibrate is not enough -- they need to be turned completely off.