Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Conference Recording: Minutes Made Easy

One niche of clients we get calls from every day are those wanting to get better recordings made of meetings. We hear from townships, city councils, school boards and many other types of groups who have regular meetings. Tired of broken tapes and missed speeches, the callers have been tasked with finding affordable solutions for capturing and transcribing meetings.

Of course, in a perfect world, our callers would like to use speech-to-print software, such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking, to transcribe the meetings verbatim. Unfortunately, speech recognition software does a very poor job of this, as the software requires training for an individual's voice and it cannot discern the many different voices in a meeting. Add to that the fact that meeting participants rarely speak in complete sentences, or without talking over each other.

The next best thing, though, is to get a quality recording of the meeting and then transcribing it by listening and typing. Even if summary minutes are all that is required, easy-to-use transcription software and peripherals can make the chore much easier and faster to complete.

So, let's begin with the actual recording of the meeting. This is the toughest part of the equation, but it doesn't have to be complicated. The biggest issue is how best to "mike" the speakers.

For most of our clients, the venue is a small room with three to six board members, council members, etc. seated at a dais. The audience is facing them, and from time to time, a member of the audience will address the panel. In these cases, any one of a number of conference microphone kits will suffice. If the distance between the panel and the audience is greater than 15 feet, we tend to suggest those microphones that have stands, such as the Olympus ME30W, since they can be positioned to point generally toward the speakers. In larger rooms, the Philips 955  will provide good omni-directional pick-up. A good stereo voice recorder, like the Olympus DS-3500, allows the clerk or secretary to monitor the recording during the meeting to make sure everyone is being recorded at a sufficient volume.

After the meeting, the digital recording can be easily and quickly downloaded to a transcriptionists computer. The transcriptionist can then use a USB footswitch, accompanying a compatible transcription software program, to control the playback of the recording while typing the transcript into any word processing program.

The one accessory ordered the most in these scenarios is an external AC adaptor for the recorder, since battery failure in the middle of an important meeting is certainly not preferred.

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