How to Record a Crystal-Clear Interview: 10 Simple Tips

Record an InterviewYou’ve got your questions. You’ve got your equipment. You’ve got your interview lined up. You’re all set. Except, how many times have you gone through this motion, only to find out later that you missed half the conversation because of a low-quality recording?

It’s okay. It happens to the best of us. Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to ensure that your next interview results in a crystal-clear recording, which in turn will get you much more accurate transcripts. We’ve put together a list of 10 simple things you can do before and during your interview to ensure the best possible sound quality of your recording:

  1. Get new equipment – That tape recorder you have. You know, the one you’ve been using for the past 10 years? Yeah, it’s high time you got a new one. Technology’s advanced tremendously and the newer professional systems are far improved.
  2. Invest in a microphone – An external microphone to attach to your recording equipment will just further improve the sound quality. If you’re interviewing multiple people, you may want to buy a few lapel mics, or a multi-directional microphone that you can place on the table in between everyone.
  3. Stay close to your subject – The farther away the microphone is from the person you’re interviewing, the softer the recording will be. So be sure to either have multiple microphones around the room, or move yours right up to the subject’s mouth after you ask your questions.
  4. Oil those chairs – Before you even start, make sure to check all chairs, tables and the floor area for squeaks! Nothing ruins a good recording like a constant chair squeak. During the interview, it may not sound that bad, but on playback, it can easily knock out crucial phrases or sentences.
  5. Name names – If you’re interviewing more than one person, unless they have extremely different voices (like a high-pitched woman’s voice and a very deep man’s voice), have every person state his or her name before answering any questions. It’s a good idea to start the interview simply by going around the room and having each person state their name. Then, before they answer any questions, have them repeat their name. This will save you so many headaches later on.
  6. Don’t record with your mouth full – Set a few rules before the interview starts to lessen extraneous sounds like eating and drinking. If it’s over lunch, it’s a good idea to eat first and record after. If someone takes a drink, be sure to stop talking while they’re drinking. Simply pause, and repeat the entire question when they’re finished.
  7. Sneezy, Coughy, Laughy – Chances are there’ll be some extraneous sounds during the interview. Someone will cough, sneeze or start laughing. You can’t stop any of that. But you can stop people from talking while that happens. Have them repeat anything they started to say when the noise dies down. It could be a good idea to have some tissues and cough drops nearby too, just in case.
  8. Close the windows – If you’re outside, you’re out of luck. But if you’re inside, close the windows. You don’t want to chance any unplanned background noises popping up like lawn mowers, car horns, pets, airplanes, etc.
  9. Mute your phone – Put your cell phone on vibrate, or better yet, turn it off completely. Try to get your interviewee to do the same. Besides knocking out sound quality during the interview, your subject may be tempted to answer the phone and thus derail the interview.
  10. Testing 1…2…3 – You should always test your equipment before starting. Set it up exactly as you will for the real interview, then practice with a coworker or friend. Talk for a good minute or two, then play it back to make sure you can hear exactly how it’s going to come out. To really be sure, record for a full five minutes and then play it back to someone who wasn’t even in the room at all. Their assessment will tell you if the quality is up to snuff.

If you’d like help preparing to record your interviews or would like to have your interviews transcribed, contact us to see how we can help.

1 Comment to How to Record a Crystal-Clear Interview: 10 Simple Tips

  1. Joe T.'s Gravatar Joe T.
    August 11, 2012 at 5:16 am | Permalink

    Thank you for these tips that you’ve given through this article. It will certainly help me when I decide to push through with my plan to set up a project that involves interviewing people through a podcast medium.

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