4 Ways to Improve Focus Group Recordings

Jun 5, 2012 | Focus Groups, Qualitative Research | 0 comments

Ask any transcriptionist and they’ll tell you that focus groups are hard to transcribe. There are too many people talking too quickly and often over each other. Add to that a poor recording, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

While it’s hard to control the way people talk in a focus group without interrupting the flow of  ideas, we can take some steps to create better recordings. Here are four factors to consider:

1. Correct Directionality of Microphones

Directionality determines the side from which a microphone captures sound – from the front or all around.

Omidirectional microphones capture sounds from all sides and are great for group recordings. They catch ambient sound too though and therefore it’s important to set them up correctly to minimize noise.

An omnidirectional boundary microphone is ideal for focus groups and will be discussed in detail in the next post.

Unidirectional microphones capture sounds from a single direction and are ideal for recording individual speech. Unidirectional lavalier microphones and lecterns can produce excellent results. The downside is that you must arrange for individual microphones for each participant in the focus group.

2. Right Distance Between Speakers and Microphones

Speakers should be seated at an appropriate distance from the microphone. Too far and they’ll sound dull and muffled on the recording, too close and there will be popping and breathing noise.

Read the guidelines and conduct some sound tests to find out the ideal distance and placement for your microphone.

If you have a large group sitting around a long table, consider using multiple microphones to cover the entire group. Better still, use a boundary microphone.

3. Minimum Ambient Sounds

Ambient sounds are sounds from the surroundings like rustling papers, coffee cups, the traffic outside, the buzz from an air conditioner, people moving around etc. It’s a good idea to do a test recording before a session to identify these sounds and then find ways to minimize them.

4. Managing Multiple Microphones with Mixers

If you’re using several microphones around the table, you may want to consider using a microphone mixer that activates microphones that are in use and deactivates the ones that are silent. This helps reduce ambient sounds and side conversations on the recording.

In upcoming posts this month, we’ll discuss the different types of microphones that can be used to record focus groups, their advantages and disadvantages, and customizations that can help create better recordings.

Read: Use a Boundary Microphone to Record Focus Groups


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