6 Ground Rules for Recording an Interview

May 20, 2010 | Interviews, Qualitative Research | 3 comments

There are two components to a well-recorded interview – clarity of the recording and clarity of speech. In this post we’ll talk about the latter.

Not everyone is a professional speaker. Unprepared or uninstructed, most people would speak at an interview the way they would in a normal one-on-one conversation. Now that’s perfectly fine for an informal discussion, but for a professional recording that’s probably going to be shared, transcribed, and re-produced in several different forms, it’s important to lay a few basic ground rules for the participants –

1. Speak slowly

When speaking in a flow, people generally accelerate their rate of speech to match their speed of thinking. This makes their speech difficult to follow unless listeners turn up the volume and hang on to each word that’s said. It poses an even bigger problem if the speakers have an accent.

Rate of speech can be controlled without hindering the flow of thought by using some simple techniques such as –

  • Stretching the vowel sounds in each word.
  • Following the pace of another speaker
  • Simply pausing more often while speaking

2. Pause often

Many interviewees (and interviewers!) shy of pausing between sentences. They often rush on from sentence to sentence  trying to fill the gaps between thoughts with what we call fillers and false starts.

Fillers are the ums, ahs, you knows, okays, etc. that are used when a speaker is turning over an idea in his head.

False starts are incomplete sentences such as “What I think is…how I’d put it is…here’s my point of view on this…I think there should be clear policy defined for this”.

Both fillers and false starts are ploys to buy time to think, but they tend to break the flow of speech.

Instead of using fillers and false starts, speakers should simply pause and think over what they have to say. The silence will not only give them time to think but also lend emphasis to what they say next.

3. Introduce yourself

This is important in interviews (and other recordings) with multiple speakers. Every speaker should ideally mention their name before beginning to speak. This will help listeners identify the person who is speaking and thus follow the conversation better. Needless to say, mentioning names goes a long way in improving transcription accuracy because the transcriptionist can then easily identify each speaker and mark their name correctly in the transcript.

4. Spell out important words

If your interview is on a technical subject or involves the use of words that are not commonly known then it’s best to spell these out for the benefit of the listeners.  Examples of words that should be spelled are names of authors, websites, uncommon medicines, books, technical terms, places, etc.

5. Avoid over-talking

In a well-conducted interview all participants get ample time to listen, think, and speak.  However, there are times (especially with multiple speakers) when everyone wants to speak at the same time and there’s a lot of overlapping conversation which is extremely difficult to follow. To avoid this, participants should be advised to speak one at a time. Also, the interviewer should maintain control over the conversation so that everyone gets a chance to express their views clearly and without interruptions.

6. Allocate time for Q&A

If your interview involves questions from a live audience, it is advisable to allocate some Q&A time at the end of the interview for this. Q&A’s tend to extend the overall duration of an interview and can sometimes lead the conversation away from the core topic. Allocating a fixed amount of time at the end of the interview for questions from the audience will allow you to complete the interview on time and also ensure that you cover all the important questions without distractions.

And last but not the least, ALWAYS use a microphone.

Happy recording!

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