Meeting Transcription – How to Transcribe Meetings

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Meeting transcription turns the recorded audio or video of a meeting into a text document and makes the information easily searchable and accessible.

Transcripts of meetings are used for documentation, future reference, review, follow up and archiving.

Meeting transcription can include transcription of business meetings, legal meetings, board meetings, corporate meeting, annual meetings, homeowner associations meetings, press meetings, interviews and other types of meetings.

Meeting transcripts offer several benefits:

  • They provide a written copy of the recorded meeting.
  • They help quickly skim and assess the content and relevance of an meeting.
  • They overcome problems with voices that are difficult to hear or understand.
  • It’s easier to do computer searches for specific words and phrases from a digital text file.
  • They provide content on a website, help search engines index your website and help people find your website.
  • Most businesses outsource meeting transcription work because it take too long to do it themselves and they need to focus their energy on their business.

The challenges of transcribing meetings

Because meetings involve multiple people, meeting transcription can be challenging, takes longer to transcribe, and requires more transcription experience than single-person dictations.

Other transcripts that involve several people include seminar transcription, conference transcription, teleconference transcription, webcast transcription, and podcast transcription. They may also include debates and symposiums, group discussions, Q & A sessions, training sessions, feedback sessions, brainstorming sessions, workshops, press meets/conferences and presentations.

Here are some of the challenges you can run into when transcribing meetings and other events that involve several people:

  • You have to become familiar with different voices with a different tone, pitch and speed.
  • People may be speaking over each another and interrupt each other.
  • The recording may contain low-speaking voices that are difficult to hear.
  • Words will be difficult to decipher if a speaker is too far away from the microphone, mumbles or speaks too fast or too quietly.
  • You may have to identify the speakers.
  • Speakers often use incomplete and truncated phrases and incorrect sentence construction. Speech may include repeated words and phrases, false starts, interjections, pauses, mispronounced words and noises like ahs, uhs and um.

Identifying speakers

The more people that are attending the meeting, the more voices you’ll have to get used to, the more difficult transcription will be and the longer it will take.

Each company might have slightly different requirements.

Ask your clients if you need to identify the speakers. Some will want you to identify speakers while others don’t as they know the speakers and the content and the transcript may be used for internal reference purposes by the people who were present at the meeting.

Identifying the speakers by name can be difficult for transcriptionists as they don’t know the people and speakers will have to identify themselves.

If you don’t know the names, you can identify individual speakers generically as Male 1, Male 2, Female 1, Female 2; or Interviewer or Interviewee; or Moderator and Respondent. Ask you clients if they prefer that you label the speakers differently, such as by their initials, their first or last names, or as “Q” and “A.”

Additional difficulties may include:

  • The need for frequent timestamps.
  • Background noise and poor audio quality.
  • Special terminology that requires research. The topics will vary dramatically depending on the industry and type of meeting. You may have to be familiar with corporate communications, meeting minutes, and financial terms. You may have to research uncommon words, technical terms, and acronyms.
  • Speakers with accents.

Transcription format

The format of interview transcripts is usually simple but can vary depending on the client. Most people don’t have special requirements. Typically, you’ll want to use a new paragraph when changing speakers and identify the speakers.

If you are interested in learning more about transcription work from home, sign up for my FREE TRANSCRIPTION MINI-COURSE to find out if transcription is the right kind of work for you.


Because meeting transcription is challenging, it's important to use a good headset and a foot pedal.


I recommend using high quality headphones that provide clear sound to make transcribing easier and increase the accuracy of the transcript.

Below are popular transcription headsets for transcriptionists

The spectra USB transcription headset is a good lightweight transcription headset and one of the most popular headsets of transcriptionists.

  • PROS: It is lightweight, comfortable, sturdy, you can control the volume directly on the headset, 10 foot cable, USB, and inexpensive.
  • CONS: It has smaller speakers which means that it has less power and the quality output is lower than headsets with larger speakers. It’s also not good for listening to music.

ECS OHUSB WordSlinger Deluxe Overhead USB Transcription Headset. 

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  • PROS: Noise cancelling, detects the vocal range through a frequency detector, controls for adjusting the volumes. This is a great headphone for transcribing poor quality audio files. It is durable and the price is in the mid-range.
  • CONS: The cable may be a little shorter than some people will like. This headphone is great for transcription but not for listening to music.

The FlexFone FLX-10 PC headset is one of the best-sounding transcription headsets!  It’s also comfortable.

Transcription software

Express Scribe is the most used transcription software to transcribe audio files.  Express Scribe has a FREE + paid transcription playback software for audio. Works with PC, Mac and Linux.

You can read more about transcription software here and what the differences are between the free and paid version of Express Scribe.

Foot pedal

Use a foot pedal to help you pause and stop the transcription tape while keeping your hands free to type without interruptions. A foot pedal makes transcribing easier and faster.

TIP: Set the speed of the audio to match your typing speed. Slow down the audio to be able to type for longer periods of time without having to pause and rewind the tape. Slow down the speed of the audio to better understand hard to hear or mumbled words.


To help you choose a foot pedal for transcription, read my blog post about How to Select a Foot Pedal for Transcription.

Specialized terminology

Every industry has its own terminology and jargon. The terminology will vary depending on the industry, the client and the subject of the interview.

Here are several tips to make transcription of meetings easier.

  • Ask clients to provide a list of unusual words and the speakers’ names or spell them at the beginning of the meeting recording.
  • Become proficient at online research.
  • Compile a list of words you often encounter for the industries you’re working with. Keep a list of specialized words handy for reference when transcribing. Look for specialized glossaries online.
  • Read industry publications and visit industry websites.

Type of transcript

The type of transcript you will need to use will depend on the purpose of the transcript and the client's needs.

Some transcripts have to be verbatim while others have to be edited for clarity. Intelligent verbatim transcripts are common for meeting transcription but some clients may need verbatim transcripts for legal or other reasons which include uhs, ums, false starts, and stutters. Some people may want an edited transcript without distinguishing between different speakers and they may want you to turn the content into more coherent sentences.


As with any type of transcription, confidentiality is important. Sensitive information can be mentioned in meetings. Transcription companies and transcriptionists need to take measures to protect confidentiality of the data even if they have contractors working in different countries. They need to use secure file transfers and have contractors sign confidentiality agreements.  Storage and transmission of files must be secure. This can be done through encryption and by having transcriptionists enter a user name and password to access the files.

Communicate with clients

It’s important to ask your clients the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of the transcript?
  • What type of transcript do they want. Do they want a verbatim, intelligent verbatim or edited transcript?
  • Do you need to identify speakers?
  • Do they need time codes and how often?
  • Do they need special formatting?

Meeting transcription can generate a lot of work for transcriptionists but is not suited for the inexperienced. If you’re new to transcription, build up some experience first with easier work such as voicemail transcripts, single-person dictation and simple two-person interviews. You must develop listening skills. This will come with practice. A great training program will help tremendously.

Are you ready to become a general transcriptionist?

To get in-depth training,
I recommend Janet Shaughnessy’s detailed, online, multi-media, online general transcription course
This course includes typing drills, transcription skills, transcription formats, grammar skills, lots of practice files and much more.


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