The dreaded focus group transcript job. You download the audio file, start listening, and before you know it, there are 12 speakers, and they are all talking over each other. Focus group transcriptions can be a challenge. The idea of focus groups is so that companies can get feedback or new ideas about a product or service. Unlike interviews, focus groups allow the group of participants to bounce ideas off each other. In some ways, focus groups are both research and brainstorming. Frequently new ideas for services, products, or advertisements can result from the study.
Why Get Focus Groups Transcribed?
Because they are more qualitative data versus quantitative, voice, or video recordings of focus groups, let the moderators record the data without the burden of taking notes. Unlike surveys, a focus group doesn’t have a set selection of answers. You don’t just count up how many people selected A versus B. Focus groups are more about ideas and thoughts than any right or wrong answer.
Accurate text transcription of the focus group’s conversation can provide a ton of data for the focus group team. A successful focus group transcription will record every thought and idea that the panel came up with during the focus group sessions. Unfortunately, because the groups of people can sometimes be quite large, transcribing focus group discussions can become a challenge.
Write Down Your Speaker Labels
When providing focus group transcription services, I will often write down the names of the speakers as they say them. Or if they are leaving names out or the client would like them redacted (left out of the transcript), I will make a list of who corresponds to whom. Having a handy reference right next to my keyboard can be a lifesaver. Some focus group transcript clients won’t care who is who, and they only care about the accuracy of the transcript.
Even so, I still like to write down the speakers, because it helps me to keep a more accurate pulse of the conversation. Also, be sure to identify the focus group moderator. They will be the person leading the focus group’s discussion.
Next to that handy list of speaker labels, why not jot down little notes about the speaker? If Female Speaker 1, a.k.a. Jan has three kids whom she is constantly talking about, write it down. If Male Speaker 6 has a deep, gravelly voice, write it down. Leslie is sitting close to the microphone so you can always hear her loud and clear, write it down. Having a handy list that you can refer to while transcribing focus group audio can make your job a whole lot easier.
I don’t know how many times I’ve had to look back 20 pages in a transcript to try and figure out who the lady who said she had four kids was. Writing down little notes about each speaker and what they sound like can save a ton of time and trouble in the long run.
Use Your Software’s Bookmark Feature
A handy tool that both FTW Transcriber and Express Scribe have is the bookmark tool. Bookmarks allow you to jump back to a particular spot in the audio where you have marked an event. With bookmarks, you can easily mark the spots where the speaker started talking and jump back to them when you are unsure about a particular voice. For example, I’ll mark the spot where Bob began speaking. Then later on in the transcript, when he starts talking again, I can jump back to the place to compare voices and make sure the speaker sounds like Bob.
Listen for Speech Patterns
Many people have particular phrases or speech markers that they use when they talk. Maybe they say “like” a lot, or they mumble. Maybe they say “um,” or their catchphrase is “that’s hot.” Whatever it is, these markers can be vital clues for transcribing group audio. Add these clues to your notes.
Pretty soon, you will have a notebook full of hints on discovering which speaker is which. Providing a suitable, high-quality focus group transcript will often depend on finding these clues.
Listen Without Typing
Just sit and listen to the audio for a good 10 minutes or so without transcribing it. Let your ears get used to the flow of the conversation and the voices of the participants. Sometimes when you listen without thinking about it too much, it lets your brain and your ears start to register the sounds, and you will be able to recognize each speaker more easily. Creating a focus group transcript will be much easier once you get used to the candor of the speech.
Don’t Give Up. Power Through the Focus Group Transcript
Having the determination to get through a particularly challenging audio file is half the battle. Sometimes you may even want to give up. There was one particular focus group file where I also emailed my QA begging her to take me off it. It was a group of people who were always talking over each other, and I didn’t know how I would ever be able to get through it. She gave me more time to finish the file but told me that I would have to finish it. The company I was working for charges you if they have to reassign a file because they then have to pay a different transcriptionist at a higher rate to get the file done on time.
So I resolved to power through the file and finished it. Sure enough, after I got about halfway through, I realized that I could finish it and that it was not nearly as difficult as I thought it had been. Moral of the story being that you shouldn’t give up just because you feel something is impossible or too hard. You never know what you can accomplish until you do it. And you can often surprise yourself.