Although you need to hold a meeting with one, or more, people, sometimes getting together in the same location simply isn't possible, and you have to resort to the telephone (or Skype).
You may be doing research and need to interview individuals, or you want to hold a conference call with multiple participants. So, you want to make you get the opinions and views of everyone and decide to make an audio recording of the call. However, there is more to it than just sticking your phone on hands-free and placing the recording device next to it.
(And just to cover the legality of recording a telephone conversation, you don't have to inform the other parties you are recording the call if the recording it purely for your own use, and no one else will hear it. However, it is only polite and always good practice to inform everyone.)
Here are my top five tips for recording telephone meetings or conference calls to ensure you get the best results possible.
1/ Going hands-free makes things "echoy"
While the simplest method for recording a call is to put the phone on hands-free and placing the microphone next to it, if the other participants are also on hands-free, this will make them very echoy, meaning they are much harder to understand. Ideally, it would be best if you could request the others don't go to hands-free, but this may not be possible, or may seem impolite.
2/ Keep still and don't make a noise
If you are recording the call, you need to make sure you sit as still as possible. It is tempting to do other things, or fiddle with an item while the other person is talking, but if that is picked up on the recording, it will lead to disappointment that vital and important information was missed. We have had recordings where the person has been making notes on their laptop while the discussion has been taking place and, unfortunately, the only sound we could hear for most of the one hour recording was the researcher tapping away at their keyboard (so, it's a good idea, to not use the laptop or PC for recording the conversation, unless you are not going to be using it for anything else at the time).
I know with a long interview or meeting, you may want to have something to eat or drink, but again, the packaging or cup and saucer, etc., can make a lot of noise, so try to either hold off until after the meeting, or have the items placed some distance from the microphone. When you listen to the recording you want to hear what the other person said, not the scrunching of the packet of biscuits you were eating from, or the stirring of your tea.
3/ Find a quiet environment
Pretty obvious, but we have still transcribed telephone interviews where the person doing the recording was in a noisy environment, or was sat next to an open window which looked onto a busy main road, meaning the noise of the traffic and roadworks were picked up on the recording and making the other participants hard to hear.
Try and find a quiet room and either close the windows, or sit as far from them as possible. It may also be a good idea if you have been able to find an empty room to use, that you put a note on the outside of the door saying you are recording a telephone conversation. This should stop people just wondering in and chatting without realising (again, something we have had to deal with on many occasions).
4/ Don't interrupt or speak over the other participants
Although we never intend to do it, it is all to easy to suddenly jump in with a comment or point about what someone is saying, while they are still speaking. Of course, with recording a telephone conversation, your voice is going to be louder, drowning out what is said by others.
Let the person finish what they are saying, and give them an extra second or two, just in case they are only pausing before carrying on.
5/ Make sure notification sounds are switched off on your PC, laptop and mobile phone
This is especially important if you doing a Skype call and are using the PC/laptop/phone for recording the conversation. There are lots of audio alerts that can be set up to remind you of different events: when you receive a new email, if someone sends you a message on social media, reminders from your electronic calendar, someone texts you, etc. While the occasional beep isn't much of a problem, if you are someone who gets a lot of these, then you may find not only does it affect the recording of the conversation, but, if heard by the other participants, it puts them off what they are saying and interrupts their flow, as they wonder if there is a problem.
So, where possible, switch your phone to silent, and turn off all other notifications on your PC or laptop. It will save you having to keep explaining every couple of minutes.
Following the above tips will help to ensure that when you record a telephone conversation, what is said by the participants is recorded, and not drowned out by noises that would have avoided easily with a little forethought.