What Is Conference Transcription?

Mary McMahon

Conference transcription involves creating a written record of proceedings at a conference. It can allow people who were unable to attend a chance to follow the events and learn more about what was discussed, and may be a useful record for conference organizers and attendees. Some conferences make transcripts available after a seminar has concluded free of charge, while others may provide them by request in exchange for a fee. Costs can vary, depending on the conference and whether people request a complete or partial transcript.

Conference transcription may be useful to those unable to attend the event.
Conference transcription may be useful to those unable to attend the event.

Some organizations maintain a staff of transcriptionists who handle their conferences, seminars, and other events. In other cases, conference transcription may be contracted out to a third party. The process involves carefully listening to recorded audio and watching video while preparing a written record of what was said. This may include documentation of gestures as well as visual aids like slides and videos. Attendees may be asked in some cases to provide copies of graphs, charts, and other visual media for insertion into the transcript.

Single speaker events like keynote speeches can be the easiest to transcribe, followed by panels and other events featuring a roundtable of speakers. Conference transcription can be more complex when it involves questions and discussions from the audience, as the quality of the audio can be lower. The transcriptionist may also have to deal with interruptions, unexpected accents, and other issues that can arise when multiple speakers are involved.

Highly technical material can come up at some conferences. For this reason, it is sometimes necessary to use a specialty firm to prepare a conference transcription, or to request editorial review of the finished document by a person familiar with the field. This can ensure that industry jargon and specialized terminology are accurately recorded. At a forensics conference, for example, people may discuss industry-specific technology, processes, and other activities, using language that might not be familiar to the average transcriptionist.

Preparation fees for transcriptions can depend on the length of the audio, the nature, and the type of conference. Muli-speaker audio tends to be more expensive, as does audio that requires familiarity with multiple languages or specialized terminology. Transcription firms can usually provide an estimate, either on the basis of sample audio or general information about the conference. It may be advisable to solicit several conference transcription bids from competing firms to get an idea of the range of options available and their prices.

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