Overcoming the Challenges of Transcribing Group Conversations

Overcoming the Challenges of Transcribing Group Conversations
Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy


Businesses, government agencies, non-profits, educational institutions, and other organizations occasionally hold virtual conferences or video-recorded forums involving multiple speakers.

These meetings are essential for various important processes, such as business, academic, or legal, and the recordings are usually transcribed to help preserve an accurate account of the proceedings.

To accommodate this growing demand for quality transcripts across all industries, the U.S. transcription market is estimated to expand to about $41.89 billion by 2030, thanks to a 5.8% annual growth rate from 2023.

However, transcribing group conversations isn’t always easy. Several issues often undermine the accuracy of the transcript, such as:

  • Multiple speakers
  • Non-verbal parts
  • Whispering between speakers
  • Background noise

What Are the Challenges in Transcribing Group Discussions?

With group discussion transcriptions, the transcriptionist may face multiple difficulties in the recording. Common challenges in transcribing group meetings include:

1. Generating an Accurate Transcript

Transcription accuracy is non-negotiable when the main goal is to create a correct account of any proceedings.

This objective can be difficult to achieve in group meetings, for example, where an inaccurate transcript compromises the outcome of a business or legal process.

2. Crosstalking Speakers

Overlapping speech is a common occurrence, including in well-moderated group discussion recordings. You may encounter it during a legal deposition transcription when a lawyer talks over the deponent or vice versa.

Similar interruptions occur a lot in brainstorming sessions, with multiple participants eager to contribute ideas at the same time. Some sections of such recordings are often difficult to understand and transcribe accurately.

3. Recognizing Different Speakers

The question of who said what and when arises when you’re transcribing an audio recording with multiple speakers and plenty of crosstalk.

Unless each participant has a strong, distinct accent, or one is male and the other female, identifying them correctly can be a challenge.

Difficult audio with significant background noise can only complicate the speaker identification task further when transcribing group conversations.

4. Time Stamping

Correct insertion of time stamps requires great attention to detail, even for an easy audio recording.

The more the number of speakers and recorded exchanges, the tougher the task is for the transcriptionist. If you can’t correctly identify different speakers each time they speak, this confusion can impact the accuracy of your time annotations. 

Also Read: All You Need to Know About Transcribing Focus Groups

Ways to Transcribe Group Discussion Accurately

Here are tips to overcome challenges in transcribing group discussions:

1. Use Noise-Filtering Headphones

Every transcriptionist should use headphones with noise filters. Eliminating distractive background sounds increases the audibility of the speech, allowing you to correctly pick out fillers and distinguish speaker voices.

2. Have Your Jargon References on Hand

Quick jargon references can help clear up the context of speech involving specialty-specific technical terms. It’s a handy resource when transcribing group conversations for industries like legal or academic and will improve your transcription accuracy.

3. Watch the Video Recording on a High-Resolution Display

A group conversation video allows you to quickly identify speakers. But it can be much more useful when viewed on a high-resolution screen.

If part of the speech is a little inaudible, seeing how the speaker said it or pronounced words might help you get the statement right. Picture clarity is vital for transcribing group discussions accurately.

4. Identify and Label the Speakers Correctly

Once you’ve identified each speaker, you should insert their labels or identities in the transcript each time they speak. The right way to reference them in the text depends on the level of confidentiality required.

If you’re not looking to keep the speakers anonymous, you can label them by name. Otherwise, IDs such as “Speaker 1” or “Speaker 2” are perfect when anonymity is desired.  

5. Decide on Privacy Protocols

The confidentiality of group conversations can have far-reaching implications on the names of participants, places, and any brands involved.

It’s important to decide if any personally identifiable information needs to be censored on video or left out throughout the recording. The final transcript should follow the already established confidentiality protocols.

6. Scrutinize the Document for Errors

Thoroughly proofread the transcript with a sharper focus on difficult parts of the recording. Guided by the transcript’s time annotations, you should counter-check the text against corresponding audio sections with overlapping speech, background noise, and other potential problem areas.

Analyzing the entire transcript twice or more times can help pick out and eliminate transcription mistakes.

Why Is Human Transcription Still More Trusted Than AI in This Tech Savvy World?

Artificial intelligence (AI) has impacted key processes across all industries, and transcription is no exception.

Although AI-generated transcripts are cheap and quick, major quality issues on the document often outweigh any initial time or cost savings.

Human-based group transcription is still the better option when you’re looking for a high-quality transcript. Reasons for this include:

1. High Accuracy

AI transcripts are error-prone and usually defective when it comes to difficult audio files. Conversely, human transcriptionists will carefully listen to the recording, understand the context of the speech, and pick out each word with consistent accuracy.

2. Familiarity With Different Accents

When any of the speakers use a heavy or foreign accent, they’ll likely pronounce many words differently or incorrectly. Speech recognition software can struggle in this area as it works best with native English pronunciations.

With a human-based service, your order can be assigned to a transcriptionist who’s familiar with the accents or dialects in your group discussion video or audio.

3. Speaker Recognition

Many people that use AI transcription report glaring mistakes in the identification of multiple speakers.

But experienced human transcriptionists can cut through background noise, crosstalk, and other difficulties in a group recording.

This unique ability allows them to accurately recognize and assign each distinct voice to the right speaker.  

4. Accurate Verbatim Transcription

Sometimes, you may want the transcript to include and properly annotate whispering exchanges, non-verbal cues, false starts, and stutters, such as “ahs.” Trained personnel, rather than AI, are your best bet for getting your verbatim transcription right.

Also Read: 6 Easy Steps for Transcribing Focus Group Discussions

Summing Up

Group discussion transcription allows you to maintain an accurate record of meetings for easy reference.

Are you looking for a human-based group transcription service with a proven history of 99% transcript accuracy? The U.S.-based GMR transcriptionists are your most reliable option!

We manually create ready-to-use transcripts in customizable formats for any type of group conversation, including academic, and legal.

Follow these steps to transcribe your group discussion audio or video:      

  • Sign up for a GMR Transcription Account
  • Log in to your account and upload your group discussion recording
  • Choose the deadline (can be as soon as 24 hours)
  • Wait while our human transcriptionists transcribe your file (we will notify you once we’ve added the polished transcript to your client account)
  • Pay for the transcription and download your text document via email or the client account

Get a high-quality transcript from GMR Transcription Services, Inc. today.

Register now to transcribe your group conversations and deliver the best results. 


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Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy is the Cofounder & President of GMR Transcription Services, Inc., a California-based company that has been providing accurate and fast transcription services since 2004. She has enjoyed nearly ten years of success at GMR, playing a pivotal role in the company's growth. Under Beth's leadership, GMR Transcription doubled its sales within two years, earning recognition as one of the OC Business Journal's fastest-growing private companies. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two kids.