Audio Recording and Note-Taking Tools for Meetings
“Meetings suck because we let them,” wrote tech and business writer Christopher Null in his PCWorld piece back in November 2013. Since then, a lot of tech has improved, the note-taking and audio recording apps have multiplied, and global web conferencing is old news.
The importance of meetings, however, remained the same. If “we don’t take our meetings seriously,” wrote Null, “if we ignore what participants ask or say, fail to document the meeting’s takeaways, or forget to follow up afterward — they might as well not have happened.”
Let’s talk about why it’s important to document meetings, how to do it, and how to make the best use of the tech available.
How to record a meeting
Below are the best strategies to record a meeting based on Null’s recommendations:
- Take better notes. Don’t write everything down, filter to essentials. Treat the notes as your to-do list, to act upon after the meeting, not some abstract idea to mull over sometime in the future.
- Consider using a smarten that can digitize your handwriting (Livescribe is one example) instead of your laptop or any device that would distract others with typing noises and isolate you from other participants.
- If you need to record an entire meeting, not just highlights, use “studio-grade technology” —hire a pro or invest in a high-end microphone.
- Use a meeting-recording app, not a music recording one, though some apps have multiple uses, like the voiceover app we recommend below.
- If you need a word-for-word record order a professional transcript. “You can’t rely on your own typing to produce the document – even if you type at 100 words per minute,” noted Null, pointing out that no software can accurately transcribe a recording of a group meeting without human help yet. Dictation software isn’t 100% reliable either. Null mentioned two options: Rev Voice Recorder (free app, transcription for a fee per minute; iOS) lets you record audio and send it out for transcription via the app; and TranscribeMe (also free; iOS), which offers a similar plan.
- After the meeting: “You should immediately turn any deadlines into entries on your calendar,” advised Null. So, transcribe, summarize, write it down, format; and share with the group, highlighting the deadlines and key points.
Why record audio?
If you would rather concentrate on what’s being said during the meeting and summarize later, capturing audio maybe the best option, even if you don’t record the whole session. The same applies in a case where you may not be able to keep up.
“Capturing an entire meeting in audio form can be useful in a brainstorming session, for example, where ideas get thrown out faster than you can write them down – or where ideas may be so complex that your brief notes can’t capture them in full. […]
Recording a meeting isn’t as easy as it sounds. A smartphone placed in the middle of a conference room table is likely to yield tinny, distorted audio (especially if anyone is participating via speakerphone) that will hamstring your transcription efforts. Your best bet is to rely on a high-end microphone.
Also, learn how to work all of your tools and software before the meeting. For instance, know how to mute someone’s audio feed, if need be; or how to set up a camera before you go live.
Recording and note-taking apps
Let’s look at the apps and software that’s available. Some tools are recorder apps and software that work equally well for meetings, interviews, and calls; others are one-trick ponies that do one specific job, but do it well. Ideally, your app should be able to provide a high-quality audio recording, save it in several formats, upload and store the files in the cloud, and share on social media.
These 10 iOS and Android voice recorder apps do just that:
- Pio Smart Recorder (iOS, free) can bookmark sections of recordings by tapping, which are saved as individual files, plus as part of the entire recording; and upload to Dropbox or Google Drive
- Voice Record Pro (iOS, free) can record voice memos and on-site sounds at unlimited length
- Easy Voice Recorder Pro (Android; $3.99) lets you record in stereo and with a Bluetooth microphone; and skip parts of the recording
- Call Recorder (Android, free) saves recordings to Dropbox and Google Drive and protects access to the app and recordings with a passcode
- TapeACall (iPhone and Android, $5.99) can record mobile calls; no time limit; uploads to Evernote, Google Drive and Dropbox
- SkypeRecorder (iPhone and iPad, $1.99) provides unlimited recording time on Skype and VOIP calls
- iTalk Recorder (iPhone and Android; free but Dropbox upload is for additional fee) offers high-quality recording files
- iAudition (iPhone, $4.99) was designed for voiceover artists, but works well for recording meetings and is apparently popular with journalists. You can email files in MP3 format and use on any device/platform
- Clyp (for iOS and Android, iOS, free) records short clip notes, so it’s a good way to capture thoughts on the go
- Google Keep (Android; free) lets you type or speak a quick notes, compile a to-do list, and even take a photo — which can be viewed pinboard style, with alarms added to any item as a reminder.
Syncing audio with notes and across platforms
The following apps and software sync audio with notes, as well as across devices:
- OneNote 2016 (free download) is a popular Microsoft application. MS’s Skype for Business for Mac, available by invite-only to IT testers but slated for public release in Q3 2016, should have the added ability to record audio on Windows Phone devices using OneNote.
- AudioNote (iOS and Android, $4.99) records audio while you’re typing notes; and syncs audio to text. You can also insert text, images and highlighter notes. Imports to PDF (iPad only) and to iCloud, Dropbox, and through iTunes.
- Evernote (free download) works on different platforms and across all devices, from sharing checklists to big-scale collaborations.
Audio recording software
If the meeting has many attendees and you are recording a lot, you may consider the non-DYI options with subscription plans and multiple-license solutions:
- ClickMeeting offers monthly plans depending on the number of the attendees (25-1,000; $30-$280)
- Blue Jeans offers similar plans up to 1,000 attendees and can record video and audio, and store and share content in the cloud
- Meeting Recorder 9 by SoniClear for Windows ($495 for 1 license and up) offers high-quality recording for big meetings; files can be stored on the local disk drive and shared on CDROM.
Image source: naphotos/123RF Stock Photo