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Recording STC Chapter Presentations

Sep 8, 2006 • general

Have you ever wanted to permanently capture your monthly chapter presentation?

You go to all the trouble to coordinate a speaker with knowledge, appeal, and relevance to technical writing. And then only 20% of your members come to the meeting. Why not record the presentation and make it available digitally online?

It's rather simple to record the presenter, as long as the presentation is somewhat speech-like and not entirely interactive.

To record your chapter meetings:

1. Get an Olympus digital recorder from a store like Radio Shack. Any digital recorder will do, as long as it satisfies two conditions: 1. You can plug a microphone into it, and 2. You can extract the file via a USB cable.

2. Get a lapel microphone to hook into the digital recorder. Radio Shack often has this too.

3. After attaching it to your presenter — usually via a little belt clip — tell the presenter to do two things: A. Try to speak for a good 20-30 minutes before launching into heavy Q&A. B. If and when questions are asked, ask the presenter to repeat the question.

4. After downloading the audio file to your computer, you will want to edit the sound. Use Audacity, a free sound editor to do this. Check out the tutorials on to learn how to use the editor. Edit out the gaps, and some of the uhmns and ahhs and coughs etc. Don't go crazy with the editing, but expect to put in about 2-3 hrs of post-production work.

5. To publish the file, you could just link to it on your site. However, unless you have a blogging platform like Wordpress, you won't be able to deliver a feed with “enclosures.” Enclosures mean that the audio file is enclosed/included in the RSS feed and downloaded into the newsreaders and subsequently the ipods of the listeners. This is the difference between a podcast and a simple audio file online.

6. If you want to install Wordpress (free), it is really quite easy. Your web host probably has a cPanel feature. Look for an blue smiley face icon there labeled “Fantastico.” Use it to auto-install Wordpress into its own folder on your directory. In three clicks, you're up and running. If you don't have a host, you can go to and sign up for a blog. Then you can upload the audio file to and link to it within a Wordpress post.

7. Before you give everyone the link, make sure it's all right with the speaker. Then let everyone know about it.

The biggest problem with recording presentations at chapters occurs when the presenter gives an interactive presentation rather than a speech. If remote audience members comment, they won't be recorded. The speaker will then pick up on those comments, and the audio file will be unlistenable. The best solution is to have the presenter give more of a speech followed by Q&A. If this is simply not the presenter's style, then the audio file will be poor. You might try interviewing the presenter one-on-one for a 20 minute interview instead.

Some people think that podcasting the chapter meetings will cause fewer members to attend the meetings. Actually, the result may be just the opposite: it may stir up enthusiasm and interest in actually attending the meetings. People who come to meetings take away so much more than the information. They come to network, socialize, be a part of a group, and so on. Podcasting your meetings won't replace that intangible benefit that the members come to receive.

Also, I'm starting up a technical writer podcast site where I hope to consolidate and make available audio content for technical writers.

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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer based in the California San Francisco Bay area. Topics I write about on this blog include technical writing, authoring and publishing tools, API documentation, tech comm trends, visual communication, technical writing career advice, information architecture and findability, developer documentation, and more. If you're a professional or aspiring technical writer, be sure to subscribe to email updates using the form above. You can learn more about me here.