This one is another in the occasional series on the nuts-and-bolts of life as a consultant/writer.
I do a lot of interviews, by which I mean a LOT. Whether giving a speech, prepping a workshop, or doing a straightahead consulting or writing project, I always ask to speak to people in the client organization. By which I mean always.
Such is the case with something I'm working on now, a project that includes a couple of dozen interviews, which really is a LOT. It is very time-consuming to take notes by hand in a situation like this - and you lose the benefit of accurately recording the great quotes people come up with in the course of conversation.
Which brings me to my method for taking verbatim notes, which I'm guessing a lot of other writers/consultants use but just in case you don't...here goes. Oh, this works for phone interviews but less so face-to-face. While I have done it in person, I think it's a bit rude to be staring at the screen when you could be enjoying the benefit of proximity.
1. Open your fave word processing program and choose Autocorrect from Tools menu. NB: Use Word or Open Office (sorry, Apple, Pages seems not to have the option required for this method).
2. In Tools>Autocorrect, enter abbreviations for the words you're most likely to hear your interviewees say. Example: current project is in healthcare. I enter "hc" for healthcare; dr for doctor; emr for electronic medical record; clbrt for collaborate, etc. The easiest way to create your own shorthand is by drpng vwls. Got it?
3. Make a template of the questions you're going to ask everyone.
4. Copy that into a new doc for each interview.
5. Put on a headset. Forget tucking the phone on your shoulder. You'll wind up with "writer's neck," a malady for which there is no known remedy short of yoga (but then again, if you're a writer, you have to do yoga -- it's a job requirement to avoid physical therapy).
6. "Dial" (why do we keep saying dial?) the number and conduct the interview.
7. As soon as possible after the interview, go back through the notes to add articles (a, the), correct your typos (legion in my case), insert line returns for paragraphs, and highlight juicy quotes.
8. Presto, change-o, you've got verbatim notes.
One more NB: You have to pay complete attention to what the person is saying. The slightest wandering mind will throw you off and suddenly you're saying, "Could you please repeat that?" Nt gd. And it's absolutely OK to say to the interviewee: "Hang on while I get this down accurately." No one objects to being quoted accurately...unless, of course, they weren't paying attention to what they were saying.