Automated transcription and captioning technologies continue to improve – there’s no denying that. It was only a few years ago when the industry was applauding accuracy levels above 80%; but nowadays, we’re witnessing results above 90%. That’s an impressive improvement, but there’s still that error margin of 5-10% that will never be acceptable and easily cause the viewer to miss the message that is being conveyed.
Consider this: the average English speaker will have a conversation rate of around 120-150 words-per-minute (WPM). However, trained, professional speakers will speak between 150-170 WPM and even a higher rate from the more charismatic and confident presenters. During his TED Talk Why We Do What We Do, motivational speaker Tony Robbins was clocked in at an average of 201 WPM. Applying an error rate of 5-10% on Tony’s 21-minute talk would yield over 400 errors. That’s 400 chances of a wrong word completely transforming the meaning of a sentence.
This is where human live captioners will continue to win over the automated competition. With proper preparation from the presenter, live captioners will prepare for a session. Supporting documents provided by the presenter ahead of an event helps the live captioner prepare for any uncommon terminology that may be used, learn important acronyms, and know the proper spelling of people’s names. Live captioners can get a sense of the presenter’s speaking style and WPM beforehand, identify any accents, and may even work with the speaker on how they will best be able to keep pace with them. Preparation like this is why our live captioners can write at an accuracy rate of 98% or higher.
Below are the most recent kudos we received from a client where their event checked all the boxes in the examples above. Our live captioner’s preparation maintained the highest quality standards and gained attention to the fact that oftentimes the captions are helpful for ALL viewers to follow along.
Michele was our captioner for a FranklinCovey team event today where someone from India gave an interactive virtual tour of street art. Michele did an AMAZING job. It was a challenging assignment. The speaker was extremely fast-paced, was discussing names and extremely specific locations that wouldn’t be familiar to most native English speakers, and of course he had a strong accent to American ears. Michele joined early, communicated directly with the speaker about how they could coordinate if needed, and then her captions were absolutely phenomenal. I had the streamtext pulled up because sometimes it was hard for me, with full hearing, to pick up on what was said. Her ability to keep pace and accuracy was truly top-notch.
There is no way our team member who is Deaf would have been able to follow and participate in the event without Michele’s captions. By making the event accessible, Michele also did more than just help our team member feel included – she made it possible for me to bring a diverse experience to the whole team. Without captions, I wouldn’t have scheduled that event, knowing it would be hard to follow, and the entire team would have lost out on something that is a big priority for FranklinCovey.
I imagine captioners often go unthanked by clients and are the unsung heroes of the meetings they are in. It is easy for people who don’t use captions to not even realize what is happening behind the scenes. But I want you all to know, and Michele specifically to know – I am so grateful. Michele’s remarkable talents make an important difference in our world.
We genuinely appreciate it when the preparation and dedication of our live captioners is noticed and has a profound impact as it did here. It’s results like this that keep our team truly passionate about producing the best possible accuracy in the work we do. And it’s the reason why we continue to use human live captioners on all of our events. They’ll win every time.