3. How to Start a Recording Session with your client


This module will teach you the best way to start and conduct a recording session.

Your role is to make it as easy as possible for your client to tell his or her stories.

At the end of each recording session (or after the initial session) you should have agreed on the topics to be covered in the next recording session. 

And you should have confirmed this in an email plus a follow up call in advance of the session (see the confirmation email in your Back Office Tools and Resources.

This should insure the next recording session will go smoothly.

There are 4 steps to starting a recording session:

  1. Help your client get comfortable and relaxed
  2. Help your client focus on what they want to talk about
  3. Test the sound and recording
  4. When your client is ready press the record button and ask him or her to start by naming the topic s/he will talk about (e.g. My School Years).

In this module you will learn and practice these steps.

When you complete this module, you will be able to:

  • Determine when your client is ready to begin a recording session

  • Review topics that will be covered in the session confirming that your client agrees and is prepared

  • Help your client list the topics to be discussed in the recording session.

The importance of practice

The importance and value of practice cannot be overstated.

Please be sure to practice the skills until you can do them without hesitation or confusion.

Step one: Helping Your Client Get Comfortable and Relaxed

When you arrive be particularly aware of how your client feels. Does s/he seem anxious or relaxed, preoccupied or concerned?

Use your judgement about how slowly or quickly to progress.

You can ask your client how s/he is feeling if you think it is appropriate.

Just listen and be supportive.


Many people feel a little uncomfortable recording their stories. It seems so formal to some. 

Do not be concerned if, at first, they are a bit uncomfortable. 

They will get used to the process and after a while they will forget they are being recorded, especially if you use good listening skills.

But your job is to help them relax and get focused.

You must use your judgement, of course, but choosing the right time to start will help make the session more enjoyable and easier for you and your client.


Be friendly and calm. Make eye contact. 

Try to mirror your client’s behavior. 

If s/he seems to be in a hurry to get started, move more quickly to set things up. 

If s/he is relaxed and seems to want to chat for a while, do so. 

Choose the moment to say, “OK, shall we get started?”

See how your client reacts. Don’t push. If the client seems reluctant, ask,” Is there anything you want to discuss before we get started?”

Step Two: Helping Your Client get Focused.

At least 3 days in advance, you send a reminder email confirming what you and the client agreed will be covered in the session. 

See the sample email in your Resources folder in the back office.

And then, a day laler, you phone the client to be sure they got the email and ask if there are questions you can help with.

When you arrive and your client welcomes you in try to become aware of how your client is feeling; is s/he tense, is s/he excited, is s/he pre-occupied?

Allow enough time to settle in and let your client set the pace. 

Some clients will want to get you coffee or tea and just chat for a while. Others will want to get right to it. 

Go at their pace but remember you too are busy, and, at some point, you must begin the recording session.

When you feel the time is right, say something like:

“OK, shall we get started? Let’s sit where you will be most comfortable. I will get the mic ready and make sure the recording app is working. We’ll review the topics you want to cover. Then we can begin.”


You want to be sure your client is ready and focused to get the most from the recording session.

The pre-session email and follow up call will help a lot.

And assessing your client’s mood when you arrive and adapting to their pace will help you and the client relax and get off to a good start.


At the end of the previous session (or at the end of the initial preparation session) you will have noted the topics your client wants to cover in this session. 

You send a confirmation email at least a week in advance and a second confirmation email a day or two in advance followed by a phone call to make sure your client is preparing as agreed.

Your email will look something like this:

Dear Client,
Thank you for our discussion on Tuesday.
This is to confirm what we agreed you will cover in the next recording session.
Here are the details:
Day: Thursday, 
Date: October –
Start Time: 11:00 AM (when I will arrive)
End time: Approximately 12:30 PM (90 minutes, allowing us time to set up, review topics you will cover and complete the recording)
Place: Your home (In the den where it will be most quiet)
Topics you want to cover in this recording session:

  • Your parents – where they were born and raised, what you know about their early years, how they met and what you recall about the way they raised you.
  • Your early years – where you were born, your childhood illnesses, where you lived as a child, your earliest memories, your siblings, your earliest friends, what you loved to do as a child, your family’s challenges and how they impacted you.
  • Your school years – elementary, middle and high school; your favorite subjects, what you excelled at, what you struggled with, friends and enemies at school, your most memorable teachers, successes and failures in school.
I will call you in a day or so to ask if you have any questions or concerns that I can help with.
I’m excited to continue our journey through your life and times.

When you think your client is ready, you remind them about the topics they will discuss and ask if they have thought of any other topics.

You can say something like this:

“OK, shall we go over the topics you want to cover? You will start by talking about your parents, where they were born and raised – your Dad in Oklahoma and your Mom in Massachusetts, what you know about their early years, where they went to school, early jobs or hobbies, how they met and what you recall about the way they raised you.”
“When we finish discussing your parents, we will stop the tape and review the next topic, your early years, before we continue.”
“I see you have your note cards ready. Great.”
“When I signal that the recording is starting, please say, ‘This is about my parents.’
“Any questions before we begin?”

Click on the record button and signal that your client should introduce the topic. 

They should introduce the topic as directed and then begin talking.

For example:

 “My College Years”

 “This is about when the children were young”

 “I will start by telling you about My Parents”

Steps 3 & 4 are covered in the training module titled How to Conduct a Memoir Interview.