UW-Madison Zoom - Live transcription

Live Transcription (built-in Otter.ai service) provides robot transcription services, which enables speech to text transcription in meetings and webinars.

Important/Warning: Be aware that because this service creates machine-generated transcriptions, their accuracy will not be perfect. Most automatic speech recognition (ASR) transcription results in approximately 70-80% accuracy.

This feature (including Closed Captioning) is enabled by default for all UW-Madison Zoom users.

Overview: Live captioning within Zoom Meetings and Webinars come in two options:

  • Subtitles: these are captions that appear at the bottom of the Zoom window
  • Live Transcript: full meeting audio converted to transcripts in real time. These are time stamped and tagged with who was speaking.

Note: Only the host of a meeting can initiate live transcriptions. If you are scheduling a meeting that you will not be present for, you should designate an "alternative host" when creating the meeting. The "alternative host" will become the "host" if you are not in the meeting and be able to initiate live captioning. Instructions on "alternative hosts" can be found in this Zoom article.


  • Zoom desktop client for Windows, macOS: version 5.0.2 or higher
  • Zoom mobile app for Android and iOS: version 5.0.2 or higher

Note: Live transcriptions cannot be accessed using the web client (browser) regardless of type.

Live transcription limitations

The accuracy of Zoom’s live transcription feature depends on many variables, such as but not limited to:

  • Background noise.
  • Volume and clarity of the speaker’s voice.
  • Speaker's proficiency with the English language - at this time, only English is supported.
  • Lexicons and dialects specific to a geography or community. 

This feature is not available in Breakout Rooms and does not create subtitles in the Zoom recording. Subtitles only appear during the live meeting. Hosts who want subtitles to appear in the Zoom recording need turn on Zoom Audio Transcription.

Because of these limitations, if you are required to use speech-to-text support for any compliance needs in your meetings and webinars, we recommend using a manual captioner who may be able to guarantee a specific accuracy.

Tips for using Live Transcription with Zoom

  • Use an External Microphone: An external microphone/headset provides better audio quality and, therefore, more accurately matches what is being said verbally.
  • Speak Slowly: Speaking slowly enables a more accurate match to what is being said verbally and allows others to follow the automatic transcript or subtitles.
  • Take Turns/Pause Before Speaking: Zoom's active speaker tracking is used to identify the speaker. When another individual begins speaking, it can take a second or two before Zoom updates the transcript to identify the new speaker.
  • Monitor the Participants Panel for the Go Slower function: Zoom's Participants panel displays all attendees and shows any nonverbal feedback the attendees provide. When using automatic live transcription, consider keeping the "Participants" panel open to see if attendees are indicating they need speakers to go slower.

Host - start closed captioning / live transcription

To start the Live Transcript service during a meeting or webinar, the host should:

  1. Click the Live Transcript button in the host control bar.
  2. Within "Live Transcript" sub-menu, click Enable Auto-Transcription.
    enable auto-transcription button
  3. Once Live Transcript has been started, the meeting host will see the transcript begin immediately at the bottom of the Zoom meeting video. Attendees/participants will be alerted that Live Transcript is available.

Learn more about Zoom's closed captioning and live transcription feature.


Once Live Transcript has been started by the host, the meeting host will see the transcript begin immediately at the bottom of the Zoom meeting video. Attendees/participants will be alerted that Live Transcript is available and viewable.

  1. Click the Live Transcript button in the control bar.
  2. Within "Live Transcript" sub-menu, click Show Subtitle and/or View Full Transcript.
    live transcript sub-menu allowing you to enable viewing of subtitles or full transcript
    Show Subtitle
    The transcript will appear as video subtitles at the bottom of the video frame.
    View Full Transcript
    The transcript will appear in a side-panel "Transcript" window, and the full transcript to that point may be saved by clicking Save Transcript. Host and attendees can also search the transcript by entering text into the Search transcript field at the top of the window.
  3. You also have the ability to modify Subtitle Settings - select Subtitle settings from within the "Live Transcript" sub-menu. You will be able to modify the "Closed Captioning" text font size.

Learn more about Zoom's closed captioning and live transcription feature.


For a description of Zoom accessibility and usability barriers, go to the Zoom - Accessibility & Usability Information KB.

Additional Resources

Keywordszoom live transcription closed captioning accessibility usability transcribes otter ai host participants otter ai webinar meetings hybrid host inclusive inclusivityDoc ID108917
OwnerZoom S.GroupZoom
Created2021-02-08 21:32:47Updated2023-12-05 09:16:54
SitesDoIT Help Desk, Learn@UW-Madison, Microsoft 365, Zoom
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