Realtime: It’s worth it

By Keith Lemons

THE STRUGGLE IS REAL. That’s a saying for just about everything nowadays. As court reporters, we know that it is real every day, all day long. When I was a puppy reporter, I had a judge who used to tell me, “Don’t interrupt anymore. Just throw up your hands when they’re talking too fast or on top of each other.” The problem with that is that whenever she said that in a transcript, the appellate court would naturally wonder what I left out. So I decided that I had to get better. I concentrated on learning how to brief on the fly, get longer phrases in one stroke, and write for the computer instead of myself.

I started out my career with the wonderful world of court reporting computers. All of them were written in dedicated computer systems that did not cross over for any other CAT program. As a matter of fact, you couldn’t even search the Internet or type a Word document or run an Excel spreadsheet because none of that had even been thought of yet. But we, the court reporters, had a marvelous new toy that made our work both harder and more meaningful. Imagine, if you will, being able to type two pages a minute when you used to only get one page per five minutes.

The struggle was real to try to figure out how to load a dictionary, how to write a dictionary, how to use a dictionary, how to edit a dictionary — all on a 2-megabyte disk — how to remember to plug in the machine, how to figure out if the cassette reader was really writing or reading that 300-page medical malpractice trial day you just had. But we learned. We adapted. We had to if we wanted to help our agency pay for that $50,000 Baron Data Center.

Later, when I became an official, I wrote for my newest piece of technology, the Baron Solo. It had 5-½-inch, dual floppy drives. The struggle was real to remember how to use this new technology and never, ever, ever use your magnet in the same room as your computer. (We had an electronic magnet system that bulk-erased our cassette tapes for the machines. If you used it near the computer, you risked either wiping out your floppies or causing damage to the electronics in the computer itself.) Then came the Microsoft revolution. We had yet one more machine to buy and one more operating system to learn. This one came with WordPerfect and learning the wonderful works of macros. No more Cardex! The struggle was so real that I accidentally wiped out my entire operating system trying to clear a message that popped up on my welcome screen.

Now we had to buy a new machine with a floppy disk drive in it. The struggle was real. In the early days of these marvelous inventions, we spent tens of thousands of dollars upgrading, upgrading, upgrading, all with no such thing as a legacy fallback.

The 24-pin dot matrix printer revolutionized multiple copy printing — that is, unless you figured in the hours spent trying to separate those carbon pages without destroying your clothing in the process. That struggle was real. So was ink in the machine. Try changing a ribbon without making everything around you purple.

Then the struggle became really, really interesting. In the latter half of the 1990s, a CAT program made real-time court reporting a reality. I got to watch a reporter write from her machine and have real words show up within seconds on a computer screen. I have no idea if her writing was pristine or 1 percent or even 5 percent untranslates. All I knew is it was beautiful. Music filled the skies; my heart was full. For the first time in a long time, I really wanted to be a part of something. It wasn’t just about the money anymore. It was something so new and so grand that I couldn’t even envision the possibilities of the future with it.

So I learned it. I bought more equipment, and I learned wiring and splitting and sending and receiving. It was a real struggle. I showed it to my boss, the judge. She didn’t want to have anything to do with it. But I was enthusiastic about it, so I kept asking her if I could just put a computer on the bench to see if my wiring was correct. She relented, but she made me turn the monitor to where she wouldn’t have to look at it. But she didn’t ever tell me to take it down. Pretty soon, she wanted me to angle the monitor so it would be more visible when she wanted to see the attorneys’ objections. Then she wanted to learn how to scroll backwards, then to search, then to write notes. Eureka!

Realtime (without the hyphen) had come of age. Next struggle was to get other court reporters to accept that our future was in realtime reporting. I felt like the most hated court reporter in the state at times because I provided something that 16 other judges in Wyoming weren’t getting. But when they saw it, they wanted it. (Without extra compensation, of course.)

Little did I know that this struggle would become the thrust of my presentations and seminars for the next 16-plus years. Of course, I’m talking about realtime for the average reporter.

Now the struggle is real because in order to become a realtime writer, we need to put away the things that we learned as a new reporter, that we thought as a new reporter, that we expected as a new reporter. We need to remember that the struggle is not with the machine, it is with our own expectations. We need to struggle to get to the next level of court reporting to make a difference, either in writing realtime or captioning.

The struggle is real; the rewards are great. Two months ago, I was taking a medical malpractice jury trial with several prominent attorneys, one of whom was intensely hard of hearing. I’ve been gently suggesting to him that realtime could help him. Finally, I just did what I did with my judge those many years ago. I put the realtime on his table and told him that it was free; but if he liked it, I would start charging the next day.

During the trial, this attorney would bring the iPad to bench conferences so he could see what was being whispered — something he hasn’t been able to do for years. Both attorneys used their iPads during the instruction conference to see what the construction of their sentences would look like on their jury charge. That reluctant attorney? He now has set two jury trials with me for the beginning of the year — with realtime. Two weeks ago, I did a realtime feed for a woman who was profoundly deaf, deaf from birth, who read lips but never learned American Sign Language. She read lips, but watched my screen like a hawk. She even got a kick out of a mistran or two that I made.

I know the struggle is real. This job can be the most difficult struggle day in and day out. But with our own self-improvement, learning realtime and becoming accomplished at it makes that struggle turn into satisfied accomplishment. I’m loving that struggle. You will too.

JCR Contributing Editor Keith Lemons, RPR, CRR, can be reached at k.lemons@comcast.net. This article was written on behalf of NCRA’s Realtime and Technology Resource Committee, of which Lemons is a member.

TAKE-AWAYS: How Firm Owners Executive Conference led two companies to a merger success

Following one of the NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conferences, attendee Robin Smith decided to take steps on an idea she had earlier brushed aside. Encouraged by a comment, she decided to approach a second court reporting firm to see if the owners were interested in merging. The JCR asked Smith and business partner Gail McLucas, RPR, to take us through their process.

Smith, although not a court reporter herself, grew up in a court reporting family. She found the business side of court reporting fascinating, and with a degree in business management, became an integral part of her family’s business.

JCR | How long have you been going to the NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference?

SMITH | I attended two Firm Owners conferences, one in Sarasota, Fla., and one in Dana Point, Calif. They were several years ago; and while I don’t remember anything specific, I do remember appreciating the opportunity to meet other firm owners and realizing that we all face similar challenges.

I attended the conference in Arizona last year, and Gail and I both attended this year’s conference in St. Pete Beach. I found the conference this year very worthwhile — lots of opportunities to network as well as practical and useful business knowledge. We came away with the realization of two things that we can do better and have begun to take action on them.

MCLUCAS | This year’s Firm Owners convention in St. Pete, Fla., was the first Firm Owners convention I’ve attended.

JCR | What was the impetus for the merger of your two firms?

SMITH | The economic surveys were what started everything. I’ve never been one for completing surveys, but I have completed every one of the economic surveys, maybe because of my experiences at the conferences. When you complete the survey, you receive the survey reports. And this quote from the 2011 report is what started us on this journey: “When asked about economic indicators and what he or she looks for to gauge whether business is about to pick up, he/she responded this way: ‘I am merging with another small company to create a larger company based on the Firm Owners results reported in February 2011.’”

MCLUCAS | It was spring of 2013 when Robin called me and asked me to have lunch with her. The purpose of the lunch was ultimately to discuss the possibility of merging our firms; and upon hearing it, I considered it a wonderful idea.

JCR | Can you give a little bit of history about your firm as well as the history of the firm you eventually merged with?

SMITH | Geiger Loria Reporting was started in 1950 by George Geiger (my stepfather). He was an official for Dauphin County in Harrisburg, Pa., and started a freelance firm as well. Virginia Loria (my mother) joined him in the early 1970s, and so we are a court reporting family. Both my sisters, Helena Bowes and Sherry Bryant, are court reporters. Except for me. I’ve always done the business side of things.

MCLUCAS | I graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Court Reporting in June of 1974. From then until the end of 1980, I worked as an official at York County Courthouse. I started working for Geiger Loria in January of 1981. My former business partner, Joyce Filius, and I both worked together at Geiger Loria Reporting Service from 1981 until 1983. We were both from the York area, which is about 40 miles south of Harrisburg, and at the time we saw a need for a court reporting service in the York area. So Filius & McLucas Reporting began in August of 1983.

JCR | Robin, how did you approach Gail with your idea?

SMITH | You know how you have an idea and you think it’s great at first and then you talk yourself out of it? That’s exactly what I did: I talked myself out of it. It wasn’t until I was working with a business consultant and mentioned that I had this idea once and dismissed it. Well, he didn’t. He encouraged me to set up a meeting with Filius and McLucas and, as scared as I was, I did.

MCLUCAS | I was kind of curious about the call for lunch from Robin; however, we would see each other every so often at PCRA luncheons or events. But there was never an ongoing meeting with each other outside of that. But when the idea of a merger was presented to me, I was absolutely thrilled about the whole idea. I knew my business partner, Joyce Filius, was looking to retire and I certainly wasn’t ready to make that move in my life. I, too, have always been a firm believer in there’s force in numbers. So the idea of bringing two firms of comparable size together seemed to be a wonderful idea to me.

JCR | What were some of the issues that you had to work out to make the merger happen?

SMITH | Everything! After a lot of discussion, we decided to start from scratch, create a whole new company with the four of us as owners (myself, Gail, Helena Bowes, RPR, and Sherry J. Bryant, RPR, CRR) and wind down operations of our current companies. Then things became easier to figure out. There are so many things to consider and so many things you didn’t think to consider. It was a very hectic time.

MCLUCAS | I think the initial decision that needed to be worked out was whether there was actually going to be a purchase of assets by one company or the other or a mere “merger” of the firms without the exchange of purchase money. When we discussed the assets that each company had accumulated over the years, we found that we had enough to put together two “households.” After all, a merger is almost like a marriage. We had enough to comfortably supply two office spaces (one in Harrisburg and one in York). Each partner put a small amount of capital into the firm to get it up and running and applied for a line of credit to initially cover payroll and some of our start-up costs. Of course, a name for the new venture is always a consideration. And although it’s a mouthful, we decided to keep the two names of the firms and just run them together because they were well-recognized in the area for over 30 years.

JCR | How long did it take to merge the two firms?

MCLUCAS | We started talking in the spring of 2013 and were hopefully going to have it culminate in September 2013. At first, we had a business consultant involved. But we were not getting answers very quickly from him, so we took it upon ourselves to make the merger happen on our own. That, of course, involved a little more time, and we actually began the merged company, Geiger Loria Filius McLucas Reporting, LLC, on January 1, 2014.

SMITH | From that point, I feel it took two years until everything started to gel. The first year is just a blur. We had to put out a lot of fires and just hang on for dear life. The second year, things started to even out, and we could begin to focus on the bigger picture. 2018 will be our fifth year together, and it’s gone really, really fast.

JCR | What are some of the benefits of merging?

MCLUCAS | I feel the benefits of merging were immense, although scary at first. We were bringing the reporters of the two firms together for the first time, who had been with each of us for 15 to 20 years. Like a marriage, we weren’t too sure how all of our “children” were going to get along. But the benefits have outweighed our fright, and overall the merger has given us a bigger and stronger firm than we both had separately. Also, because I’ve always been “just a reporter,” I really appreciate Robin’s business acumen and her contribution in that respect to the newly-formed company. I always enjoyed the client contact and reporting aspect of the business, but not so much the financial side and forethought that it takes to run a truly successful business.

SMITH | We are stronger together. Together we have more resources, and that helps us to handle the ups and downs of not only day-to-day things but the ups and downs that are inherent in any business and industry.

JCR | Were there any obstacles that you had to deal with after the merger was completed? Were those things that you knew about in advance and had been prepared for, or did they take you by surprise?

MCLUCAS | As with any new business, there are always obstacles that you are presented with and have to deal with on a daily basis. The biggest initial obstacle was we moved not only the Harrisburg office, but we moved the York office (and may I say three times) before we were finally settled in. We were lucky enough to keep the office manager that was with F&M for 22 plus years, and that was sincerely a stabilizing factor for both of us. The building we moved into in January of 2014 didn’t have a permanent space for us until the middle of February. So we moved in February to a space, only to find that within a year we quickly outgrew that space and needed to move to a larger suite in the same building that we have been in since.

The other big hurdle that I think every new business faces is finances. We had a substantial amount of start-up costs; and until all our clients settled back into working with us together, it was a little rough at first. But I don’t think any of this took us by surprise; it was just learning how best to deal with the circumstances we were dealt. And as they say, if it doesn’t kill you, it will only make you stronger – and stronger I feel we are today!

SMITH | I wholeheartedly agree. Because we chose to start from scratch, the financial side of things probably was our biggest obstacle. We were spending money before we even opened our doors; and that took longer to recover from than we had anticipated or planned for.

JCR | Was there something specific about the situation that made it seem like a good idea to merge? Are there conditions that you could describe for someone else so that they might recognize a similar situation?

SMITH | The way we operated our firms on a day-to-day basis was very similar, our values and commitment were closely aligned, and we were in different regional markets so we each brought a different client base to the new firm.

MCLUCAS | I think the main thing that made it seem like it was a really good idea was when we compared financial information. It was like holding two identical companies side by side. But as in running two households, running two businesses is always more expensive than one good, strong one together. For me, that is what really made the situation seem real and that it was a good decision to be made.

I think the partners also have to recognize whether they will be able to work together amicably and not have one be so overpowering as to not consider the other’s opinion. As partners we’ve been able to communicate openly about all things involving the business, and there are no secrets kept from anyone about anything. I think an open and informed relationship is the only kind to have.

JCR | Is there any advice that you would offer to someone who is interested in merging two firms?

SMITH | I think it’s important if you’re going to be essentially handing over your business to someone and they are handing theirs to you and you’re going to be working together, that you like, respect, and trust that person. I’m not sure that’s something that I consciously thought of before we started down this path, and I realize now how important that was and still is.

MCLUCAS | I would say the most important factor is getting to know your potential partner as well as possible. Robin and I set regularly scheduled meetings with each other over the course of nine months before we finally made the merger happen. I hate to keep likening this merger to a marriage; but if you don’t have common goals and ideas as the person you’re going into business with, it could turn out to be a disastrous idea and will only cause heartache and failure. However, 2018 will be our fifth year in this merged company together and I couldn’t be happier with how everything has turned out for the two firms. I’m almost positive [that we] would not have been as successful if we had stayed two separate firms for this period of time.

TechLinks: Improve your odds of getting paid with these apps

One of the concerns that weighs heavily on the minds of independent reporters and small- and medium-sized firm owners is getting paid in a timely manner. NCRA’s Realtime and Technology Resource Committee did the research into some online options to help you stay solvent.

Square

Square is a free credit card reader that can attach to your cell phone. The credit card reader, which can work with iPhones, iPads, and Android devices, will be sent to you when you sign up with Square.

As an independent court reporter, I do work in the courtroom,” said Committee Chair Lynette Mueller, RDR, CRR, of Germantown, Tenn. “There are occasions when an attorney has forgotten to hire a court reporter and then approaches me to ask if I can cover his matter as well. In the instance where an attorney is not known to you and you are unsure of the payment history, Square comes to the rescue. You have the ability to swipe their credit card on the spot for the attendance fee and never have to worry if you will be paid later.”

If you’re not already accepting credit cards, it may be time to reconsider. Among the benefits, according to Square, is that accepting credit cards can help you instill a sense of trust with your customers, showing that you are an established business. In addition, credit cards can help you bring in more customers and eliminate the possibility of bounced checks. If you are worried about security, the embedded chips in the most current crop of credit cards include sophisticated encryption to further protect you.

“Credit card payments can level the playing field with competition and bigger firms,” continued Mueller. She adds that Square is “great for online payments and makes it easy for your customer to pay you, convenient for the customer and clients, and legitimizes your business.”

PayPal

PayPal is a way to send money or make and receive online payments, although it can also be connected through a smartphone.

“I also use PayPal for my online credit card payments,” said Mueller. “I can direct clients to my website and a button is displayed where they can click the link and take them directly to my PayPal account. Some clients like the convenience and security of entering their sensitive information themselves online rather than telling me their numbers over the telephone.”

An article on The Balance considers some of the pros and cons of using PayPal for a small business.

Committee member Myrina Kleinschmidt, RMR, CRR, CRC, a freelancer and agency owner from Wayzata, Minn., mentioned that she loves Freshbooks billing software. “It is integrated with PayPal. There is a button where [my clients] can click and pay via PayPal, and then it is automatically marked as ‘Paid’ in my billing software,” she said.

Other options

PayPal and Square may be the most used, but they are not the only online options for accepting credit cards. A November 1, 2017, article on Small Business Trends offered 20 different suggestions. If neither PayPal nor Square meets your requirements, don’t give up; keep looking.

“There are two iOS apps (there may be an Android app as well) that I like for when you are with a colleague or friend and out for lunch, for instance,” said Mueller. “Perhaps the restaurant doesn’t like to split the bill for each guest. With either the Cash or Venmo apps, you can send cash for your portion instantly to the person who paid for lunch! You can use these apps for tipping your hair stylist or any other service provider. I rarely carry cash with me anymore. It’s so much more convenient to just use one of these apps!”

Giving back to give others hope

Marjorie Peters, RMR, CRR, (in blue jacket) with other participants in Pittsburgh's Light of Life walk

Marjorie Peters, RMR, CRR, (in blue jacket) with other participants in Pittsburgh’s Light of Life walk

Since 2004, long-time NCRA member Marjorie Peters, RMR, CRR, a freelance captioner and court reporter from Pittsburgh, Pa., has volunteered for Light of Life Rescue Mission, a local organization that supports hungry and homeless men, women, and children. She does it, she says, because she needs to know each morning when she gets up that what she is working for is beyond herself.

While the Light of Life Rescue Mission provides a hot meal and a warm bed for the people it serves, Peters said the organization also offers programs and education to help people become independent again.

“Light of Life teaches people to fish. Light of Life keeps families together. Whether they are addicted, in recovery, or through tough life circumstances find themselves homeless, Light of Life makes it a mission to get them back on their feet, living with independence and pride again. They must commit to the program, and so Light of Life brings support, accountability, and hope,” says Peters.

Her commitment to supporting Light of Life began when she met the organization’s head of fundraising. “I said: ‘Don’t send me your pamphlets!  You’re wasting paper on me! I will support you significantly every year.’ So, we started meeting to discuss programs; and by the goodness of God, I hold up my end of the bargain,” Peters said.

Peters said she and her family understand the impact that difficult circumstances can have on people of all ages. Her mother passed away when she and her siblings were in their childhood, and though her dad was great, she said everyone in the family struggled in their own way with that significant loss.

“My younger brother dealt with addiction for many years and at one point did go to jail. I remember buying him new clothes so he could look for a job as he struggled returning to society.  Eventually, I am proud to say, he did win his battle and was a hard-working, independent husband and father.  He took responsibility and worked.  He was respected by the workers he eventually supervised in his shop,” Peters shared. “Sadly, he passed of a heart attack five years ago, while he was still too young. But his story is so powerful, and those co-workers were as devastated as we were. He was a real leader to them because they knew he overcame the struggle. He led by example.”

One of the activities Light of Life holds each year is an annual 20-mile walk through Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods to raise awareness about the mission and its work. Peters said joining her and other volunteers for the event are former NFL Pittsburgh Steelers players Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley, who also work tirelessly with Light of Life.

“Why walk? Because that’s what the homeless do — all day, every day,” Peters explained. “While we are on the Walk, we see the homeless, and wouldn’t you know, Tunch and Wolf often know them by name!”

One of the highlights of working with Light of Life is watching people succeed on graduation day from its programs, Peters said. “It is a fantastic day. I know that every time I help a client at Light of Life, my brother is smiling somewhere, and when my feet hit the cold, hard wood in the morning, it means something.”

Peters, also a long-time NCRF Angel, is active in other areas of her community as well, including supporting Dress for Success and Treasure House Fashions, organizations that help women get back on their feet, and the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix, which raises funds for Autism research.

“It’s a week-long endeavor of classic and antique cars every year that starts with a race, followed by a gala, then a car show mid-week, and culminates with a two-day race on the weekend at a park. Proceeds benefit the Autism Society. I support the car show, and in the past I have sponsored a tent,” Peters said.

The JCR Weekly will run a series of interviews featuring NCRA members who are giving back to their community in addition to an article in the April issue of the JCR.

 

Q&A: The art of presentations, with Steve Clark

Steve Clark, CRC

Steve Clark, CRC

Captioner Steve Clark, CRC, based in Washington, D.C., recently visited NCRA headquarters to demonstrate realtime and captioning skills to staff. Steve has an engaging presentation style and lots of experience sharing his story with various audiences, so the JCR Weekly asked him to provide some insight and advice for other captioners, court reporters, and legal videographers on the keys to successful group presentations.

JCR | Can you tell us a little bit about your presentations and what they are used for?

SC | I have about six slide shows that I can choose from, depending on the group I am presenting to and the length of time for which I am asked to present.

One slide show, for example, is a basic “What is CART Captioning?” presentation. This presentation has about 15 slides and introduces potential clients to the basics of onsite and remote CART captioning – how it works, who it benefits, and steps to take to request and set up CART captioning services.

Another slide show is geared toward students and explains how the steno machine works, what CART captioning is, who is a good candidate for this career, and the necessary steps to get started as a student. This slide show can also be used when speaking to civic groups or deaf and hard-of-hearing groups about what we do and how we do it – in other words, answering the common question of “How does that little machine work?”

I have a slide show that I use when speaking to professional court reporting and captioning associations, particularly focused on writing theories and shortcuts for briefing. This slide show can be used for a shorter presentation of 60-90 minutes. I also have created an expanded version of this last slide show. This expanded version is for an all-day presentation to fellow professionals. And I have specialized presentations when speaking to a group about, for example, sports captioning or stadium captioning.

JCR | What are the most important points that you feel you need to cover in your presentation?

SC | It really depends on the audience. If my goal is to help a general audience to understand what we do and how we do it, it is important to explain the basics of the steno machine and why we still use it, particularly why I feel it is the best and most accurate way to produce realtime captions. If I am presenting to a group of fellow captioners or court reporters, I can move more quickly, but I feel it is always important to leave plenty of time for Q&A, which the group of fellow professionals will surely have.

JCR | Do you get nervous about presenting to people? Do you have any suggestions for getting over being nervous?

SC | Now when I present, I don’t get nervous. When I first started presenting, I certainly did get nervous. My three suggestions for not getting nervous are:

  1. Be yourself, but be professional, courteous, and make everyone feel welcome. Speak naturally, but slowly enough that your audience can really absorb what you are saying. And try to speak properly – no “like” and “you know” or other filler words. Having been an audience member, I find that concise speakers are the most attractive speakers.
  2. Know your material. Practice, practice, practice. This means practicing your presentation out loud at least five times. Practice makes perfect.
  3. When I first started presenting and felt the nerves coming on, I would remind myself: “I am the most qualified person in the room to be doing this presentation.” That isn’t meant to sound arrogant or cocky, but rather to remind me that I have worked hard to get to this point; I have worked hard on this presentation and these slides; and I have the ability to present and to present well.

JCR | How does giving presentations help you or your business?

SC | Giving presentations has been a tremendous help to me personally as well as to my business. Whether I am giving a two-minute explanation to a client or audience member during a break at an onsite job or I am presenting to a room of perhaps 100 people, I am representing me, my business, this career, and anyone who counts on the service I am providing. Therefore, it is really important to develop good communication skills, but likewise good listening skills.

JCR | As a captioner, you probably see a fair amount of presentations yourself. Have you seen anything – other than captioning – that sets off a really great presentation from a mediocre one? Have you learned anything from them that you’ve been able to incorporate into your own presentations?

SC | As stated above, the best speakers, in my opinion, are concise, well-spoken, and well-prepared. A good speaker is also a good listener. When I am presenting, if there is a question or comment, I always try to do what I have seen many outstanding speakers do over the years – allow the question or comment to be stated, wait patiently and respectfully, thank the person, and then answer the question as asked. You always want your audience members to know that you value them and that you want them to be a part of this presentation, too.

I also learned from a seasoned member of the court reporting association I belonged to early on in my career that it is important to be deferential. Don’t be afraid to recognize the expertise of others and the tremendous things that the younger, up-and-coming professionals are doing in this field. Give credit where credit is due.

JCR | Do you have any advice for other court reporters or captioners on how to give presentations? Is there a good place to start?

SC | The first few times I presented, I was part of a panel. I was the junior member of the panel, meaning that all of the other panelists had 10 years or more of experience. I had only a year or two. Working on a panel allowed me to hone my skills as a presenter and to improve my slide-creation skills. Listen to how others speak, copy the formatting of others’ slides, and emulate the speakers you like. It is true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

HLAA or similar groups are really receptive and are good places to begin. State or local court reporting associations are also great audiences for someone just starting out as a speaker or presenter.

JCR | A few days ago, someone sent an email about how being a speaker at an event is good for introverts because it gives them something that other people can approach them about and gives them something to talk about that isn’t small talk. Do you find this true?

SC | I definitely agree. And for introverts, it focuses the conversation on a topic that they can have some control over and that they are prepared to speak about. Once you get the speaking bug, though, you stop being an introvert.

JCR | Is there anything else you’d like to add?

SC | Two years ago at NCRA’s convention in Chicago, I was walking through the vendor area, just looking at different products and services being offered. A gentleman approached me and said, “Excuse me, are you Steve Clark?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “You probably don’t remember me, but I remember you. I’ve been hoping for some time that I would run into you again. I saw you speak to our state association in Massachusetts in 1999, and I want you to know what an impact you had on me.”

He went on to tell me how I inspired him to change his writing, to improve his realtime skills, and he wanted me to know that he even went on to present a few times to state associations and other groups.

That is why I love presenting and speaking. You don’t always know it, and sometimes you don’t find out until almost 20 years later, but you can make a difference, and you can influence someone, both professionally and personally. Anyone who is considering speaking or presenting – stop considering it. Do it! You’ll be glad you did.

 

Elite Reporting Services welcomes new reporters

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyIn a press release posted on Feb. 22, Elite Reporting Services in Franklin, Tenn., announced that Sandy Andrys, RMR; Joy Kennedy, RPR; and Ariela Pastel have joined its team of court reporters.

Read more.

Minneapolis-based firm to deliver its signature workshop across the nation

A press release issued Feb. 20 by Depo International, based in Minneapolis, Minn., announced that DeAnne Brooks, director of business development, has been offering the firm’s signature workshop, “Creating a Culture of Gratitude in the Workplace.” The workshop is based on the research about stress from professors at the University of Miami and the University of California at Davis.

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Court reporting firm relocates headquarters to central business district of Phoenix

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyIn a press release issued Feb. 20, Herder & Associates Court Reporters announced the relocation and expansion of their headquarters to the prestigious Renaissance Center in Phoenix, Ariz.

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NCRA’s Firm Owners Conference draws record attendance and praise

The 2018 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference drew a record number of attendees as well as high praise for the speakers and overall program from those who attended. The event was held Jan. 28-30 in St. Pete Beach, Fla.

Among the biggest takeaways were the “7 C’s to Build a Winning Team” offered by keynote speaker John Spence: coaching, character, communication, commitment, contagious energy, caring, and consistency. He also presented his most intensive business improvement workshop, specifically created to help management teams take a hard, honest look at their businesses to determine exactly where their strengths and weaknesses are. Participants then created a focused plan for how to succeed at a higher level in the marketplace.

Other speakers who motivated attendees with their presentations included Chris Hearing and Greg Laubach, who presented an interactive session entitled “Managing to Maximize Business Value.” This session focused on creating short-term profits and business value. Another speaker, Steve Scott, lead a session dedicated to business marketing on the Web. Scott is a SEO strategist, internet marketing educator, and the owner of the Tampa SEO Training Academy.

“This year was the best Firm Owners convention I have been to yet,” said Christine Phipps, RPR, a firm owner from West Palm Beach, Fla., and a member of NCRA’s Board of Directors.

“The opening reception with team building  of tiki huts, music, custom drink, and dance really set the tone for the whole conference,” she said.

The schedule also provided numerous networking opportunities, including receptions, dinners, dedicated networking time between sessions, free time during lunch, and a closing reception.

Even though Phipps said the event was the largest attended, she was able to talk to more people and make more friends than she has at past events. She attributes this to the schedule with its many networking opportunities.

“John Spence was an excellent speaker; he related the conversation to not only our industry specifically but our businesses specifically — more like a coaching session with an overall individual business analysis. Spending time with these firm owners makes me even more proud to be part of this great profession,” said Phipps. “I cannot wait for next year!”

NCRA gets you more than you think

NCRA offers members many different ways to invest in their futures, support the profession, and thrive in their careers. According to NCRA’s 2017 Member Needs Survey, members join NCRA for many reasons, including gaining access to national credentials, supporting the profession, and connecting with a national organization.

If you want to get the most out of your membership, consider how NCRA benefits you.

Respect from your clients, employers, and peers

Clients, employers, and peers know that people connected to a professional organization are more likely to know about and adhere to industry standards, ethical codes, and current policies — and NCRA members are the same in this regard. By being a part of the NCRA community of professionals, your clients, employers, and professional colleagues understand that you have made a commitment to your career and have a stake in maintaining the standards of the profession. Be proud of your commitment.

Showcase your NCRA membership with the NCRA member logo

Maximize your professional investment by marketing your achievements and membership. Did you know that NCRA offers a distinct NCRA member logo for use by NCRA members? You can include the NCRA member logo on your advertising, business, and other similar promotional materials as a way to denote your membership in the Association.

The NCRA member logo can only be used to designate individual membership, as only individuals can be members, and should not be used by companies or firms or in a way that implies a company is a member.

The NCRA member logo is not the same as the NCRA logo. If you are currently using the NCRA logo, please seek permission to use it, remove it from your materials, or consider whether the NCRA member logo would serve your purposes. More information about how members can use the NCRA member logo is part of NCRA’s Procedures & Policy Manual, which is available on NCRA.org. To access the most current version of the NCRA member logo, visit NCRA.org/Logos.

How to show off your NCRA credentials correctly

NCRA members who have earned an NCRA certification may use the certification or its abbreviation in their marketing materials as long as they maintain CEUs and pay annual dues. Be sure to enhance your marketing materials and website with your NCRA member and credential logos.

Discounts on office supplies, payroll services, movie tickets, and more

According to Chase Cost Management, workers in the legal professions spend an average of $1,000 per person per year on office supplies. That is a lot of folders, pens, and sticky notes. If those figures hold true for the professions of court reporting and captioning, NCRA members can easily recoup their annual NCRA membership dues just by taking advantage of the discounts available from Office Depot through the NCRA Saving Center.

NCRA Saving Center discounts at Office Depot provide members with savings up to 80 percent off office essentials. Some recent deals include expanding file folders that cost only 70 cents each. That’s a savings of $2.80 each. If you bought 100 file folders, you could recoup the cost of your NCRA membership in file-folder savings alone. Of course, other types of office supplies are available at discounted rates. To sign up for this benefit that is included in your NCRA membership, visit NCRA.savingcenter.net.

Other discounts available to NCRA members through the NCRA Saving Center include accounting and payroll services, access to a collection agency, credit card processing services, and discounts on entertainment deals, car rental fees, and access to telemedicine, health insurance, and prescription drugs.

Connected to colleagues

Through NCRA social media pages, through NCRA events, and through JCR stories about members across the country and around the world, you learn more about what is going on in the profession and how your colleagues take on problems. NCRA members take to NCRA’s official Facebook groups to pose questions and offer solutions on day-to-day challenges, offer support for bad days and congratulations for milestones, and share the latest news affecting the professions. NCRA events offer informative presentations and inspiring speakers to break you out of the everyday grind and help you take the next step for you. NCRA’s publications give you nuggets of wisdom from other professionals that can help you build your career.

On your way to certification

No matter how you learn, we’ve got you covered. NCRA, in conjunction with Realtime Coach, offers a series of both videos and articles on the ins and outs of online testing. These videos and articles aid in preparing candidates for successful online skills testing. Your NCRA certification identifies you as a person interested in self-improvement, a career-minded individual, and a member of the professional community.

Year-round education opportunities

NCRA offers several ways to earn Continuing Education Units (CEUs) that offer the information you can use in your career, whether you are an official, freelancer, business owner, captioner, or legal videographer. From the inclusive and collaborative NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference for independent contractors, small agency owners, and large firm executives to the annual NCRA Convention & Expo for everyone; and from live webinars to many series of e-seminars that you can access whenever and wherever you choose, NCRA’s extensive library has you covered.

Get the most from your membership

Your NCRA membership offers so much more than you might think — from member-exclusive discounts to networking opportunities to career-enhancing certifications. Is your membership up-to-date? Check your membership and profile information, including your email address, so you don’t miss announcements and news from NCRA. Visit NCRA.org to update your profile by April 15 and be listed in the printed 2018-2019 Sourcebook. Contact membership@ncra.org with questions.