MANAGING: Inspiring your team

By Judy Stevens

If any of you have heard Anissa R. Nierenberger, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI, speak at either a state or national conference, you know the value in her wisdom and the easy manner in which she delivers that wisdom. Years ago, I invited her to speak at a Colorado Court Reporters Association symposium, and even then I was impressed by the way she captivated the audience of freelance and official court reporters when she has never, herself, edited and finalized a deposition or trial transcript. However, the techniques and tips of shorter and cleaner writing are, indeed, the same as those she’s mastered in her CART career. After having watched her work her magic in that room, I knew I had to reach out to her when I wanted to provide additional training to my reporting staff.

Before doing that, though, I talked to a few reporting firm owners with whom I’m associated and told them about my desire to provide additional training in-house to my employee reporters. I was told by one that (1) it wasn’t my responsibility to provide training to them; it was their own responsibility to get their own training, and (2) no one would come to training on a Saturday that wasn’t mandatory.

With those viewpoints, which were almost 180 degrees opposing to mine, I called Anissa. “Anissa,” I asked, “what would you think about offering your ‘Tackle Transcript Turmoil’ program to my staff on a Saturday via teleconference?” We discussed many of the logistics then set a date. I sent out an e-blast to my staff and almost immediately had 13 people who RSVP’d. All of them showed up on Sat., June 17, to hear Anissa and to improve their writing style so transcript preparation became easier and more streamlined through better dictionary entries.

Now, these aren’t new reporters. Some of these reporters have been with my firm for five or more years, and some have been reporting for more than 15 years. They each learned something through the training, all stayed after the conference was over to discuss ways to make highly functional new dictionary entries based on their individual software programs, and they bonded with each other on a Saturday morning. Now, does it really get any better than that?

My point in sharing this information is to suggest that you look outside the box for assisting your staff. Gather clues on what they might need from conversations with them. I noticed that one reporter was taking one day off for every one-day assignment so she could edit that assignment. One day to edit one day? Having been a reporter, I knew that there had to be ways to assist her, short of getting her a scopist, so that she didn’t spend that much time on editing. Another reporter wasn’t using locking suffixes and prefixes to her advantage, and her rough drafts had words which, although they should be readable by most attorneys, had things like in-form-ation because she hadn’t appropriately entered each of those syllables in her dictionary. Yes, they tranned correctly, but didn’t attach correctly to make the appropriate and complete word. These were two women who I recognized immediately could benefit from Anissa’s dictionary wizardry!

Don’t think that it’s the reporter’s sole responsibility to get additional training. They don’t know what they don’t know. This was more in-depth than their previous training with their software had been and also more personalized. Anissa asked them to ask questions — specific questions to their situation — and then answered them one by one. Yes, it is their responsibility to get the training they need, but it’s your job to listen to them and to hear what’s keeping them from absolutely loving what they do. If that one thing happens to be editing, then pick up the phone and call Anissa or whoever else you might think might benefit them. Talk with your team, and you might be totally surprised at how willing they are to learn if you’re willing to make it happen for them.

What it cost me was a catered breakfast, orange juice and champagne (for mimosas, of course), a very reasonable fee for Anissa’s time, and access through our video-conferencing system. What it brought me was a team of reporters who learned something from Anissa and from each other, who might just have cleaner strokes in their files, and who might, just might, quit spending so much time editing. They shared ideas and thoughts, exchanged some phone numbers, and discussed Facebook and additional “groups” for software-specific information.

I love and value the closeness within our team. I wish all the reporters could have attended, but it was a Saturday, and it was the middle of June –one of those amazingly beautiful days that can happen in Denver.

I also wish more firm owners felt connected to their staff on a one-on-one basis to the point that they hear their transcript struggles and they feel their writing pain. I often can see it on their faces after a job. When they left this 1.5-hour training, I saw smiles and laughter and heard comments about spending the rest of that afternoon making some of the changes to their dictionaries. Now, tell me. What is that worth to you as a firm owner? Step up and be their leader.

Judy Stevens RPR, CMRS, CPE, owns Stevens-Koenig Reporting in Denver, Colo. She can be reached at Judy@skreporting.com.

 

REALTIME: Taming your fears

By Kathy Cortopassi

The worst fear, believe it or not, was the first time I ever captioned the Business Meeting for the NCRA Annual Convention. Not captioning the speeches of the President of the United States. Not captioning any live U.S. Senate or House speeches. Not providing CART for hundreds or thousands of people for hundreds of events over these 30+ years I’ve been doing this job.

The NCRA. My peers. Fellow captioners. Fellow realtimers. Fellow CART providers. People who could “read through” my mistakes. People who could understand when I fingerspelled or when I had a phrase pop up (Oh, she must have a brief for that!), people who would be “air steno’g” what I was writing, people who would be able to tell how fast/slow the speakers were speaking.

But I prepped. And prepped. And prepped some more.

I had Pat Graves by my side to help point out people or names or slip me her own brief for something.

So I began writing. Nervous as all get out, but I began. I got into a rhythm.

As I always do, I “zone in” on the speaker at the time. And hence comes my Lesson #1 for others on overcoming their fear. Think of yourself as a camera. “Zoom in” to the speaker. When a camera zooms in, it “blocks out” much of what is in the room, in the area, around the subject and brings the focal point closer into view. Zoom in to the speaker’s mouth. “Focus” (another photography term) on what’s being spoken and “blur out” any extraneous thoughts or movements around you and the subject. Anticipate what will be said next and be ready for it. The phrase, “Do I have a motion?” would probably be followed by “Yes. Motion by ____.”

So, back to the NCRA Business Meeting. Lesson #2. Imagine yourself in a war zone. You are a soldier with a rifle. You are in your “zone.” Call that zone your “groove,” a safe spot where you are comfortable, sheltered, protected from attack. Soldiers may be in a trench. Prepare that trench ahead of time. Align yourself where you can see and hear the best and see all parties necessary. Get as comfortable a chair as possible and set your prep and gear where you need it. For me, I’m blind in my right eye, so all prep is to my left. All liquids are in cups — with lids — to my left. I think we can all relate to the reason for the lids! But pens, markers, and protein snacks would be to my right since I’m right-handed. When you’re comfortable and prepared, it is easier to get into your groove and out of the Fear Zone, to relax and do the job you are trained for and that you prepped for.

Was I still scared? Of course! But how did I overcome this, my greatest fear? NCRA members themselves. When they started shouting from the audience, “Slow down! You’re going too fast!”, I knew they had my back. They were helping me. They were encouraging me. They wanted me to do a good job and to have an easier time doing it!

The funny thing is it seemed fast to them, but I was not struggling at all or felt they were going fast at all. Captioners can attest to this. We write at such high speeds for such long periods of time that it becomes natural for us. We don’t even notice that it’s 280 or 300 words per minute. We just do our job. We listen. We write what we hear. Rinse, repeat.

When I knew they “had my back”, I could feel the stress level go down. I had been tensing my neck, shoulders, and jaw. I was able to take a deep, cleansing breath and smile, inwardly and outwardly. Knowing me, I probably teared up (like I’m doing now as I write this) knowing that they cared about me.

So, I survived it and evn went on to caption/CART other NCRA events. Do they still scare me to that same level? No. Now I go into them knowing that my audience – my peers, my friends, my cheerleaders! – will have my back again. But it doesn’t mean I don’t prep like crazy, make lists and briefs, prepare my trench, get into my groove, zoom in on my speakers and focus on the words and their mouths, and blur out the distractions. It doesn’t mean I don’t tense up and need to remind myself to relax and breathe. But my NCRA peeps helped me through my most fear-filled captioning event ever, and this is only one of the thousands of reasons I love NCRA and my NCRA peeps. So if I get asked again to caption anything for NCRA, if I’m still alive and able to, my answer will be yes!

Kathy A. Cortopassi, RPR, RMR, CRR, CCP, CBC, who has also earned NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator, is president of Voice to Print Captioning and QualCap. She is based in Crown Point, Ind., and can be reached at Kathycort@voicetoprint.onmicrosoft.com.

Last call for JCR Awards nominations

Nominations for the 2017 JCR Awards are closing Oct. 31. Nominate yourself or another noteworthy court reporter, captioner, videographer, scopist, teacher, school administrator, or court reporting manager for recognition through the JCR Awards.

Conceived as a way to recognize and highlight the exemplary professionalism, community service, and business practices of NCRA members, the JCR Awards is a way to tell compelling stories that bring to life innovative and successful business strategies from the past year. In addition to nominations for several subcategories, NCRA is looking for a firm and an individual who show excellence in more than one category for an overall “Best of the Year” award.

Any current NCRA member in good standing, with the exception of students, may be nominated for these awards. Court reporters, captioners, videographers, scopists, teachers and school administrators, and court reporting managers are all eligible for nomination. Self-nominations are accepted. Firms, courthouses, or court reporting programs may be nominated as a group as long as they meet the criteria for membership for one of the definitions in the JCR Awards Entry Form.

To nominate yourself or someone else, submit a written entry to the JCR between 300 and 1,000 words explaining the strategies implemented and why they were successful. Ancillary materials, such as photos, may also be submitted with the nomination. Nominations will be considered by the JCR editorial team based on the best fact-based story.

Please be prepared to offer documentation, verifiable sources, or other assistance as needed to be considered for these awards. The stories of the finalists will be published as featured articles in the March JCR.

Nominations are due by Oct. 31. Read more about the JCR Awards.

A broadcast captioner sees the future in realtime

A woman sits in front of a steno machine, set up to work from home. On her desk is her laptop and paper notes propped up for easy viewing. On the wall is a television screen with a news show.By Cathy Penniston

I live in Iowa, but I make my living listening to the Canadian news. I work for The Captioning Group, Inc., based in Calgary, Alberta, as a remote broadcast captioner four days a week. But every Thursday, I take a break from the news and travel to Newton, Iowa, to teach court reporting students at the Des Moines Area Community College. My goal is to share my wealth of experience with my students. I have worked as an official shorthand reporter, a freelance reporter, a CART captioner, and a broadcast captioner, and I bring this real-world experience to my classes.

As a busy broadcast television captioner and an instructor of court reporting students, I encourage my students to embrace realtime. If my students comment that it is difficult to learn realtime, I remind them that when I went to court reporting school, there were manual Stenograph machines and typewriters. Long vowels? That would be taken care of when reporters sat down at the typewriter to type each page into English from their paper shorthand notes. Nowadays, this is all done instantaneously through high-tech machines.

But more so, I believe that realtime is vital to the continued successful future of the court reporting profession. A digital recording in a courtroom cannot accurately provide a real-time speech-to-text feed of the live proceedings to the judge. And a digital recording cannot provide live captions of breaking news or emergency information broadcast over television stations where realtime captions are needed to save lives.

At first, realtime stenography can seem quite daunting. But excellent instructors and programs can get students on the path to achieving their goals and becoming successful in the field of realtime captioning. Here are seven tips from a broadcast captioner and court reporting instructor to get started on your journey to learning realtime.

  1. Enjoy realtime and the great feeling of success when steno words translate into English correctly. Do not be afraid of realtime.
  2. Analyze and correct every word that does not translate from steno to English correctly. There is a reason for every untranslated word. Why did that word not translate? What can you do to correct that word to make it translate properly for your next transcript? Do not ignore untranslates!
  3. Know your dictionary and how words are going to translate with your dictionary. Finger combinations that work well for one student may not work well for another student. Try the suggested way to write the word. If the finger combination does not work for you, try writing it in a way that will translate for you. Define the word in your dictionary that way and write it down. Practice that word until you have memorized it.
  4. Briefs are good only if you memorize them and remember them quickly. A bad brief is worse than no brief at all. Your goal is a good realtime translation.
  5. Write out every word and add it to your dictionary for the time when you forget your brief. Do not hesitate to remember briefs.
  6. Your goal is great realtime translations, not winning a race for having the most briefs and then hesitating during speed tests trying to remember those briefs. Briefs can be your best friend or your enemy in realtime reporting.
  7. Back up your dictionary every week. Email a copy of your dictionary to yourself and back it up in the cloud.

Realtime reporting is the key to the future of our profession. Embrace realtime as you strive to achieve your goal of graduation from school.

After working for many years as an official shorthand reporter in the State of Iowa, Cathy Penniston, RPR, CRI, CSR, “retired” to pursue her dream of completing her master’s degree in teaching and working as a remote television broadcast captioner and teacher. She can be reached at cpenniston@gmail.com. This article was originally published, in a slightly different format, on the blog for The Captioning Group as “7 Things Your Instructor Wants You to Know About Realtime Writing!”

Overcoming your fear

By Linda A. Kaiser

What is fear? Webster’s defines fear as an unpleasant, often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger. In the verb tense, fear is defined as to be afraid or apprehensive. I’d like us to focus on two words in each of those meanings: anticipation and apprehensive.

When you anticipate something, the outcome of that event can either be good or bad. At the conclusion of that event, the anticipation dissipates. To anticipate is to be active. You can either anticipate something with excitement or anticipate something with trepidation. You are in charge whether you put a positive or a negative spin on your anticipation. I suggest you go forward with an expectancy versus an expectation, thereby alleviating a possible disappointment due to your expectations.

To be apprehensive puts you in a position of being afraid, reluctant, thus holding you back and ultimately aversive.

I would like to help turn your fear and apprehension into motivation. Fear can be highly effective. We are taught at a young age that fear is something to take heed of, as in the instance of don’t touch the stove top or you’ll get burned. You are motivated to not touch the stove top so you don’t get burned.

I propose to you that the fear of realtiming is a fear you can overcome. Here are some basic steps that I utilize, even to this day, in my fight to overcome fears of realtiming.

I first start the day out with some “self” talk. I focus on my strengths and my abilities instead of focusing on where I perceive my weaknesses are. I spend ten minutes, before even rising, to pronounce to myself that I can conquer whatever may come my way that day.

As I enter whatever arena I am writing in that day, I am reminded of my “self” talk that morning and that I can proceed with confidence to tackle whatever comes. This confidence also encourages me to continue to educate myself about the ins and outs of realtiming. If I encounter a problem while setting everyone up, I then put into play the education I have about troubleshooting. While I am writing, I focus on what is translating correctly, but also take note on areas that may need some improvement. It’s at that point that I incorporate some of the tricks I’ve learned and incorporate those in helping me achieve a better translation rate. My improved skill set has opened up a vast amount of opportunities to stay alive in our great profession.

There is a method to this madness. To sum it up, “self” talk has built my confidence. It has built my desire for knowledge, which has built up my abilities, which has moved me into new opportunities.

Your method of madness may be slightly different. The key is to keep striving to find what works for you and to stay motivated to overcome fear.

Lastly, fear isn’t an emotion that will ever go away. You have the power to either let it reside in you or use the powers in you and work to conquer it. See where your empowerment will lead you.

Linda A. Kaiser, RMR, CRR, is an official in Cedar Hill, Texas. She can be reached at Lmarptr@aol.com.

Conquer your realtime mountain

If fear is what is stopping you from becoming proficient in realtime, all you may need is a little inspiration to conquer your fears. A quote frequently attributed to sales guru Zig Ziglar is: “F-E-A-R has two meanings: ‘Forget Everything And Run’ or ‘Face Everything And Rise.’ The choice is yours.” Let’s customize that for us to “Face everything and realtime.”

To help you do so, six reporters offer their takes on how to scale the heights of realtime and overcome your fears.

The fear factor, by Debra A. Levinson

Rise to the occasion, by Kristy Clark

The no excuses guide to conquering your fear, by Tammy Clark August

The thrill of the chase, by Mary B. Bader

Is your fear real or imagined? by Ron Cook

 Overcoming your fear, by Linda A. Kaiser

Is your fear real or imagined?

By Ron Cook

Providing realtime for the first (and second, third, fourth, and so on) time is extremely uncomfortable. It was for me and for whoever I’ve ever talked to about their first attempts. I have never heard of anybody providing realtime for the first time and being completely confident and comfortable.

The fact of the matter is that the first days and weeks of realtime will be uncomfortable. However, the same can be said of the first days at any job. I can remember long ago, before learning about court reporting, when I became a recreation leader at an elementary school. I hadn’t been a recreation leader before; I was totally out of my comfort zone. As the days passed, as I got more and more experience and started to get the hang of it, I became more and more comfortable.

Mind you, I still have twinges of anxiety when an attorney looks at his screen and I think I may have made a misstroke (or more than one). It’s at that time that I need to remind myself that I’m not perfect, and I’m never going to be perfect, and I need to just keep writing. In fact, there have been numerous times when I’ve messed up, and the attorney needed the testimony right at that spot, and it either wasn’t there or wasn’t there correctly. Every single time that has happened, the attorney was able to read through it and figure it out or rephrase the testimony to verify it with the witness. Never has an attorney turned to me and suggested that I messed up and/or that I was incompetent.

As with any job, as I’ve gone from a new realtime reporter to an experienced realtime reporter, the anxiety has lessened over time. One reason for that is that I always strive to write to the best of my ability and look for ways to improve my realtime. Another reason is the realization that attorneys typically aren’t mesmerized by the realtime screen any longer. It used to be so novel that they would just stare at the screen as the words would come up. In fact, early on, I had one client that almost fell off his chair, he was so entranced! Nowadays, most attorneys have experienced realtime, so it’s not novel, and they’ve trained themselves to look at the screen only when needed.

In fact, if I have an attorney who is trying realtime for the first time, I recommend that he or she put it out of the direct line of sight between him/her and the witness. If it is located out of the direct line, then the attorney has to actually make the effort to turn away from the witness to read the screen, thereby not allowing him/her to read the screen word for word throughout the deposition. The added benefit to that realtime screen placement is the comfort I get in knowing that the screen isn’t going to be stared at.

It is pretty clear that realtime is our future. I heard a saying once, long ago, that so pertains to our court reporting industry: Dig the well before you need the water.

Ron Cook, FAPR, RDR, CRR, is a freelance court reporter and agency owner from Seattle, Wash. He can be reached at rcook@srspremier.com.

The thrill of the chase

Back view of runners against the sun, so the runners are in shadow

U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Natasha Stannard

By Mary B. Bader

When it comes to being fearful of sending realtime translation to the judge or anyone else, you will never meet a bigger chicken than I am. Unlike many of you who share my dread, I have no choice. My judge demands it. Not only does my judge require realtime, many judges across my district ask for it. If they are used to having realtime in their courtrooms, they want it, whether you are their assigned reporter or not. Could I say, “No, your Honor, sorry, but I do not have to do that”? Sure I could, but to what end? Why are we so afraid of realtime?

In a locker-room speech, the immortal Vince Lombardi spoke these words to his team: “Gentlemen, we will chase perfection, and we will chase it relentlessly, knowing all the while we can never attain it. But along the way, we shall catch excellence.”

Excellence. Why are we not satisfied with excellence? Why must we always keep striving for perfection, especially since we know we can never achieve it? Many of us who chose court reporting as our career did so because we are perfectionists. That trait is one of our greatest assets, but it is also one of our biggest faults. From my own experience, the more I try to be perfect, the worse things get for me. Always striving to be better is what we need to do to improve our skills. In no way am I suggesting that we not keep trying to reach that unattainable goal of perfection, but we cannot get lost in that struggle in our journey to excellence.

If you are constantly striving to improve your realtime skills – and I know you are – you have what it takes to make that giant leap and start sending realtime to your judge, to the clerk of court, or to your clients in a deposition. Give yourself a break. You are a professional, and you are good!

I am sure you have heard this advice before, but it is so true: Let your first hook-up be to someone with whom you are comfortable. Let your trial run be on your terms. Do not wait until your employer demands it. I know you will be amazed by how dazzled they are by your skill. Only you see your flubs. They see your brilliance.

How will we ever know how good we are and how much our skill is appreciated by others if we never give ourselves the chance to find out? Make the commitment to hook up and send out your realtime. You can do it. Throw caution to the wind, and just roll with it, baby!

Mary Bader, RPR, is an official based in Eau Claire, Wis. She can be reached at  marypat.42797@gmail.com.

The no excuses guide to conquering your fear

By Tammy Clark August

Being nervous or fearful of displaying your realtime screen the very first time is very normal. Feeling nervous about doing just about anything for the first time is normal, particularly if you are doing it in front of a highly educated audience.

Here is some great advice from some very qualified realtime reporters that I received with suggestions on how to overcome the fear of someone reading and critiquing your work.

  • Know that repetition is key. The more you write realtime, the more you will become at ease with others viewing your translation. Do realtime on every single job. Set up your laptop, iPads, and tablets on the table; get used to having them in front of you, facing in whatever direction you feel most comfortable.
  • Benefit from working with client attorneys from an older generation. They typically are not interested in technology and are the perfect ones to practice on. They will not pay attention to what the purpose of realtime is and certainly not touch anything for fear of messing something up. When the deposition is over, go ahead and give them a brief description of how very beneficial this technology is. It is likely they will share their realtime experience with their younger associates, who will be familiar with technology and excited to learn that you can provide this latest service to them.
  • Provide your iPad to the paralegal or associate who is attending the deposition. Ask them to navigate the screen, and elicit their comments about its functionality. They will be intrigued viewing the iPad and pay little attention to your writing.
  • Provide your iPad to a videographer. Videographers are well aware of how difficult our jobs can be. The next time you are working on a videotaped deposition, ask the videographer for some feedback. You won’t feel the same pressure you might feel from an attorney, and you will have begun sharing your realtime screen with someone else.

The more advanced we are with our technology, the better the chance of increasing our client base. So no more excuses! Go out and conquer your fear. Don’t let it conquer you.

Tammy Clark August, RDR, CRR, CRC, is a freelance court reporter and agency owner from Killen, Ala. She can be reached at tammy@clarkcourtreporting.com.

Highlights and takeaways from the sessions at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo

Attendees at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo had the opportunity to attend an array of sessions and educational workshops designed to help them increase their professional experience and hone their skills. The summaries below highlight a few of these sessions.

Fast, faster, fastest

View from the back of a meeting room with rows of people facing a panel and a projector

Kelly Shainline, Jason Meadors, and Keith Lemons present “Fast, faster, fastest” to a full house

One of the first sessions to kick off the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo, “Fast, faster, fastest” with Kelly Shainline, RPR, CRR; Jason Meadors, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC; and Keith Lemons, FAPR, RPR, CRR, was packed with standing room only. The nuts-and-bolts realtime session went through step by step how to set up for good realtime. “My first page, I just consider it a sacrificial goat,” Meadors said to laughter, but the presenters emphasized the importance of good preparation as the key to strong realtime. For example, for legal work, the presenters said to get the appearance page ahead of time and use that to do some research. “Let’s say there’s a doctor,” said Lemons. “Look up online what kind of medicine they do — such as obstetrics and gynecology — and use that to build specific words in a dictionary.”

“I won’t be mean,” Meadors said, “but I will be firm to get what I need,” especially for CART or captioning work.

The presenters all said that they do prep the night before — although the length of time varied a bit based on how important the trial was, how many people would be seeing the realtime, and if there would be a rough draft, for example – but also emphasized the importance of arriving early to the job. Shainline said that while she often prepares brief forms the night before, after she sets up at the job, she does some practice with those briefs to help get them into muscle memory.

Gadgets and gizmos

Merilee Johnson, RDR, CRR, CRC, and Micheal Johnson, RDR, CRR, lead a session filled with dozens of specific gadgets, gizmos, and app recommendations to make life easier both on and off the job. For example, for the office, Merilee and Micheal shared:

  • a few types of charging stations, including the Satechi USB Charging Station, which charges up to six devices at a time, and the EZO power desktop, which Merilee says she’s brought on jobs as a value add to help attorneys plug in their devices;
  • second monitors, including the Duet Display app, which turns an iPad into a second screen (currently only for Apple products), and the Mimo, which is a small second monitor – both Micheal and Merilee said they’ve found it helpful to use a small second monitor to free up real estate on their laptop and move over, for example, BriefIt on a second screen; and
  • cable management gadgets, including the Baltic Sleeve, which is a Velcro sleeve that wraps around a bunch of cables, and the Safcord, which is also a Velcro solution that performs the same function as gaffer’s tape, except it’s reusable.

How to compete with some of the best

In a session that was part of the Student Learning Zone at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo, Chase Frazier, RMR, CRR, CRC; Tami Frazier, RMR, CRR; and Ron Cook, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, gave concrete tips to students on improving their writing while getting through school. The three presenters came from a variety of perspectives: a captioner, an official, and a freelancer.

Chase had strong realtime skills coming out of school, but he didn’t have his state CSR. Because of this, he went into captioning. Tami started as an official out of school because a job opened up at the right time. She said that while court work can be a little faster than depo work — and trials are more controlled — new professionals shouldn’t avoid going right into court after school. And Ron cited the freedom and money potential as perks to freelancing, but he admitted that one downside is the lack of benefits. (He is also a partner in a firm.)

Tami taught both of her sons (Chase and brother Clay Frazier) to write steno, and she did so paperless. She also emphasized perfection. When Chase was at 200 wpm, she saw that while he had the speed, he was writing sloppy and with no punctuation. She had him go back to 160 and work back up while also working on writing perfectly. Chase attributed this experience to his strength in realtime.

A woman speaks into a microphone. She is sitting amongst rows of people at a conference session.

An attendee shares her thoughts during a session at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo

“A lot of people don’t emphasize the mental part of practicing,” said Ron. “If you don’t think you’re going to get it, you won’t get it.” He provided a couple metaphors for practicing, including “slow things down” — meaning to slow things down mentally, stay relaxed, and go with the flow.

Tami recommended practicing about 10 percent faster than her goal speed (which was a technique that she used to get through school). “You always want to be pushing yourself,” she said. Pick tough dictation, she suggested — “and I’m a real believer in lit — it makes you write; there’s nothing easy about lit,” she said. She also suggested practicing a five-minute take at least ten or fifteen words per minute faster than the goal speed. But since she also emphasized aiming for perfection, repeating a take until writing it perfectly will clean up a reporter’s writing and also gives the reporter an opportunity to work in briefs and phrases. “The better writer you are, the easier the job,” she said.

Business of being a court reporter

Charisse Kitt, RMR, CRI; Jessica Waack, RDR, CRR; Mike Hensley, RPR; and Katherine Schilling, RPR, presented a mock deposition as part of the Student Learning Zone at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo. With Schilling playing the part of newbie reporter, the mock deposition went through a variety of typical situations that a new reporter may not have encountered before or covered in school. At each “freeze frame,” the panelists discussed how they would handle each situation. A few of the situations were:

Introducing yourself at the beginning of the deposition: Kitt said she makes a point of greeting all of the lawyers in the room with a firm handshake. Waack expanded on this by saying that she makes sure her ears are over her shoulders over her hips, so she’s standing with confidence and not hunched over.

Swearing in the witness: Waack suggested having a physical piece of paper with the oath to refer to. She also said to make sure to include “swear or affirm” in the wording, since some witnesses don’t want to swear, and to avoid the phrase “so help you God.” Hensley pointed out that reporters should always check with their state association or firm first to see if there’s a preset oath that the reporter should be using.

Using briefs for names, words, and phrases: For briefs, Hensley pointed out that they don’t have to make sense on paper as long as they make sense to you to write. Kitt said she likes to get to a job at least 30 minutes early so she can use the time to jot down some briefs. And Waack suggested using LinkedIn to find the proper spellings of witnesses, etc., although she added that this will likely lead to some odd friend requests. She also said that after she’s developed a brief for an acronym, if the speaker suddenly uses the full term, she simply writes the brief twice.

The witness is talking too fast: Kitt said, “Don’t ever depend on your audio,” stressing that it’s the reporter’s responsibility as the record-keeper to keep in control and stop any fast talkers to tell them to slow down. Waack says she likes to reset the speaker to the point where she lost the record by saying, “You were talking about [subject].” And Hensley favors using a visual hand signal – physically lifting his hands up off the machine to show the room that something is up with the reporter.

Hensley also emphasized throughout the session the importance of knowing your software.

Beyond English

Stanley Sakai, CRC, led a session that focused on captioning in other languages, especially Spanish. The discussion was guided partially by Sakai’s prepared presentation and partly by the audience’s questions.

Sakai has a working knowledge of eight different languages with varying levels of fluency, including Dutch, German, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish. Prompted by a question from the audience, he explained that one of the methods he uses to keep up with such a wide variety of languages is to have different devices set to different languages (for example, his tablet set in one language and his mobile phone in another). He also takes the opportunity to look up words he encounters on the fly and to read articles, etc., in a language other than English so he learns content and vocabulary at the same time.

The session description specifically highlighted Spanish, and the growing need for Spanish captioning came up in the discussion, both domestically and abroad. Sakai talked a little bit about the differences between baseline speeds in English and Spanish and how Spanish is at a slightly slower speed. He also discussed his methods for doing CART work in German and how steno systems work in Korean and in Japanese. Sakai had to adjust his steno theory in order to provide CART, which was for a German language class, and he even had to be prepared to jump between German and English. Similarly, in the discussion, he pointed out that the Korean and Japanese languages toggle between different writing systems based on the specific words, and reporters and captioners in those countries need to have keyboards that are set up to quickly switch between the writing systems at the speed of spoken language.

Read all the news from the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo.