NCRA partner Excelsior College offers webinars to aid in transfers

Excelsior College, Albany, N.Y., has announced that it is offering monthly “Transfer Made Easy” webinars to assist new students with transferring educational records from other organizations.

Excelsior College is an accredited, nonprofit educational institution that offers members and their spouses or domestic partners the opportunity to pursue higher-learning education at a reduced tuition rate. NCRA and Excelsior College partnered in 2016 as part of the Association’s continuing efforts to build the industry and business skills of current and future members by supporting member career development.

The monthly webinars are held on the first Wednesday of each month and run from 3 to 4 p.m. ET. The goal of the seminars is to provide an overview of Excelsior College for NCRA students that includes partnership benefits such as tuition discounts and fee waivers, individual schools and degree programs that are available to them, student services that will help them succeed, and next steps for getting started.

For more information, contact nbeeteron@excelsior.edu or call 518-608-8399. Online registration for the webinars is also available.

Study: Students see benefits of video captioning

JCR publications share buttonInside Higher Ed posted a story on Nov. 1 about the results of a recent survey that found video captioning helps more than just students with disabilities. The article also provides a link to the survey.

Read more.

NCRA keeps eye on federal and state legislation

NCRA’s government relations department continually monitors legislation and regulations that may affect court reporters and captioners on the federal, state, and local levels. This year, the government relations team has identified several bills and proposed legislation on the federal level. Here is a run-down of the bills and how they might affect NCRA members.

The National Oath Act: This legislation, which has not yet been introduced, would reduce or eliminate some of the notary regulations placed on court reporters in interstate matters. While the legislation protects the rights of states and state court reporting boards to set certification regulations and govern who can take a deposition in that state, it offers court reporters the flexibility to work in various states without requiring a notary from that state. This proposed legislation is not an interstate notary either as it solely allows a court reporter to swear in a witness, not to actually take the deposition.

Local Courthouse Safety Act: The Local Courthouse Safety Act, S. 445, is bipartisan legislation intended to offer U.S. courthouses some additional assistance to increase public safety. Specifically, the proposed bill would allow courthouses to receive security equipment that is no longer being used from other federal agencies and allocate existing federal funding for courthouse security equipment and safety training for court security guards. Last session, the bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a voice vote but was held up in the Senate. At the beginning of a new Congressional sessions in January, NCRA’s government relations team was successful in getting the bill reintroduced in the Senate. This bill was the centerpiece of NCRA’s Boot Camp weekend in 2013.

Captioning and Image Narration to Enhance Movie Accessibility Act: This bill, also known as the CINEMA Act, or S. 555, would require every movie theater with two or more screens to provide captioning and video description upon request. Sen. Tom Harkin from Iowa introduced this bill. NCRA has written a letter of support on this issue. NCRA will continue to work to get the bill through Congress and signed into law.

The Air Carrier Access Amendments Act: This bill would require that airlines providing movies or other in-flight entertainment also provide captions. This would amend the current Air Carriers Access Act. This bill, S. 556, was also introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin. NCRA also wrote a letter of support for this bill.

Line of Duty Act 2013: The Line of Duty Act of 2013, S. 698, was introduced by Sen. John Cornyn from Texas. This bill, which responds to a recent uptick in violent attacks against judicial employees, will place federal court reporters and other court personnel in the same category as police officers and fire fighters in terms of increased penalties in the commission of crimes. An almost identical bill, the McLelland-Hasse Line of Duty Act, or H.R. 1577, was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Ted Poe from Texas. NCRA has sent letters of support to both congressmen and will continue to work to strengthen currents laws designed to protect federal court reporters.

The Supporting Academic Freedom through Regulatory Relief Act: This bill would remove restrictive regulations imposed by the U.S. Department of Education several years ago, including the gainful employment, the state authorization, and the credit hour regulations. This bill would allow educators and school administrators to focus on teaching, as opposed to dealing with complicated government bureaucracy. NCRA has sent a letter of support for H.R. 2637 and will continue to work with Chairman John Kline and Reps. Virginia Foxx and Alcee Hastings on this issue.

Federal Judgeship Act of 2013: This bill would add additional federal circuit and district judges around the country. This bill was introduced because of the high caseload for current judges. Many judges around the country have taken on more than 200 additional cases a year to make up for the loss of judges over several years, a situation that has delayed many court cases for months. NCRA is currently working on a letter of support for S. 1385.

To contact NCRA’s Government Relations team, email GovRelations@ncra.org.

NCRA goes to students with mini conventions

In 2010, NCRA’s Education Department began to reach out to students by hosting mini conventions on the campuses of court reporting schools in an effort provide them with additional re­sources and the opportunity to meet and network with working professionals, educators, and vendors of products and services that support the court reporting field.

Since the start of the program, the Association has hosted be­tween two and four mini conventions each year, and the response has been overwhelming, according to Lynette Eggers, CRI, CPE, NCRA’s assistant director for Educational Services. Even better than that, the events have proven to be priceless to students.

“Once a school is chosen as a mini convention site, NCRA’s Education Department works with the school’s president and other representatives to develop a tailored program that includes a keynote speaker and sessions that address a variety of aspects about the court reporting profession,” Eggers says.“The speakers include members of NCRA’s Board of Directors, various com­mittees, and professionals deemed experts in a particular area. In addition, we invite vendors to participate and include network­ing breaks throughout the event so that students have the oppor­tunity to talk with them and experience firsthand the products and services they offer.”

In 2013, NCRA hosted two mini conventions. The first, held in May at the Community College of Allegheny County in Penn­sylvania, featured keynote speaker Bill Weber, RDR, CRR, from Bethel Park, Pa., who shared his experience reporting on the 9/11 terrorist trials taking place at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantana­mo Bay in Cuba. Weber reinforced to students the importance of joining their state and national associations and associating with key groups of other reporters to ensure further development of their skills and their overall success as reporters.

“Building these relationships is especially important in this day and age when so many reporters no longer work in an office with other reporters. They need to have other reporters nearby to relate to, and associations are where that can take place,” Weber says. “While my presentation talked about the GTMO experience, I also shared how I become involved with my state association, which sent me to leadership training and resulted in my meet­ing Nancy Varallo, NCRA’s current president. I made friends with Nancy, and through that relationship, I met Lorene Eppley, RPR, a firm owner from Boston, Mass., who had landed the GTMO contract and eventually led to my contract for this work.”

Weber says that he also stressed to students the importance of earning professional certifications, pointing out that only re­porters who held the Certified Realtime Reporter certification from NCRA could apply for the GTMO team.

According to Weber, the students were truly engaged in each of the seminars that were presented at the May mini convention, which also covered overcoming the test-taking heebie-jeebies, the perspectives of a freelance court reporter working in Penn­sylvania, the genesis of CART reporting in the city of Pittsburgh, and planning for success.

“The greatest value students receive from attending an NCRA mini convention is the ability to speak with working re­porters from all facets of our industry and to learn about the various options that they have in our field after they graduate,” says Steve Zinone, RPR, from Canandaigua, N.Y., NCRA’s current Secretary-Treasurer. Zinone was the keynote speaker at a June mini convention at Long Island Business Institute in New York.

“These events are also extremely important because the stu­dents hear firsthand how experienced reporters also struggled at times in school, especially with speedbuilding skills, and what tech­niques they utilized to conquer those learning plateaus,” he added.

During his address at the Long Island Business Institute, Zinone says he emphasized the history of court reporting, which dates back centuries to when the Roman philosopher and politician Cicero relied on Tiro as his scrivener. He also stressed that students and working reporters are each part of the profession’s evolution. Zinone said he also stressed the importance of mentoring.

“I am fortunate to have four mentors who I reach out to on a weekly and sometimes on a daily basis for advice and guidance. I encourage every court reporting student to have one, not only during school but throughout their professional career,” he says.

In addition, students at the Long Island event attended ses­sions that addressed developing dictionaries in realtime report­ing, overcoming test anxiety, getting ready to work, becoming realtime-ready, and top tips for becoming a broadcast captioner.

Like Weber, Zinone says he also took the opportunity to encourage students to begin networking while they are still in school, suggesting that they join their state and national asso­ciations and attend NCRA conventions to network with other professionals and have the chance to kick the tires on all the latest technologies that vendors showcase.

“I also encourage students that when someone says to them that they’ll be replaced by an audio or video recording device, to relay this message to them:

“During the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on our country, there were 36 million deaf Americans and double that number of hard-of-hearing Americans who relied on the closed captioning that was being provided by an amazing group of professional stenographic reporters, who worked hour after hour, day after day, during one of the worst times in our great nation’s history. Now, imagine yourself as being one of those deaf and hard-of-hearing Americans, sitting in your apartment on the 45th floor, watching those terrible events unfold. Without the captioning, you would have thought the world was coming to an end — if not for those brave and heroic reporters providing that closed captioning, shedding tears just like all of us, as their hands moved swiftly and precisely over the keyboard that Ward Stone Ireland created for us to use in 1911, you would have been lost. We all have a skill that is truly a gift that cannot be replaced with a digital/video recording device. And if they don’t or can’t un­derstand that, remind them about 9/11.”

 

For more information about NCRA’s mini conventions, contact Lynette R. Eggers, NCRA’s Assistant Director of Educational Services at 800-272-6272 or 703-556-6272, ext.173.

Why tracking progress works

38-39At some point, every court reporting student is asked to read back everything they write, practice the challenging words and briefs in an effort to be perfect, or track their tests to see progress over time rather than just focusing on passing a particular speed,” says Lynette R. Eggers, MBA, MA, CRI, CPE, CPC, NCRA’s assistant director of educational services. “Whether as a student or a working reporter, tapping into feedback loops can help you improve your writing, speed, or stamina.”

These long-standing techniques are exam­ples of tapping into feedback loops. Feed­back loops, a term used by scientists and mathematicians, explain phenomenon in different disciplines but with similar ten­dencies toward growth or stability. An ex­ample of a positive feedback loop is the use of traffic monitoring signs that are placed on some roads and show a car’s speed as it approaches. Although the information is redundant — the same information on the car’s speedometer — police reports show that people speeding near the signs do slow down. In this case, getting infor­mation about the car’s speed leads to a change in behavior. A negative feedback loop is a system that tends toward stabil­ity, not toward depletion, and an example might be a thermostat setting in a house. The heating system is set to turn off when it reaches a specific temperature, say 70°, and turn back on if it drops below that, maintaining a stable environment.

In the psychology of learning, a nega­tive feedback loop denotes a self-correcting one (stability) while a positive feedback loop denotes a self-reinforcing process (growth). Reading back to find and recog­nize errors – and therefore correct them –is an example of a self-correcting system. Tracking tests reinforces progress made, a self-reinforcing method.

IT’S ALL ABOUT MONITORING

The growth in technology is changing how people use feedback loops. People are us­ing everything from monitors in running shoes to mobile apps in phones to track teenagers driving speed and location. What the technology truly does, however, is make this sort of tracking easy and pro­vides feedback that people can immedi­ately act on.

Likewise, working reporters and stu­dents who are seeking to improve their writing can use realtime to receive im­mediate feedback. CAT software can track translation rates. Alternatively, there are many speedbuilding programs now on the market. Many of the programs can track errors and offer personal suggestions for exercises to practice, provide alternative briefs for tricky fingering, create specific drills, or give progressive dictation.

38-39_2LOW-TECH APPROACHES

There’s no need to go high-tech, however. For years, financial advisers and dieticians working with people who were tackling new budgetary or weight goals offered the same piece of advice: “Write it down.” A pencil and a pad of paper or a chart kept on your computer applied with a little self-discipline can help court reporters and students note their errors and track their progress from one day to the next.

“To work on accuracy, we should go through what we’ve written and create a list of the words that didn’t translate, we dropped or creatively wrote. Once we have a list, we should see if there are any patterns, such as consistently writing the same prefix wrong, or certain bound­ary issues. In some cases, we may want to practice writing certain words or word groups. Pulling out that theory book, from under the bed, blowing off the dust, and reviewing a particular lesson is always a good place to start. In other situations, we may need to analyze whether a better solu­tion would be to make additional entries in our dictionaries so that the errors trans­late correctly or to deal with some of the more challenging issues,” say Eggers. While working report­ers will probably tackle these is­sues as they need to, Eggers rec­ommends that students stick with the practice option and only consider changes to the diction­ary after they’ve talked to their teachers about what kind of im­pact such changes would have on the dictionary as a whole.

It’s difficult to work only on speed without also taking into account a person’s accuracy, Eggers notes. Whether pushing for a higher speed to pass a certification exam or to build stamina for a fast talker, gaining speed takes practice. Some report­ers suggest practicing dictation takes at 10 or 20 words higher than the target speed to gain speed. Others suggest that, espe­cially for test-takers, practicing at the exact speed and for the exact length of the exam prepares reporters for the circumstances as closely as possible.

In either case, tracking improvements over the course of several practices can help keep reporters motivated by show­ing progress. Tracking progress, as with weight control or finances, also reinforces good behavior and shows when people slip up (which we all do), encouraging them to get back on track toward their goals, an example of a negative feedback loop. Research on how monitoring aids people in meeting goals in other areas has shown that such tracking is essential in meeting and maintaining goals. People who give up and stop tracking also tend to have more difficulty meeting those goals.

NCRA and you: Taking on the industry’s biggest challenges together

Jim CudahyA little more than a year ago, the NCRA Board of Directors launched an effort to create a five-year strategic plan for the association. The process began with face-to-face discussions with members at the 2012 Convention & Expo in Philadelphia and continued with a comprehensive membership needs assessment in September and October. Going right to the membership, we wanted to know what you saw as the biggest challenges within the court reporting industry and in what areas you felt NCRA could have the biggest impact on the industry, on your business, and on your career.

The Board then held two strategic-planning retreats – one in November and one in March – to synthesize what we had learned through our conversations and our membership needs assessment. And then we put pen to paper and wrote a strategic plan. Our success as an organization and even as an industry will be dependent upon our collective ability to succeed in advancing six strategic priorities.

EDUCATION. There is no bigger challenge for the court reporting industry than getting more students into court reporting programs across North America and getting more qualified court reporters out into the marketplace. Education, thus, is the first priority of Vision 2018, the NCRA strategic plan. Here, initially we will follow the guidance of the Vision for Educational Excellence Task Force (VEETF) in three key areas: Assessing the long-term demand for court reporters and captioners to allow court reporting programs to shape their recruitment campaigns accordingly; attracting more youth to court reporting through an innovative Web-based initiative to teach rudimentary theory to prospective students in a low-cost manner; and, finally, isolating best practices of those schools that graduate the highest percentage of students and finding ways to incorporate those best practices into standards.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT. The biggest reason that court reporters join NCRA is to build the knowledge and skills needed to advance in a competitive industry and to gain recognition of such achievement through certification. Keeping our certification programs strong, therefore, along with offering an ever-improving array of continuing education opportunities, is NCRA’s second strategic priority.

AWARENESS AND OUTREACH. It is difficult to have a conversation with any member in which he or she does not express the need for more people within the legal community and beyond to have a stronger appreciation for the role of the stenographic court reporter. That has been a major focus for NCRA in recent years and will remain so under our new strategic plan.

ADVOCACY. Going hand-in-glove with our Awareness and Outreach strategy is Advocacy, working at both the national and state level to represent the interests of court reporting and the constituents served by our industry.

RESOURCES. One of the key benefits that members indicate they get out of NCRA is access to information — about technology, about industry trends, about how to better promote your services to your prospective clients and beyond. In digging a little deeper, what we have learned is it’s not just about information — it’s about packaging this information into tools that members can put to immediate and long-term use.

MEMBER VALUE. Our sixth and final strategic priority is probably both the most obvious and the most ambiguous, and that is Member Value. In a way, if we deliver in the way we intend in the first five strategic areas, we will in the process be creating more Member Value. And that’s sort of the point: our strategic priorities all should crosspollinate and complement each other. Beyond that, however, we want to continually enhance the value proposition we offer to our membership in such a way that every court reporter, captioner, legal videographer, firm owner, and instructor — anyone who has a stake in the stenographic court reporting industry — would be crazy not to be a member of the National Court Reporters Association.

Finally, we are taking on some major new challenges with our new strategic plan. Our ability to do so is dependent upon our ability to mobilize the court reporting community to assist us. This year, the NCRA Board is asking our volunteer committees to take on more ambitious charges that are pegged more specifically to the strategic priorities I just described. In so doing, we hope and expect that members will play a more direct and meaningful role in executing the tactics that advance our strategy. That, in turn, will make volunteering that much more of a fulfilling endeavor and, in so doing, will encourage a new corps of volunteers to step forward to allow NCRA to do even more and to do it better than ever before. That is our vision. Now we’re going to make it happen, together.

2012 | 2013 Annual Review

There has never been a better time to be a part of NCRA

Jim CudahyWhen I accepted the NCRA Board of Directors’ offer to serve as the association’s executive director and CEO in May 2012, I presented a vision of the future that largely was built around what I saw as the top priority — the need for a “game-changing” initiative that had the capability of altering the landscape of court reporting education. More to the point, I felt that we needed to take steps to get far more students enrolled in court reporting programs and to increase the percentage of qualified court reporters emerging from schools.

The urgency behind the educational initiative we launched a year ago, as well as a number of other priorities, initially emerged as findings from Writing Our Future, which effectively had become NCRA’s de facto strategic plan. But we needed more than a de facto strategic plan; we needed an actual strategic plan. Our new strategic plan, which, based on the five-year horizon it encompasses, is entitled “Vision 2018.” As they should, our priorities are designed to stretch NCRA’s capacities and capabilities to take on new challenges, to try new approaches, and to make wider and more efficient use of available resources, most notably our volunteer capital.

Vision 2018: 6 Strategic Priorities

Vision01Ask any court reporter, captioner, or CART provider in which three areas NCRA should focus its primary efforts, and in virtually all cases one of three answers would be some version of building wider recognition and appreciation of stenographic reporting. This point was reemphasized to us in last fall’s membership needs assessment, and thus Awareness and Outreach serves as the first of our six strategic priorities.

Court Reporting and Captioning Week

A major success story for NCRA earlier this year was the introduction of a new concept within our awareness efforts: Court Reporting and Captioning Week. The idea was to get members to focus disproportionately on awareness efforts during a single week in February. NCRA provided an array of tools on our website — from press release templates to customized logos highlighting NCRA certifications to presentations and more — and then we took to social media, digital newsletters, and other media to encourage the entire court reporting community to get involved. The results were astounding with not just members but schools, state associations, and vendors taking up the cause. In 2014, we will have the second annual Court Reporting and Captioning Week while we otherwise push the entire court reporting community to work on Awareness and Outreach throughout the year.

Outreach

In 2012-13, NCRA continued a sustained effort to work with other organizations from the legal fi eld and deaf/hard-of-hearing community to reach out to their members in an attempt to build awareness of court reporting, captioning, and CART. This included visits to and/or exhibits at several meetings and conventions — e-Courts in December and the ABA’s Tech Show in April, as well as a visit to the National Center for State Courts and the National Association of Court Management. We also published an article in the January/February edition of Court Manager magazine on the merits of using realtime in a judicial setting. Overall, we attempted to better connect our outreach efforts with our overarching Awareness and Outreach efforts, something we will do more in 2014 and beyond.

New Public Relations Capability

In late 2012, NCRA commissioned Bendure Communications to serve as the association’s public relations agency. Bendure has proven to be the ideal partner for NCRA in that its model is not that of the large-scale agency that takes on all the work. Instead, Bendure follows a model of rapid-fire exposure for hundreds of members simultaneously. Whether a member has earned new certification, taken part in the Veterans’ History Project, or otherwise earned some distinction large or small, they now have the capability of quickly getting word out to their local media through NCRA and Bendure. The overall effect, then, is a consistent, growing drip of media exposure for the industry at large.

AdvocacyLegislative Boot Camp

In March, 75 state leaders came to the Washington, D.C., area for three days of intensive training through NCRA’s Legislative Boot Camp. This program always includes a “Hill Day,” during which we take leaders to Capitol Hill and allow them to roam the halls of Congress, meeting face to face with members of Congress to talk about issues of significance to court reporters. This year, we encouraged both houses of Congress to support legislation known as the U.S. Local Courthouse Safety Act. This legislation would allow local courthouses without metal detectors and other types of security equipment to procure it at no effective cost from the federal government. NCRA’s efforts were buoyed by the Capitol Hill visits by 75 of our members, and we will persevere to get this legislation passed.

State Mini-Boot Camps

The popularity and effectiveness of Boot Camp at the national level has led to several requests to conduct customized versions of the event at the state level. Over the past year, we have hosted events in Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Maine. Our government relations staff then has the opportunity to hone and sharpen messaging and tactics based on the specific c legislative threats and opportunities within those states.

State Support

While NCRA certainly has a major presence in Washington, D.C., our legislative efforts occur on a more consistent basis at the state level. From mobilizing efforts to adopt or strengthen state certification for court reporters to counseling state associations on grassroots efforts to protect the positions of officials, from pursuing legislation aimed at instilling higher ethical standards to governing the relationship between court reporters and their clients, our government relations team plays a key role — often behind the scenes — in helping our members at the local level.

FCC Captioning Standards

For many years, we have worked with organizations from the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities to demonstrate the importance of captioning standards to the Federal Communications Commission and others. This past year, NCRA had a productive meeting with FCC representatives to discuss the need for captioning standards and to bring the perspective of realtime captioners to the table. We are confident that discussions will continue to fully engage our allies within the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities. Beyond that, NCRA works on an ongoing basis with the U.S. Congress to advance issues related to captioning, most recently in pushing a bill that would require closed captioning in movie theatres and on in-flight movies. Obviously such captioning does not require the services of a realtime captioner; however, it is by pushing for overall availability of quality captioning that we are able to demonstrate both the differences between captioning of live events and static content and that NCRA’s pursuit of captioning standards is not just about serving the interests of our members.

Realtime Writers Act Grants

During this period of federal government sequester, securing funding from Congress for any purpose has been nearly impossible. Nonetheless, this year — as we have in years past — NCRA was able to work with court reporting schools across the country to get more than $1 million in distributed grants to support the Realtime Writers Act we guided through Congress many years ago. At a time when our schools can use such funding more than ever, NCRA once again was able to deliver.

Ethics First

For 2013-14, we bid adieu to NCRA’s Ethics First Task Force, as it has completed several years of work in casting attention on the importance of court reporters and the clients with whom they work conducting business in accordance with established ethical standards. The Ethics First Program is a great example of how a task force of NCRA volunteers can mobilize for a cause, do great work, and then pass the torch to NCRA staff to carry outits vision on an ongoing basis.

Education
Last August, the NCRA Board commissioned a sustained effort that had as its ambitious goal to increase the number of students enrolled in court reporting schools and to increase the percentage of qualified court reporters emerging from those schools.

Vision for Educational Excellence Task Force (VEETF)

With a year of meetings and conference calls under its belt, VEETF presented three separate initiatives to the Board in June, all of which were approved and incorporated into the coming year’s budget.

1. Market Demand Study

One area of focus coming out of VEETF will be to commission a comprehensive study to determine the demand for court reporters, captioners, and CART providers over a defined period (three to five years). Such market intelligence will inform schools’ student recruitment efforts, allowing them to point to more specific data than currently exists of demand not just on a general basis, but within geographic and specialty-area pockets.

2. Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)

This will be a bold, new approach to expose large audiences of potential court reporting students to the career opportunities available through stenographic court reporting. Using the MOOC concept, which is gaining traction and popularity in education circles, NCRA would build a portal through which it would offer modulated educational sessions at a low cost to teach a simplified theory. While the supporting elements need to be constructed, the general concept is that would be students would have the ability to learn a simplified theory through use of an iPad/tablet app or a steno-overlay keyboard, so as to avoid the large initial cost of purchasing a steno machine. The concept, further, is for large numbers of students to take part in the course either informally through the Internet or through a structured, distance-learning program via high schools.

3. Court Reporting Instruction

A large challenge that all schools face is that the percentage of students that successfully emerge from their programs to become court reporters is alarmingly low. For an abundance of reasons, this must change. The third VEETF subgroup focused on what can be done to dramatically improve graduation rates. Hope exists here because some court reporting programs graduate a much higher percentage of students than the average. We need to know what it is that distinguishes these programs from others, and NCRA has embarked on a second study that will seek to isolate the variables in court reporting instruction that breeds such levels of success before finding ways for all programs to emulate those best practices.

CareersinCourtReporting.com

This year, NCRA launched a new website, CareersinCourtReporting.com, which replaced our bestfutures.com website. The new site included new content and messaging that focuses more distinctly on the individuals who visit the site and the questions they might have about court reporting rather than on pigeon-holing existing NCRA content to fi ll an alternative need of student recruitment.

Advertising

Throughout the year, NCRA purchased social media advertising that used micro-targeting techniques to focus on individuals with a higher propensity to consider court reporting as a career. To supplement these efforts, NCRA ran advertising in the Wall Street Journal Student Edition and in School Counselor magazine to reach out directly to students in classrooms, as well as to the many high school guidance counselors who serve as gatekeepers to the decisions of millions of youth across the country.

Enrollment Down, Number of Programs Reduced

The reality on the ground throughout the country points to the critical need for education to be a major strategic priority for NCRA now and in the years ahead. While enrollment in programs on a national basis tends to see ebbs and flows, in 2012, we saw several schools close their doors, and we saw enrollment down 8 percent from the year prior. Those numbers are not sustainable either for schools themselves or for the long-term viability of the industry. We have seen numbers rebound. We do know that our macro-level recruitment support can have a positive effect, and we feel confident that our larger efforts to support court reporting programs and to improve court reporting education will lead us to a new era of growth for schools and the industry.

Professional DevelopmentBeyond anything else, NCRA’s bottom-line benefit to its constituents is providing the tools for court reporters, captioners, and CART providers to build the knowledge and skills to advance their careers and then to get recognition of their achievements through certification.

Best-in-class events

NCRA’s TechCon, now heading into its third year, offers a suite of technology-focused programs (CLVS, Realtime Systems Administrator, and Trial Presentation) and brings them to a singular venue so that networking and economies of scale can take place where it makes most sense. In 2014, we will take TechCon to Atlanta, Ga., and we believe the continued buzz that this event has created will allow the program to grow and thrive.

The Firm Owners Executive Conference took place in February adorned with a new approach to networking and new content focused around the general concept within NCRA’s new resources strategy. Firm owners reacted positively to educational content that challenged the status quo, which compelled them to look inside their businesses to see whether they were doing enough to understand and meet the needs of their clients. They heard directly from attorneys, branding specialists, and through survey data, from themselves. Beyond that, we reorganized social events and a dinner to allow for enhanced networking, all of which had a positive effect on the event. In early 2014, we head to Orlando.

Our convention in Nashville, as you’ll see throughout this issue of the JCR, was a highly successful event with a broad array of educational options and networking opportunities. We look forward to welcoming the court reporting, captioning, and legal videography professions in San Francisco next summer.

ResourcesOne of the key benefits on which NCRA members rely is the association’s ability to package and deliver information. They look for information about technology, trends in the profession, and how they can better position their services to clients. In packaging information, what NCRA does is create resources. As the industry evolves, as competition becomes more fierce, it is incumbent upon us to respond in kind with the resources members need in a new world.

Firm Owners Economic Benchmark Survey

Once again, we presented the results from NCRA’s Firm Owners Economic Benchmark Survey at the Firm Owners Conference. This year, we incorporated more market intelligence into the mix. That is, we asked more questions of firm owners about what types of companies hire court reporting firms, who within the companies makes the hiring decision, and what factors do they use to make the decisions. NCRA has at its disposal the ability to gather such information on a larger scale and make it available to all firms and freelancers to inform their business practices.

New Markets Task Force

A generation ago — maybe a little longer than that — the concept of using a stenographic court reporting machine to provide broadcast captioning led to an entire new application of the skills of NCRA members. In drips and droves, we hear of members who ply their craft in boardrooms and in other nontraditional environments. Are there opportunities out there that can be leveraged to open new markets to court reporters? What haven’t we thought of? What could we do to investigate, promote, or accelerate such new applications? That will be the purpose of NCRA’s New Markets Task Force that will begin work in 2013-14.

The New NCRA Sourcebook

The NCRA Constitution & Bylaws mandates that NCRA publish annually a directory of members. For decades, NCRA had watched distribution of its membership directory — the Sourcebook — dwindle, this as members grew accustomed to NCRA’s online Professional Services Listings (PSL). We changed tactics and began distributing a slimmer version of the Sourcebook to every NCRA member as a way to breathe new life into an old product, make the product more valuable to advertisers, and to kick-start a new era of networking for every member. We have also revamped our PSL to serve as a closer companion to the print edition of the Sourcebook.

 

Vision06Each year, when their membership renewals arrive, NCRA members must make a calculated decision — does the value provided through NCRA membership meet or exceed the cost of dues? Our ability to attract more members and to keep a higher percentage of our current members is contingent on our ability to deliver on an understood Member Value proposition.

New Customer Service Center

In December, NCRA made a major change to its internal operations by moving to a full-service, external customer service center known as BrightKey. By all accounts, the service provided to members and customers contacting NCRA has been superior to that which we had witnessed in recent history — requests are being fulfilled more quickly, complaints are down, and follow-up is occurring in expedited fashion.

TheJCR.com

The idea here is to leverage one of NCRA’s most significant and recognized products and brands, the JCR, by launching an online complement, TheJCR.com. Beyond packaging the content that is contained within the JCR on an ongoing basis, we will take the JCR and turn it into a full-fledged news service, pumping out content to members and the full marketplace on news-cycle-type basis that is more in line with the way people consume news and information in today’s age.

AND FINALLY…

I’d like to say a few final words about NCRA’s volunteer capital. As a volunteer driven organization, NCRA simply could not exist without the time, effort, and expertise of the seemingly endless line of members who step up to fulfill key roles within the association. While a number of NCRA committees have done great work in recent years, some have not reached their potential based on a lack of clear purpose. For 2013-14, we have revamped our committee structure. Most notably, committee charges are more ambitious and are, as much as possible, specifically linked back to elements of the strategic plan. The Board further is empowering committees while providing additional resources that will allow them to work more independently, but within a strategic framework that is designed to ensure that everyone is pushing in the same direction. I have never been as energized as I am right now about presenting our accomplishments for the past year and outlining our path for the coming year. There has never been a better time to be a NCRA member, and I thank each of you for your continued support and involvement.

In your own words: “We are technology” for students

My interest in court reporting began at age 14 during a career day when I sat in with a court reporter. Career days, how ever, have become somewhat extinct. So how are high schoolers supposed to learn that court reporters don’t use those old waterfall-type machines that cascade paper into piles on the floor and that we truly have embraced technology? Well, if their only exposure to our field is through Hollywood, students will never know the truth. But if they take time to participate in career events like the one I participated in, they’ll be in for a big surprise — a pleasant one, of course, but a surprise, nonetheless.

Who can we thank for providing this wondrous shock? Business Professionals of America, of course — or BPA, for short. If you’re not familiar with BPA, it is a career and technical student organization. With more than 43,000 members in more than 2,300 chapters in 23 states, BPA has positioned itself as the leading CTSO for students who wish to pursue careers in business management, office administration, information technology, and other related fields. Since its inception, BPA has proven to students that they can rely on the organization to provide them with the absolute latest information on their careers of interest.

On March 22 and 23, BPA Michigan held its conference in Grand Rapids. Representatives of the Michigan Association of Professional Court Reporters participated with a break-out session. The session, “We Are Technology: The Four Amazing Fields of Realtime Reporting,” overflowed with more than 300 students, and questions were aplenty.

Break-out sessions weren’t the only offerings for students; there were also a number of different competitions. Those who placed at the regional level competed in Grand Rapids at state-level events. Those placing in Grand Rapids moved on to Nationals in Orlando, Fla.

On top of all that, MAPCR also staffed an information booth — or should I say, I helped staff the information booth. There, I gave my realtime spiel. Students hovered in droves to watch Melinda Dexter, MAPCR’s president-elect, write realtime to her iPad. They were amazed. “I’ve never heard of this career,” is what we were told over and over. And the students said, “This is so awesome!”

So, did MAPCR sway students to consider a career in realtime reporting? Only time will tell. Seeds were sowed, however, and as we all know, it’s the planting that leads to growing.

MAPCR is starting a fruitful experience with its BPA chapter. Wouldn’t you like to help expand the field? Just imagine how many students could be reached if all state associations’ leadership participated in their BPA state leadership conferences. If your association would like to take that first step too, go online to www.bpa.org/ about/saac to locate a BPA chapter in your state. Reach out. Offer to present. Open thousands of students’ minds to consider our amazing profession for themselves.

Represent your state with an awesome booth demonstration by going to www.mapcr.org to order your public relations kit, which includes customizable trifold brochures, a PowerPoint presentation, and “We Are Technology” t-shirts.