NCRA 2017 – Highlights from TCG’s trip to Las Vegas for the NCRA Convention

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting,, JCR WeeklyKendall O’Geil, the Captioning Coordinator for The Captioning Group wrote a Sept. 7 post on the company blog about her experience at the 2017 NCRA Convention & Expo in Las Vegas, Nev. O’Geil, who is an associate member of NCRA in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, highlighted the opportunities to meet captioners she works with in person as well as seeing new and emerging technologies and equipment in the Expo Hall. “Even if you are not a captioner, court reporter, or realtime writer in any sense, there is a lot to be learned from attending an NCRA convention,” she said.

Read more.

Making connections with HLAA

In 1992, Deanna Baker, FAPR, RMR, was first introduced to Self Help for Hard of Hearing, the precursor of the Hearing Loss Association of America. “I started volunteering my realtime services to this organization at that time, as they were not aware of CART captioning services,” said Baker. ”That was 24-plus years ago, and I have been involved ever since.”

Rear view of a dark conference room filled with people looking toward two screens; one has the speaker with captions overlaid on top and the other has a slide from the presentation

Plenary session at the 2016 HLAA conference

Since first getting involved, Baker has evolved with the organization. Her first experience was organizing the CART and captioning services for all breakout sessions and plenary events for the June 1993 conference. “Back then we used overhead projectors and panels on top to display our realtime from our notebook computers,” Baker said.

Baker has gone on to serve on the HLAA Board of Trustees and currently contributes as their CART captioning professional advisor. “I try to keep HLAA and NCRA connected on a variety of levels and am thrilled with their collaboration on the legislative level. I have also asked many HLAA members to be on various NCRA committees, as their input is vital with much of the work those committees are doing.” She also notes that since HLAA does a lot of work on a more regional level, she would love to see more individuals and state associations work with and support local HLAA chapters.

As part of her evolving role, Baker was invited to speak about CART captioning starting in 1996 and since has presented on related topics many times at the HLAA conventions. She spoke again at the HLAA conference in June and offered some thoughts on how to approach this topic.

What topics do you speak about for HLAA?

I explained what CART captioning is and how it works, and I also explained what credentials are available and offer some ideas for the resources. This year, I handed out the new NCRA Code of Professional Ethics for CART captioners.

Rear view of a conference room with a man and woman presenting at the front. On the left is a screen with the PowerPoint presentation and captions overlaid on top.

Breakout session at the 2016 HLAA conference. NCRA member Darlene Parker is presenting.

Also, at times, I’ve reviewed the various new sections of the Federal Communications Commission’s guidelines, explained how to complain about poor quality TV captioning, and showed the audience some of the best practices that have been developed. I often share with them NCRA’s website and go through the benefits that site offers consumers. When new technologies are introduced, I’ll keep the HLAA membership up to date on how they can benefit from that.

My co-presenter this year was Michele Michaels from the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. As a consumer, she explained various settings where remote CART captioning can be used such as sporting events, theaters, and mobile CART captioning. She also went through the process for requesting services, who pays for the services, and the relevant ADA regulations.

Do you suggest the topics, or did the organizers ask you to do this? What has the feedback been like?

Sometimes HLAA has a specific topic they want me to talk about, but otherwise I come up with the topic that I see as relevant at the time. All the various talks I have given I have had very positive feedback. The members always have excellent questions. Many are not familiar with NCRA and have many questions regarding certification and especially the high demand for services now.

A group of smiling people

At HLAA 2017
Front row (l->r): Lisa Johnston, Bob Branigin, and Diane Humphrey
Back row (l->r): Kimberly August, Scott Smith, Deanna Baker, Jim Vivian, and Sharon Vivian

Do you have advice for other CART captioners who want to provide services for accessibility for conferences on how to explain those services?

For the CART captioners out there, I would highly suggest contacting your local HLAA chapters or other groups serving the hard of hearing, either state or local, and give presentations regarding the “how” of CART captioning. They usually are always looking for speakers at their meetings. Possibly partner up with another CART captioner for a live demonstration!

The national HLAA group had terrific questions, especially around credentials. They were amazed at the variation of credentials and also what it takes to maintain them. They also really appreciated the explanation of the writer and how we “make” words. Also I explained how bloopers happen, using the example of the words part and fart, and how easy it is to have mistakes happen, which had them realizing how talented CART captioners really are!

After the hour presentation, the audience truly enjoyed our conversation and had a copy of the NCRA Code of Professional Ethics for CART captioners to share with others. [Ed. Note: Promoting court reporting and captioning to external audiences is eligible for PDC credit toward your NCRA certifications. Contact for more information.]

BUSINESS: How building a network got me where I am today


By Kathryn Thomas

The best and longest-lasting work relationships have been those I’ve gained through people I meet. Ever since I was certified, I’ve attended every state convention, and for the last eight years, I’ve attended every national convention.

My first relationship with an agency was with the very agency I interned with as a student. By that experience, the owner already knew I showed up early and dressed and acted appropriately.

When I moved to a different area a few years later, friends I had met online guided me to a few more court reporting agencies that put me to work.

When I decided to transition to CART, I told everyone — everyone — that I was looking to cross over. One of the deposition agency owners (who already knew that I show up early, do my best, and am professional) assigned me to a pop-up CART job lasting a day or two, and the seal was broken, so to speak. I gained more CART experience here and there, until I got hooked up with a captioning agency owned by someone (whom I had met at a court reporting conference) who put me to work full-time.

Now I’m doing all CART and some captioning with a few really good agencies, and my hook-ups with them emerged due to my connections! Of the agencies that I regularly work for, I didn’t just cold-call asking for work. Someone introduced me or referred me to them, or they’d heard of me already by that time.When you have connections, it’s easier, because then people already know you. You are not an unknown quantity.

Now, of course, you’ve got to be professional and have the chops to keep the working relationship going. I’m focusing just now on getting the relationship started. To keep it going, you’ve got to do what you’ve heard a million times — show up, work hard, be professional, don’t whine, learn from your mistakes, etc.

Get out there and meet people. It might be outside of your comfort zone, but outside the comfort zone is where all the good stuff is.

Kathryn A. Thomas, RDR, CRC, is a captioner based in St. Louis and Southern Central Illinois. You can follow her blog at

Thomas wrote this article on behalf of the National Court Reporters Foundation’s Corrinne Clark Professionalism Institute. Established in 2015, the Corrinne Clark Professionalism Institute is dedicated to aiding the education of court reporting students and new professionals about professionalism, branding, and building a successful career. Named for the late Corrinne Clark — wife of the late Robert H. Clark, NCRA’s longest tenured librarian-historian — the Institute was made possible by a generous donation contributed by Donna Hamer, Santa Paula, Calif., Robert’s cousin.


So much to see and hear at the NCRA Convention & Expo

networkingTime and time again, in addition to the high-quality speakers and sessions and the latest in new services and products showcased in the Expo Hall, networking continues to rank as one of the top reasons for attending the NCRA Convention & Expo. This year expects to be no different when the largest gathering of court reporters, captioners, students, educators, legal videographers, and other members of the legal field meet in Chicago, Ill., for the 2016 NCRA Convention & Expo being held Aug. 4-7 at the Chicago Hilton.

“I find speaking to reporters from around the country gives me a unique perspective on how the field is doing in various areas of the county,” said John Kolacinski, president of Bryan University, Tempe, Ariz. “As administrator for Bryan University online (court reporting program), it is essential that we stay in touch across the United States to help address regional needs,” he added.

“The networking and education provided by an NCRA convention can make you the most sought-after legal videographer in your area,” said Ross E. Colby, CLVS, Chicago, Ill. “Real face-to-face networking is invaluable. Getting to know my professional peers across the country helps me be the best videographer I can be.”

Among the many networking sessions on the schedule for this year’s Convention & Expo are the Only New Once and the Opening Receptions on Aug. 4, the CART and captioning and legal videographer receptions on Aug. 5, and a coffee break with vendors in the morning on Aug. 6. Other events include the Awards Luncheon on Aug. 6 followed by the President’s Party that evening.

This year’s event also promises an array of concurrent sessions sure to appeal to court reporters, captioners, legal videographers, students, and educators. In addition, attendees are encouraged to arrive early in Chicago and support their peers who will compete in the national Speed and Realtime Contests being held Aug. 3 and 4 respectively.

According to Kolacinski, in a sometimes solitary profession, attending the NCRA Convention & Expo allows attendees to cross paths with others in the field, creating a “tremendous re-grooving” exercise. “I have always felt a positive response from reporters who step up to help students, as they have been there themselves. Meeting new reporters allow us to network with many who volunteer to serve as mentors or participate in shadowing days with them,” he said.

Colby agrees. “NCRA is our certifying body, so it’s important to keep your finger on the pulse of the industry and the expectations of the CLVS world. We don’t get much face time with each other to compare notes, challenges, and successes, so this is a great opportunity to improve my skills through the experiences of others,” he added.

Other highlights include getting a firsthand look at the newest products and services in the field either by attending one or more of the many vendor workshops being offered on the schedule or by touring the Expo Hall floor.

Micheal A. Johnson, RDR, CRR, a freelance reporter from Austin, Texas said he is looking forward to networking and the opportunity to learn about new trends from colleagues at this year’s Convention & Expo, and advises anyone thinking of attending to “invest in your professional development, get outside your comfort zone, meet new friends, and enjoy yourself.”

For more information and to register for the 2016 NCRA Convention & Expo, visit

Still time to register for Firm Owners Executive Conference in Puerto Rico

2016 FirmOwners_Puerto Rico_smAttendees at the 2016 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference being held April 17-19 at the Caribe Hilton in San Juan, Puerto Rico, are invited to attend a special networking reception being held April 18 from 6:30-10:30 p.m., at El Livin, a unique restaurant located in the heart of the historic Luis Muñoz Rivera Park. The networking reception is being hosted by Verbatim Reporting, based in San Juan.

“Puerto Ricans in general are very gregarious people. We open our hearts and our homes to all,” said Elsie M. Parra, managing member of Verbatim Reporting. “When we knew NCRA was going to have its Firm Owners and Executives Conference here, our first thought was to welcome them with an activity. After all, they are coming to our island.”

Parra said she and other staff from Verbatim Reporting are registered to attend the conference, and they are looking forward to meeting other firm owners and increasing their knowledge of the business trends driving today’s court reporting and captioning firms.

According to Parra, El Livin sits above the park and offers views of both the park and ocean, backed by a décor that infuses a hint of the times of clandestine operations from the 1920s Prohibition Era to the sleek retro styles of the 1960s.

Attendees at the 2016 Firm Owners Executive Conference will enjoy an array of networking opportunities, the first of which kicks off at an opening reception on the evening of April 17. On Monday morning, attendees will hear a two-part keynote speech presented by Jane Southren, the first of two keynote speakers presenting at the event. Southren, a former commercial litigator turned coach and collaborator for the attorneys at her law firm, Lerners LLP, Toronto, Ontario, will share insights with attendees about recognizing and cultivating the relationships firm owners need to fuel their business successes. Her keynote address will explore the differences between transactional relationships versus loyal relationships, how to identify them, and how to build more loyal relationships.

Other sessions during the first day of the conference will include a panel discussion about the findings of NCRA’s latest State of the Industry Survey report, led by NCRA President Steve Zinone, RPR; Kim Neeson, RPR, CRR, CRC, Chair of the Association’s Firm Owners Committee; and Mike Nelson, CAE, CEO & Executive Director of NCRA. The day will wrap up with another networking session in the afternoon.

Tuesday’s schedule includes a two-part presentation by a second keynote speaker Ann Gomez, a productivity consultant and founder of Clear Concept Inc., Toronto, Ontario. She will take the stage and address how business owners can improve time management by controlling chaos in their lives, planning priorities, and understanding how to own their time. Her presentation will introduce attendees to the key work habits needed to thrive in today’s busy environment and enable achieving more with less effort.

The schedule for the day also includes additional networking sessions, as well as a two-part session led by Jeanne Leonard, CAE, NCRA’s Senior Director of Marketing, Membership & Communications, which will include a scavenger hunt.

Finally, a closing reception will provide another networking opportunity where attendees will be able to secure new connections and catch up with old friends.

This year’s event marks the first time NCRA is traveling to the Caribbean, as well as the first time the schedule will feature two keynote speakers who will address the tough issues of relationship-building and time management.

The 2016 NCRA Firm Owners Executive Conference, which is designed exclusively for owners and managers of court reporting and captioning firms, is considered the Association’s most prestigious event.

A special hotel rate of $179 per night plus taxes and fees for NCRA members expires March 25, and rooms are filling up fast. With an easy flight from the mainland and no passport required, San Juan promises attendees the perfect opportunity to shake the winter blues and return home motivated to build their business in the coming year.

Hotel registration is available online at; by phone at 787-721-0303, ext. 2156, or 800-468-8585; or by email at If booking via phone or email, please refer to group code NCRA16 to secure the discounted rate. Please be advised that a credit card is required to guarantee room reservations.

For more information, the full schedule, and registration information for the 2016 Firm Owners Executive Conference, visit

More information about Ann Gomez can be found at More information about Jane Southren can be found at

The value of membership

ValueofmembershipWhat are the primary reasons that court reporters and captioners become and stay members of NCRA? In many surveys, members have listed the JCR and the JCR Weekly, which keep them informed of the latest news in the profession; their hard-earned national certifications, which offer them ways to highlight their skills and professionalism; the many continuing education and networking opportunities available through NCRA; and many other benefits as reasons they join and renew their membership.

But for a more personal take, the JCR reached out to a few members who told us why they think belonging to NCRA is so important, not only for them, but for others as well.

“There is no better way to stay informed about reporting than through the JCR and attending conventions. Being a dues-paying member means you belong to the association that represents one of the great professions, ours, and interacts with another, the law,” said Patric Martin of Bethesda, Md., who joined when he first started reporting in 1978.

“I have always liked seeing what is going on in the profession and being able to read about issues and new things on the horizon. The best benefit, I believe, is the equipment and liability insurance. I have also started using Amplify for deep discounts at Staples. I’ve already saved more than $100 this year on paper, toner, and my regular office supplies,” said Elsa Jorgensen of Birmingham, Mich., who has been a participating member of NCRA since 2002 when she transitioned from student membership.

“It’s good to be aware of issues affecting reporters,” continues Jorgensen. “Even though there may be disagreement on certain things, we’re still stronger as a group than as individuals.”

“I’ve held membership with NCRA since the moment I found about it,” said Katherine Schilling, a student member who is based in San Jose, Calif. “When I first started my membership, I only had my eye on getting the monthly JCR magazine as part of it. The JCR has always held a special place in my heart because it was integral to my falling in love with the profession. I’ll never forget the first article I read, ‘A Day in the Life,’ when I found a stack of magazines in the classroom. After that, I was hooked. Just a year later, the annual NCRA Convention & Expo was coming to my backyard, San Francisco, and I learned what a benefit it is to be a student member so that I could get the student member registration rate.”

“The professional tips, ideas, and information are vital to keeping your career interesting and moving forward. Through the NCRA, we can learn from the best of the best,” said Jorgensen. “I look up to so many reporters and, because of them, I aspire to always be a better writer, a better professional, and a better representative of this amazing career.”

Martin, who works at the International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C., recently paid for a number of student memberships so that financially conscious students who were interested in being part of NCRA could be involved.

“When a student gets out of school and is ready to become a working reporter, having a couple years of NCRA membership under their belt gives them a head start,” Martin says. “NCRA has ways to help, and unless you are a member you won’t be able to take advantage of them, the least of which is just reading the JCR and what working reporters and new reporters have to say. More than likely, you will encounter the same issues you will read about.”

“Nowadays, the value of my membership is most evident in the RPR tests,” says Schilling. “I am currently striving to pass the final leg of the RPR, and I now see my membership as giving me access to these tests several times a year. Looking back on it, it’s interesting to see how the value I’ve placed on my NCRA membership has evolved as I’ve progressed through my school career. I guess I could say that my NCRA membership has evolved with me.”

“Over my 38 years in the profession, I’ve let my membership and my certifications lapse. I’ve passed the RMR twice, as well as the CRR, but currently don’t hold those certifications,” said Martin. “There is no excuse, really, and I can only say life intervened. But, as you go forward, become a member, strive for certifications, and don’t let them go. They are golden, as is NCRA. I encountered a reporter from Boston, Mass., in New York City last year, who happened to be in town, but not for our fantastic convention. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t support the profession by simply being a member. And she was quite open on how well she was doing. So, why can’t you support the profession by being a member, I wondered. Her answer was, ‘They don’t need my support.’ That is one of the greatest fallacies ever uttered. Now more than ever, every single member counts.”

Making connections in your local community

communityconnections_Center for Neighborhood Technology

Photo by Center for Neighborhood Technology

Being involved in local business organizations opens doors for a few court reporting firms. In a previous article about business resources, several firm owners noted that being involved in their local bar and paralegal associations led to making connections for the business.

“We generally network with the lawyers, paralegals and legal secretaries groups in a few different counties, as well as support their seminars and conferences,” said Jan Schmitt, RPR, of Schmitt Reporting & Video, dually based in Vancouver, Wash., and Portland, Ore. “We also support and attend the local legal clinic functions. Personally, I am involved in our community, but I don’t consider that a part of my job, just something I enjoy doing.”

Several others noted other organizations that also helped NCRA members make connections with other local businesspeople.

“One of the best organizations I’ve joined in the past several years in terms of introductions to lawyers and local business executives is Rotary Club International,” says Jan Ballman, RPR, CMRS, of Paradigm Reporting & Captioning of Minneapolis, Minn. Rotary clubs now offer both brick-and-mortar groupings and e-clubs.

Another potential source of local connections is the local Chamber of Commerce. “I am a member of the Greater Carlisle Area Chamber of Commerce, Harrisburg Regional Chamber & CREDC, and Better Business Bureau. I serve as a committee member on the Legislative Affairs Committee for the Greater Carlisle Area Chamber of Commerce and enjoy planning and participating in their many events,” said Linda Larson, RPR, CRI, who owns Premier Reporting in Carlisle and Harrisburg, Pa. Some local chamber of commerce events also offer support for small businesses.

Tapping into the network

Networking at an eventNetworking can be intimidating, and for some people, it can be easier to think of it in terms of joining the conversation. Luckily, everyone already has a network at their disposal; the trick is to take advantage of that network.

Shy people may find it easier to talk to established friends at professional and social events, and those friends and colleagues can often be the best method of expanding your own network. “Oftentimes when I’m with colleagues and friends, I get to meet their acquaintances,” said Linda Fifield, a firm owner from Boston, Mass. “If I find we’re of like minds, I often ask for a business card.” One of the added benefits to networking among mutual acquaintances is that a friend or colleague can provide some background information. “It’s also important to ask my colleagues what they know about this person and if they’re reputable,” said Fifield. “Just because someone knows someone does not make them a good business partner.”

Since so much networking now happens online, it’s also important to have an established online presence. This can take many forms – Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are all commonly used social media platforms for professional reasons. Keeping a regular blog can also function as a networking tool.

Chase Frazier, RPR, CRR, a CART captioner from Murietta, Calif., and Mirabai Knight, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP, a CART captioner from New York, N.Y., both use Twitter to share when they are providing CART for an event using the event’s official hashtag. Knight also added: “I started out using Twitter 100 percent for business, but over the years it’s gotten to be about 60 percent personal, 40 percent business. I follow plenty of non-steno people, but I mostly post things relating to steno, captioning, and accessibility. I occasionally try to mix it up and post a few personal things now and then, though, just so I don’t bore all my followers to tears.”

Most platforms suggest potential connections based on mutual friends. Consider asking one of those mutual friends to introduce you electronically or if it’s okay to name them as a mutual acquaintance when reaching out. When on the receiving end of a request, it’s a good idea to still use a filter system to build a strong network. “I have a mental rule that a friend request needs to have at least ten mutual friends before I accept it, if I don’t know them personally,” said Frazier.

Once you’ve cultivated an online network, social media can be a good place to do a bit of self-promotion. Self-promotion can also come in the form of showing others that there’s a real person behind that steno machine. “I post bigger accomplishments in the Facebook groups, such as what certifications I passed,” said Frazier. “And on my wall I post little accomplishments or general posts about my job that will make people laugh or at least smile.” It’s also good to keep in mind that good social media etiquette recommends helping to promote others as well as yourself. Feel free to share and celebrate your colleagues’ accomplishments as well.

Knight has also found success using a blog as a networking tool. She shares new blog posts on social media, which gets her some viewership. “But it’s also really useful to have articles on my blog that I can link to specifically, either when making a case to clients or to colleagues,” she added. “So if we’re having a conversation via email or Twitter and something comes up that I’ve already written a post on, I can link it directly and not have to rewrite everything from scratch each time.” If you’re interested in starting a blog but not sure what to write, think about past conversations you’ve had with colleagues and write about those topics. Others have used blogs to write about a specific experience or goal. Find other blogs you admire and see what kind of content they share as inspiration.

Despite all the interacting that happens online nowadays, the human connection is still important, and opportunities to expand a network can appear in even the most mundane places. “I take the commuter rail to work,” said Fifield. “It’s amazing how many people I meet on a day-to-day basis. Oftentimes people ask me what I do. It’s not unusual to meet someone who needs a court reporter or knows someone who could use our services.” Don’t forget – court reporting and captioning are interesting fields! Take advantage of having a unique job as a conversation starter.

Finally, the next time you are at a conference or other networking event, make a point to introduce yourself in person to people who you’ve interacted with through email or online. “If I bump into someone with whom I’ve networked with in the past,” said Fifield, “I thank them for the referral and/or thank them for taking care of my client. That way, they can put a face to our agency.”

Making the connection: Networking at the NCRA Convention & Expo in-person and online

Networking_NCRAOne of the opportunities the NCRA Convention & Expo provides is networking, and this year will be no exception. Many events built into the schedule facilitate and encourage networking. Social media will also allow members who are not attending to still participate.

Scheduled social events throughout the Convention & Expo

The NCRA Convention & Expo kick offs with the Opening Reception on Thursday evening. Other social highlights are the Premier Session on Friday morning, the Awards Luncheon on Saturday afternoon (ticketed event), and the President’s Party on Saturday evening (ticketed event). While these large events can be a bit intimidating, some strategies for can make networking more manageable. “The opening receptions are especially ripe for networking as most attendees are just as eager to break the ice as you are,” said Katherine Schilling, a student at West Valley College, Saratoga, Calif.

Sometimes, it’s helpful to get the lay of the land first at large events. “I save some time at the beginning or end to just stroll around the outer perimeter of the room in a large setting and smile and make eye contact. Often I will be approached by someone, and we will start a conversation,” said Doreen Sutton, RPR, NCRA Secretary-Treasurer and a firm owner from Scottsdale, Ariz. Others like to jump right on in. “Keep moving,” said Debbie Dibble, RDR, CRR, CRC, who is on the NCRA Board of Directors and a freelancer from Woodland, Utah. “Look for people in small groups or alone and ask how they are enjoying the convention. Ask them what is new for them. Chances are they have noticed or learned something you haven’t and it will double your value.”

Don’t overlook the tried-and-true methods of breaking the ice. “Tell a funny story,” said Mirabai Knight, RDR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner from New York, N.Y. (Ask her about the time she captioned Robert Mugabe!) Another old standby is to ask people questions about themselves. “Asking where someone is from at the national-level events is a foolproof way to get the conversation rolling. It’s a fun reminder for every one of just how expansive the industry is,” said Schilling. Pinpointing someone’s hometown can also be helpful for firm owners. “Even a simple, ‘Where are you from?’ can turn into a, ‘Can I have your card? I’ve been looking for a reporter in that area.’” said Dibble. Make sure, however, that the conversation and connection are genuine. “They have to prove to me a love for the profession over their own personal gain. Once the trust is established, work will be referred to that firm,” said Linda Fifield, a firm owner from Boston, Mass.

At seated events, like the Awards Luncheon, it’s important to sit with some new faces. “The best networking will only happen when you get outside of your comfort zone,” said Schilling. Sometimes it’s helpful to be strategic with those new faces. “I tend to be around the speed and realtime competitors since most of the time agency owners approach them from having old relationships they share or are currently working together, etc.” said Chase Frazier, RPR, CRR, a reporter from Murietta, Calif.

The Convention & Expo also offers several specialty social events, including the National Committee of State Associations Reception on Wednesday evening, the NCRF Angels Luncheon on Friday afternoon, and the Legal Videographer Reception and CART and Captioning Reception, both on Friday evening. “The Angels Luncheon is a great opportunity to mix with people in the same room who share the same passion for the profession and are willing to donate dollars to NCRF,” said Fifield.

These events also provide a good opportunity to dig for details about a specific field. For example, “ask what their favorite sort of captioning is,” Knight suggests, and follow up with more specific questions, including “What do you like about it?”

Taking advantage of the Expo Hall

Don’t forget about using the Expo Hall as a vehicle for networking. “I find that going to visit the vendors allows me to meet people with the same interest in the technology. Asking questions of the vendor and the other reporters helps build bonds,” said Fifield. After establishing this bond, use technology as a way to go to the next step in the conversation. “Ask about their favorite new gadget or software feature,” said Knight. The Expo Hall is open Thursday through Saturday, with coffee breaks with the vendors on Friday and Saturday morning. The Opening Reception is also held in the Expo Hall, providing another opportunity to mingle with vendors.

Unique opportunities for students and new professionals

Convention can provide some unique networking opportunities for students. The Student Seminar on Friday and Saturday builds in a meet-and-greet between students and the NCRA Board of Directors and includes the Premier Session, Annual Luncheon, and time in the Expo Hall. “Don’t be shy! Approach people that you may want to meet or that you believe have something to teach you,” said Dibble.

For students, there are some differing thoughts on introductions. “Professionals are always curious about what speeds students are at, so introducing yourself as ‘Hi! I’m a ___ WPM student at ______ steno school.’ can be a good icebreaker,” said Knight. Dibble added, “Working reporters want to talk to you and answer all your questions,” Schilling, however, found that conversation can get a bit stymied that way. “I’ve made it a habit not to introduce myself as a student to working reporters. This can quickly pigeonhole you into the usual ‘So how far along are you in school?’ trope and completely cut you off from learning about the inside scoops that you are really there for.” She suggests a different tactic: “I remember meeting a notable realtime writer at a national convention where I started off by telling him just how much I loved his books. Thanks to that, I’ve gotten onto subjects that are normally relegated only to established reporters.”

Another way to get into these industry-related questions is to take note of who you’re talking to. “Networking isn’t so much about meeting a future employer, although this happens too, but about learning about the breadth of skills, experiences, and lives that encapsulate this industry,” said Schilling. She added: “I’ll typically try to connect with all sorts of reporters out there, not just those in the field that I’m aiming for.” Knight pointed out that it’s a good idea to have a basic knowledge of the industry, especially when talking to attendees from a variety of backgrounds: “If you talk to someone who doesn’t do depositions, whether they’re officials, broadcast captioners, or CART providers, let them know you’ve read up at least a little bit on what they do.”

For new professionals, make sure to have business cards on hand (although this is an important tip for everyone). “When there are lots of folks in a room or at a convention, it is easy to forget names and/or faces; but when you have something tangible to remember them by, the next time you have the opportunity to interact with that individual, you can place them and where they live and where they are in their court reporting journey,” said Sutton. She added that she often takes the time to write a little something about that person on the card for future reference.

Overall, Frazier advises: “Just relax and be professional. This industry welcomes new reporters with open arms.”

Using social media

Social media can be a beneficial tool before, during, and after the Convention & Expo. “Facebook is the easiest way I can check to see who else will be attending. I’ll make note of which stenebrities that I’ve been dying to meet will be present and then keep my eyes peeled for them on the attendee list and convention floor. It’s also a good idea to shoot them a quick message on Facebook in advance, letting them know that you’ll be attending and that you look forward to meeting them there,” said Schilling. There is an event page for the 2016 NCRA Convention & Expo on Facebook to help scope out who is attending.

Once on site, social media can also be used as an icebreaker. “I’ll sometimes use the hashtag just as a general introduction at the start of the conference,” said Knight, suggesting a sample tweet: “”Hey, captioners at #NCRA16! I’m Mirabai, a CART provider from NYC. Anyone want to talk shop? Drop me a tweet, or just come up and say hi!”

NCRA will be posting updates on Facebook and Twitter using #NCRA15, the official conference hashtag. These posts will cover information for attendees as well as breaking news for members who are keeping up with the event from home. Attendees can help share the news. “When I’m actually attending a conference, I’ll use the hashtag when I’ve just seen a particularly good talk and want to tweet about something I’ve learned from it, or when taking photographs of something cool at the conference venue,” said Knight. “I usually make at least five posts a day on the week of convention — and no, I don’t apologize,” said Sutton.

Attendees can also get up-to-date information using the NCRA Convention app. “The app is great for last-minute information, where things are happening, updates on events, where coffee is, shorter lines, and finding out where the party is goin’ on!” said Dibble.

While business cards are still an invaluable tool for connections, social media plays an important role after the convention is over. “Friend new people you meet on Facebook and LinkedIn, and stay aware of opportunities to offer your services,” said Dibble. “Friends tell friends who the best reporters are to cover their jobs across the nation … and the world.” Sometimes a good old-fashioned email is a good way to turn a connection into a relationship; the key is just to follow up after the event. “After they learn that I’m a student, most court reporters add a quick, ‘Let me know how school goes,’ which I like to take seriously. It provides the perfect reminder to contact them periodically with some good news,” said Schilling. And Fifield continues to use social media as an industry tool: “I use hashtags on my FB and Twitter pages to draw people to court reporting, all things Boston, etc.”

No matter how intimidating networking can be or where each attendee is in his or her career, the NCRA Convention & Expo has a special value for court reporters. “Especially in an industry where so few regular people know or appreciate what we do, court reporters love the chance to boast about their latest courtroom escapade or a particularly trying deposition,” said Schilling. Knight agrees: “There aren’t many places where you can geek out about steno all day in the company of people who actually know what you’re talking about, so make the most of it.”

Registration options for the 2015 NCRA Convention & Expo

NCRA has received questions on what’s included in each registration package for the 2015 NCRA Convention & Expo. Here’s a breakdown of each registration option so that members can make their decision before registration prices go up by $50 after July 6 (extended deadline!).

Full registration discount package

  • With general seating
  • With VIP seating

Best value! The full registration discount package includes admission to concurrent seminars, the Premier Session, the Opening Reception, the Awards Luncheon, the President’s Party, the Annual Business Meeting, and a 3-day Expo pass. It does not include pre-convention intensive workshops, special programs, workshops, or the CLVS Seminar.

Partial registration

  • Three days
  • Two days (Fri./Sat. or Sat./Sun.)
  • One day (Fri. or Sat.)
  • Sunday only (half-day)

Partial registration includes admission to concurrent seminars on the days registered, the Premier Session, the Annual Business Meeting, and a 3-day Expo pass. It does not include pre-convention intensive workshops, special programs, workshops, or the CLVS Seminar. Social event tickets are not included in this package.

CLVS Seminar

  • Three days (Fri./Sat./Sun.)
  • Two days (Fri./Mandatory Day [Sat.] or Sat./Sun.)
  • One-day (Mandatory Day [Sat.])

Registration for the CLVS Seminar includes one ticket to the legal videographer reception and a 3-day Expo pass. It does not include other social events, concurrent seminars, or special programs/events. Those items must be purchased separately.

Special programs and events

  • National Speed Competition
  • Realtime Competition
  • Special offer — Speed & Realtime Competition combo
  • Punctuation Workshop
  • Teachers’ Workshop

The Speed and Realtime Competitions are not included with partial registration, certification programs packages, or the CLVS Seminar and must be purchased separately. Please register for the Punctuation Workshop and Teachers’ Workshop to reserve your seat.

Certificate and certification programs

  • Realtime Systems Administrators Workshop
  • Realtime Systems Administrators Exam
  • Certified Reporting Instructor Orientation
  • Certified Realtime Captioner Workshop
  • Certified Realtime Captioner Exam

Registration for these certificate and certification programs includes a 3-day Expo pass; social events are not included. The Certified Realtime Captioner Workshop includes admission to concurrent seminars on Friday and Saturday afternoons after the workshop breaks for the day. Partial registration (Sunday) will be required for attendance at Sunday concurrent seminars.

Pre-convention vendor workshops

  • Advantage Software/Eclipse
  • ProCAT
  • Stenograph

These intensive training seminars are held on Thursday, July 30. Registration for these workshops includes a 3-day Expo pass. Select which vendor workshop you wish to attend.

Networking package

  • Networking package general seating
  • Networking package VIP seating

The networking package includes the Opening Reception, the Awards Luncheon, the President’s Party, the Premier Seminar, the Annual Business Meeting, and a 3-day Expo pass.

Individual social event tickets

  • Opening Reception (Thurs.)
  • CLVS Reception (Fri.)
  • CART/Captioner’s Reception (Fri.)
  • Awards Luncheon (Sat.)
  • President’s Party (Sat.) — general seating
  • President’s Party (Sat.) — VIP seating

Social event tickets are not included with partial registration, certification programs packages, or the CLVS Seminar (except as noted) and must be purchased separately.

Register now or visit the registration information page for a breakdown of prices.