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NCRA CEO and Executive Director addresses the membership at the 2016 Convention & Expo

The following is the speech given by NCRA CEO and Executive Director Michael Nelson, CAE, at the 2016 Convention & Expo in Chicago, Ill.

It has been a whirlwind past year since I last spoke to many of you. In that time, I have learned much about the reporting industry: and I still have much to learn. In my many years in the nonprofit world, I have never had the privilege of working for an organization comprised of such passionate and talented members. You are all very talented and skilled. That bears repeating: you are all exceptionally talented and skilled. I say this as I look out into a sea of stenographic virtuosos.

For all of your remarkable talents, I feel there is a tendency to be hesitant about adapting to the changes that occur in the market place. In the midst of consistent change surrounding the profession, it is easy to cling idly to the practices of the past.

As we all know, our profession is very unique in the services we provide and the important role we play in the judicial process, aiding the deaf and hard of hearing community, and ensuring that history is captured accurately. But in terms of evolving and expanding, our profession is not so different from any other profession.

Consider how industries are impacted by external forces. Consider today’s taxi industry which is under fire for failing to adapt. As the popularity of Uber has rapidly grown, spurred by service that is more dependable, more affordable, and the experience of cleaner rides, the taxi industry has instead turned to legal suits and calls for legislation to stop the competitor. The result? Some well-established companies, like Yellow Cab in San Francisco, have fallen into bankruptcy — not very pretty, but rather an ugly response to an unwillingness to adapt to change.

Alternatively, think about the anxiety felt by the newspaper industry in the late 1980s when the daily news was put at the fingertips of consumers via the Internet. Despite proclamations that the newspaper industry would die, it has not. It has just changed. Rather than accepting the impact the Internet would have on business, the industry instead chose to adapt to those changes. Despite the claims they were going to cease to exist, they instead flourished. They flourished because rather than fighting the challenge of the Internet, they chose to embrace it, offering their readers online subscriptions and a greater immediate access to real time breaking news. The newspaper industry rose beyond its historic attachment to the printing press in favor of digital means to bring news to its readership. How many of you today got your news from the Internet?

Our profession is not dying. It is changing. Like the newspaper industry we have to be cognizant of those changes, and be ready and willing to adapt, otherwise we face the path of the taxi industry.

NCRA is a collection of independently-mindset special interest groups: officials, firm owners, freelancers, captioners, videographers, and real time folks, each with the understandable focus on their bit of turf. That’s just business. But if you are in this profession, you have a responsibility to protect this profession. You have a responsibility to promote this profession. You have a responsibility to usher in the next generation of reporters.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”

We need to collectively address the challenges we face right now. We have a shortage of students and if we collectively fail to face that challenge then we collectively fail to adapt to change — change that could mean fewer firms, fewer officials in the courtroom, and fewer CART and captioning providers in the future.

Our profession is one of vast opportunity but that opportunity will soon dwindle if we do not embrace a commonality of working together to ensure a future for today’s professionals and tomorrow’s.

I know each of you can adapt to change because in the year I have been with NCRA I have watched you embrace and learn as new technology comes along.

Jack Welch, past CEO of GE and author of Winning, a #1 Wall Street Journal and international best sellers wrote: Control your destiny or someone else will.

Let’s control our destiny now. I ask that each of you stand up, right now, with me for our profession. Please raise your right hand if you are committed as I am to the future of our profession. I now deputize everyone in this room to make the commitment to aid in our growth and future by working to recruit the next generation of reporters. It is vital that we marshal all efforts toward the critical outreach necessary to apprise high schoolers, veterans, career changers, and others about the benefits of a career in reporting.

Here at convention we are launching new toolkits and resources for schools to help them in their quest to identify, recruit, retain, and graduate talented and competent students who can fill the growing opportunities coming in the near future. But to supplement those toolkits, the schools need you to help spread the word about this wonderful, viable, and unique profession.

We must have live, animated people visit classrooms/employment centers, etc. and aggressively advocate for the profession. We have 16,000 active members in NCRA, and approximately 50 staff and board members. We need to recruit more of the rank and file members to showcase the profession for there are 320 times as many members as staff and board members. Just think about that.

If we are going to survive, it is imperative that we recruit new students. I believe we can and will survive because I believe that each of you, our NCRA membership, understands that no matter what specialized areas we may work in, we have one single common goal — to protect, nurture, and grow this profession.

Remember, the windshield of your car is far larger than the rear view mirror. What am I’m saying is, the future is large, and the past is behind us. Our focus must be on tomorrow: not yesterday.

The future of reporting depends upon the actions we take today.

Let me share with you some evidence of a commitment to the future of our profession.

Several months ago, a name that many of you know, our GR consultant Dave Wenhold and I were brainstorming on ways to demonstrate our commitment to a strong future for the profession. We are both passionate about students as well as equally engaged about the importance of a strong presence on Capitol Hill. Strength in both areas is critical to a bright future for our court reporting profession.

Together we would like to make a gift to the NCRA Foundation to support student scholarships. However, we have a challenge to everyone today. We have $5,000 that we would like to give to the Foundation… Here is the way it works… the NCRA PAC actively raises funds during this Convention. For every dollar that you give to the PAC, Dave and I will give a comparable amount to support student scholarships. If the PAC raises $3,000 during this Convention, Dave and I will donate $3,000 to student scholarships. If the PAC raises $5,000, then we give $5,000 to the future of the profession. Over the next 2 days, join us in this challenge. Stop by the PAC booth and make a donation, and take our money.

Dave and I are “putting” up. Will you?

Thank you.