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Gearing up for the NCRA Conference as a student

Keynote speaker Debbi Fields with Dana Spear in Las Vegas, Nev.

By Dana Spear

I first attended the NCRA Conference as a student in New Orleans. La., in 2018. As far as I know, I was the only student there from Texas. Aside from a small handful of court reporters from my local association, I didn’t know anybody. To be honest, the main reason I attended that first year was because I could drive there (I stayed with friends a couple of nights to save money), and also because I really wanted to try out all the steno machines in the Expo Hall. What I thought was going to be a quick two days of sessions and information turned out to be one of the most exciting weekends I had had in a very long time. I was so motivated after the Conference that I passed two tests the following week. And every time I return from a Conference, I always pass tests.  

Since then, I have attended NCRA Conferences in Denver, Colo., and Las Vegas, Nev., and I plan to attend the NCRA Conference & Expo in Orlando , Fla., with my daughter (future court reporter) this summer. I have made many friends and connections and attending the NCRA Conference has become something I look forward to every summer. 

Why attend as a student?

Dana Spear with keynote speaker 
Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré (U.S. Army, Ret.)
  1. Cost. The student cost is less than if you were a working court reporter. 
  2. Networking. Networking is very important in this field, and attending a Conference is a great way to expand your network. 
  3. Keynote speakers. The keynote speakers were amazing and some of the most motivating people I have ever heard. (General Russel Honoré, NOLA Conference; Erin Brockovich, Denver Conference; and Debbi Fields, Las Vegas Conference)
  4. Student sessions. The student sessions are informative, educational, enlightening, and FUN! I got to mingle and connect with other students who were also making their way through court reporting school. I loved the Steno Speed Dating class where we sat down with some of the best court reporters and educators and asked as many questions as we could.
  5. Meet the rock stars. You will have the opportunity to meet the ROCK STARS of the court reporting industry who will not only inspire, but also encourage you.
  6. Student socials. Student socials are a great way to connect and ask questions and learn more about becoming a court reporter. The informal get-togethers are great ice breakers. Some socials are sponsored by NCRA, such as a student breakfast and the meet-and-greet with the NCRA Board of Directors. Other socials are organized by court reporters, such as the High Tea for High Achievers in Denver (planned and carried out by Margary Rogers, RPR, CRI, an official and CART captioner from Washington, D.C., and others), and lunch with a court reporter (organized by Shaunise Day of Steno in the City). 
  7. Expo Hall. It’s a great way to try out equipment or learn about other programs related to our industry. 

If you would like to attend the NCRA Conference, here are a few things to keep in mind:

NCRA President Debbie Dibble with Dana Spear
in Las Vegas, Nev.
  1. If you don’t have friends or family nearby to stay with, I would recommend staying at the Conference hotel: Hyatt Regency Orlando. You will spend a great deal of time at the Conference, and you don’t want to miss out because you have to hire transportation to and from a different hotel. Plus, NCRA books rooms at a discount at the venue for those who are registered for the Conference.
  2. To help with cost, consider sharing a room with other students or court reporters. There are a couple of Facebook groups where you can find other people who wish to share the cost of the hotel room. Last year I shared a room with three other court reporting students. It might have been slightly awkward the first night, but we became friends very quickly. If you are interested in joining one of the Facebook groups geared towards this year’s Conference, “friend” me on Facebook (Dana Spear), and I will send you an invite.
  3. Consider bringing business cards to hand out to people you meet. Besides your personal information, you could add things like where you attend school, what theory you learned, or even what speed you are at. I added QR codes to mine. One links to my bio on why I chose court reporting, and the other one links to a court reporting video I made a couple of years ago.
  4. Even though the Conference is in the middle of the summer, the rooms in the Conference center can get very cold from the air conditioning. If you tend to get cold easily, remember to pack a jacket or sweater. 
  5. Sometimes students wonder if they should bring their machines. I brought mine with me the first two years. My luggage was heavy and cumbersome, and I really didn’t have a lot of time to practice on it. So last summer I brought my practice board and that was good enough to get some practice in. If you want to bring your machine, make sure you put it in your carry-on.  Never put it in your checked luggage. I have never had an issue taking my machine through security. I always take it out of my bag and tell them what it is. I’m sure TSA will see a lot of machines going through security the week of the Conference, so they probably won’t bat an eyelash. 
  6. Even though the student ticket doesn’t include Saturday evening’s dinner and gala, plan on attending anyway.  Many court reporters who don’t wish to attend the Saturday evening festivities donate their dinner/dance tickets to students. I didn’t attend the gala the first year in New Orleans, but I was offered a ticket (more than once). If you would like to attend, be sure to pack a nice outfit, just in case someone donates their ticket. There is usually a “dress-up” theme, but it is not necessary to dress according to the theme. If you can’t afford a new outfit, any nice evening dress or suit will work.
  7. When you get your badge, there are fun ribbons that you can attach to your badge to spice it up a bit. They are usually located near the registration table.
  8. Most court reporters are very helpful and friendly, and love to encourage students. I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and meet people. If you have business cards, it might make it a little easier to approach someone with your card to strike up a conversation. If there is someone you would really like to meet but you tend to be more of an introvert, come find me, and I will introduce you. 

I am really looking forward to this year’s Conference. I decided to get more involved this year by joining the Student/Teacher Committee. We are actively planning some great student sessions and activities this year and we hope that you will be able to attend. 

Dana Spear, from San Antonio, Texas, is a student at Tulsa Community CollegeShe can be reached at