Attend the 2020 NCRA Business Summit, take away social media strategies to boost business

Cathy O’Neal, communications director for Levitt Pavilion Arlington, an outdoor concert venue that presents more than 50 free concerts a year, has planned a fun and enlightening look at how social media can be changed from chore to tool in a firm’s business plan for success. Her session is happening at the 2020 NCRA Business Summit taking place Feb. 9-11 at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa in Austin, Texas.

Need another reason to register now? Early access rates have been extended until Tuesday, Dec. 10 at midnight ET. Act now to get the best price.

O’Neal holds a journalism degree from the University of Texas at Arlington, where she also serves as an adjunct professor in the Communications Department teaching media writing, public relations management, and public relations case studies. She will share with attendees successful social media strategies to help build business.

According to O’Neal, social media can help you gain visibility, reputation, and clients. She will cover the who, what, when, where, and why of social media from the vantage point of a seasoned communications pro who just finished her year with a 3.2 million Facebook reach! O’Neal will help attendees learn how to weed out the stuff they don’t need, focus on the stuff they do need, analyze real-world examples, and help them walk away from the session with action items they can put in practice immediately to start building the social media presence they want. To learn more about what O’Neal has to share, watch her video here.

Attendees of the 2020 NCRA Business Summit will also receive a copy of the 2019 Firm Owners Survey Report. More than 200 firm owners responded to this survey, sharing insights about their firms, including how the latest trends are impacting court reporting, captioning, and legal videography firms, and what the outlook for the future holds. NCRA Executive Director Dave Wenhold, CAE, will present the findings.

This year’s keynote speaker is the energetic Karim R. Ellis, founder of Empowered Education, a company devoted to developing both organizations and individuals. Ellis is a dynamic motivational speaker with 10 years of experience in the arena of speaking, training, and coaching, He takes great pride in cultivating leaders and champions, and his sole desire is to unlock an atmosphere of greatness in the lives of the people he connects with on a daily basis. Ellis will share with attendees his insights into successful leadership creation and development.

Also on the program is Chris Williams, co-founder of Wide Awake Business, established in 2004 to help companies grow. Williams will provide a two-part presentation, which will focus on how to create an easier, simpler, more profitable business. The sessions will cover how to:

  • Spend less time second-guessing yourself and seize the right opportunities
  • Ooze authority and confidence when you speak with prospects
  • Feel fulfilled because your “Big Why” engages more people
  • Enjoy your bank account statements
  • Lead more, build team, and personally do less of the “do”
  • Head out on your vacation without taking calls and putting out fires every day

Other highlights include:

Ron Comers, a former FBI agent and current advisor on corporate security risks through Charted Risk, LLC, who will present “Protecting Your Firm from Scams & Data Breaches,” and offer tips on how firms can keep their files and other information safe in today’s cyber-savvy world;

Chris Moyseos, a financial advisor and financial planning specialist with Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, who will lead a session on financial planning and managing personal wealth; and

Opportunities throughout the three-day event to provide attendees with the chance to expand their networks, engage with old friends, and build relationships with new ones. The event kicks off with a fun and exciting team-building activity followed by an opening reception.

Lora Appino Barnett, RMR, a freelance court reporter and owner of Appino & Briggs Reporting Service in Overland, Kan., attended her first Business Summit in 2007, then called the Firm Owners Executive Conference. She hasn’t missed one since.

“With all the recent happenings in the industry, as a firm owner, I am hopeful as an organization we can find ways to combat the so-called digital ‘reporters’ trying to get a foothold in our profession and finding ways to recruit more students into the reporting field. I also look forward to the educational seminars,” she said.

“The networking and friendships that I have made with other firm owners are invaluable; I look forward to seeing them every year,” Barnett said, as she encourages others to register. “I say do it! You will not regret it. We have increased our business with the networking relationships we have made over the years. I very much enjoy the locations that NCRA has chosen to have the conferences; I think you will, too. And I truly value the friendships I have made over the years.”

A special hotel room rate for single/double occupancy for attendees is $209 per night plus tax ($237.73) and the resort fee will be reimbursed by the hotel upon check-in. Hurry! These special hotel rates end on Jan. 8, 2020.

Located on more than 400 acres along the banks of the Colorado River, the beautiful Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa in Austin, Texas, offers a variety of amenities and activities for attendees and their guests to enjoy during their stay. The recreational amenities attendees can enjoy include: A full-service spa, salon, and fitness center; two tennis courts; an 18-hole golf course; hiking, biking and jogging paths; horseback riding; a video arcade; a water park; a meet-and-greet with the facility’s mascots; and more. Plus, if attendees book at the special NCRA room rate before Jan. 8, the resort fee of $35 will be reimbursed by the hotel upon check-in.

  • Early Access: Oct. 15–Dec. 10
    Member: $975; Nonmember: $1,150; Additional Firm Employee: $850; Spouse/Guest: $200
  • Regular Registration: Dec. 11, 2019–Jan. 31, 2020
    Member: $1,075; Nonmember: $1,250; Additional Firm Employee: $950; Spouse/Guest: $250
  • Last-Minute Registration: Feb. 1–9, 2020
    Member: $1,125; Nonmember: $1,300; Additional Firm Employee: $1,000; Spouse/Guest: $300

For more information and to register for the 2020 NCRA Business Summit, visit

Why you should network outside of your industry

By Megan Rogers

It’s important to build a network of colleagues and peers for advice, referrals, and support. But don’t limit your networking to only people with your same job. Especially if you’re a freelancer or firm owner (but even if you’re employed), it’s smart to develop relationships with people in client industries, parallel industries, and non-related industries.

Who to network with

Client industries: Your clients are the ones who hire for your services, but think beyond the obvious answers. There may be potential clients you’re not thinking of. Also, to identify your clients, you need to determine what, specifically, you specialize in.

If you’re an employee, think of the people who receive or are involved with your services as your clients. For example, if you’re an official, this might be a judge or court administrator.

Parallel industries: People in parallel industries do work that aligns with yours and who may have similar clients. For example, court reporters and legal videographers or captioners and sign language interpreters are in parallel industries.

Non-related industries: While steno is a unique skill, many of the other skills that court reporters and captioners need to develop are not, such as grammar, business, or technology skills. Getting to know people in non-steno-related industries, but who still have something in common with you, can expose you to new ideas that can help you professionally.

Where to meet people outside of your industry

The best way to meet people is to go where they go.

Go to their professional development and networking events: What are the associations that represent your clients? Attend their national or regional events and conferences or go to chapter social events.

Find local networking groups: Search on for a group, such as fellow freelancers, videographers, accessibility advocates, and more. Join a local Toastmasters International chapter or something similar.

Ask for introductions: Maybe your cousin’s neighbor is a paralegal, someone in your book club teaches English at the local college, or you have a current or former client or coworker who’s well-connected. Ask for an introduction and then an informal meeting, such as a coffee date.

Why to network outside of your industry

There are three important reasons why networking outside of your industry can help you professionally.

1. Build trust by connecting one-on-one with the people who will give you business: Just like you can get referrals from your peers, professionals in client or parallel industries can also give you referrals. People are more likely to hire someone they know than someone they’ve only heard of (or at least go to them first), so get to know the people who do the hiring for your services. Also, it’s good for you to have parallel professionals you can refer. If you’re hired for a depo, your client may ask if you know any legal videographers — having a list of professionals you trust makes for good customer service.

If you’re an employee, building your network will help if you ever need or want to change jobs or if you want to find more ways to grow professionally.

2. Learn more about what your clients care about: When you talk to people outside of your industry or attend their professional development sessions, you learn a lot: What are they passionate about? What do they struggle with? What are new trends in their industry? Then think about how you can insert yourself and your skills into being a solution for those passions, struggles, and trends. If you’re an employee, you still want to know what your internal clients care about so that you can make yourself more valuable and share new ideas with your boss and coworkers.

3. Get ideas for potential new services you can offer: When you become an expert in the industry you serve, you can brainstorm how your skills can lead to new services for your clients. Maybe you do conference captioning, and you hear that the conference organizers are starting to put video files of past sessions online — are those videos captioned? Can you partner with people in parallel industries, such as event videographers, to offer packages to joint clients?

Similarly, you can borrow ideas from professionals outside of your industry and apply them to your own. Maybe you learn about a new program that can streamline your finances or ideas for marketing your services or tips for handling a client disagreement.

Networking takes time, but it reaps long-term rewards. Expand your circle, and find all the ways a multifaceted network can make you a strong professional.

Megan Rogers is a freelance journalist and proofreader. She can be reached through her website,

Let the warmth and beauty of 2020 NCRA Business Summit venue inspire you

The NCRA 2020 Business Summit offers more than just networking and learning. Located on more than 400 acres along the banks of the Colorado River, the beautiful Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa in Austin, Texas, offers a variety of amenities and activities for attendees and their guests to enjoy during their stay.

Among the recreation amenities attendees can enjoy include: A full-service spa, salon, and fitness center, two tennis courts, an 18-hole golf course, hiking, biking and jogging paths, horseback riding, a video arcade, a water park, a meet-and-greet with the facility’s mascots, and more. Plus, if attendees book at the special NCRA room rate before Jan. 8, the activity fee of $35 is waived. And don’t forget, register for the event by Nov. 30 and save an additional $100.

Besides the beauty of the Austin countryside and warm temperatures typical of Texas, attendees at the 2020 NCRA Business Summit can also expect to enjoy a schedule that offers informative, inspiring, and insightful sessions led by leaders in the business industry.

Ron Comers, a former FBI agent and currently an advisor on corporate security risks through Charted Risk, LLC., will present “Protecting Your Firm from Scams & Data Breaches,” and offer tips on how firms can keep their files and other information safe in today’s cyber-savvy world.

Comers earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology from the University of South Florida and a master’s degree in business continuity, security, and risk management from Boston University. Prior to working for the FBI, Comers was a police officer with the Stratford Police Department in Connecticut. He entered duty as a special agent of the FBI in 1995 and was assigned to the Boston, Mass., division, where he worked bank fraud and drug investigations and also served as a member of the division’s SWAT team.

Over the course of his career, Comers has served in a variety of divisions as an FBI agent, overseeing a number of stateside and international investigations.

In 2010, he served as an acting ALAT in Afghanistan in 2010 and as a member of the Major Crimes Task Force charged with developing the investigative capabilities of Afghan law enforcement. For his service, he received the Attorney General’s Award for Excellence in Furthering the Interests of U.S. National Security.

Other speakers include Cathy O’Neal, communications director for Levitt Pavilion Arlington, who will lead a session about successful social media strategies to help build business; a financial planning session led by Chris Moyseos, a financial planner who will discuss succession and financial planning; and NCRA Interim Executive Director Dave Wenhold, CPE, who will present the findings of NCRA’s 2020 Firm Owners Economic Outlook Survey.

Ask the techie: What’s in your steno bag?

If you’ve ever wondered what members of the NCRA Technology Committee carry with them on their jobs, here’s your chance. A few of them have opened up their steno bags to share with you what they’ve chosen to go to work with every day – photos included!

Here’s the list of what’s in the bag of Sheri Smargon, RDR, CRR, CRC, a broadcast captioner and freelance court reporter from Riverview, Fla.

  1. Luminex and tripod.
  2. Microphone for Luminex.
  3. Luminex charger.
  4. Extension cord.
  5. Cool Table and tripod.
  6. Laptop with charger.
  7. USB cord for Luminex.
  8. USB cord for iPhone.
  9. Charging cable for Android phone (attorneys are grateful when you have the stuff they forgot at home).
  10. Mini stapler.
  11. Tons of pens, Sharpies, and highlighters.
  12. Earbuds (I may get to proof while I wait for a job and have to check the audio).
  13. SD cards.
  14. Flash drives (varying sizes and shapes).
  15. USB Hub.
  16. Extra keypads (never know when one needs to be replaced on the fly).
  17. Business cards.
  18. Exhibits stamp and stickers.
  19. At times, Dymo machine to make exhibits with an extra roll of stickers. Now, I do carry this in its own little bag, but it rests on top of my main carrying case. If it’s going to be an all-day depo, I usually bring this little machine. I can then print off a bunch of stickers at one time.
  20. Calendar for the year-at-a-glance.
  21. Depo book and notice (if I have one).
  22. Post-its in various sizes.
  23. Wite-out (oops happen).
  24. A small USB fan (I’m always warm).
  25. Snacks (I always have Kind bars and crackers of some type in my bag.  You never know if you’re going to get lunch…or for how long).
  26. Rubber bands (for wrangling exhibits and cords after a long day).
  27. Velcro straps (sometimes, I lose one and carry extras to wrangle my cords).
  28. Umbrella (I don’t want to get caught in a Florida thunderstorm with an armful of exhibits).
  29. Gaffer’s tape to tape down my cords and cables if it’s going to be an all-day or multi-day job. I don’t want anyone to trip.

If I’m doing an on-site CART or captioning job, I will also add things like cables and cords, HDMIs and splitters, headphones, and gender-bender connections. I pack my bag to fit the job, and I do it the night before a job. I then place my bag right in front of my door. (I know I’m not the only one who has had the dream of going to a job and realizing your machine is at home.)  

If I have a realtime job that requires iPads, I charge those the night before on a multi-USB charging station; then I bring the charging station, cords, cables, and charging blocks with me.  I also bring my router in case I can’t get internet access for ICVnet.   

If I’m doing a trial, I will also carry an amplifier to attach to the bench, cords, cables, and headphones so I can stay seated while bench conferences are going on. I also toss extra batteries in my bag for the amplifier.

So, pack your bag and eat your Wheaties. Your bag will be heavy, but you’ve got this!

Kimberly R. Greiner, RDR, CRR, CRC, an official court reporter based in Lenexa, Kan., keeps the following handy as she works:

  1. Diamante/tripod.
  2. Laptop/charger.
  3. Foot pedal — I occasionally need one for recorded hearings.
  4. iPads (two standard — one flip case, one hard stand) (one mini in flip case).
  5. Two Diamante chargers — Redundancy pays off.
  6. Two USB cables for realtime (I carry one that is 3 feet and another that is 7 feet.
  7. Three iPad charging cables.
  8. Three USB charging blocks — for outlets without USB port.
  9. External Mouse — I get track pad frustrated.
  10. Earbuds.
  11. Four SD cards —  Always carry a back-up to the back-up.
  12. Flash drives — three of these.
  13. External Hard Drive.
  14. USB Hub — just in case.
  15. iPens X1 — for proofreading on the iPad (it’s my favorite item!)
  16. 3.5 mm male to female (audio feed) 10 feet.
  17. 3.5 mm male to male (audio feed) 3 feet.
  18. Attenuator line male to female with volume dial (audio feed) — I get Nos. 16-18, because I never know how far I’ll be from the audio feed. When I freelanced, conference tables could be 20 feet long.
  19. Small stapler.
  20. Pop-up — small half-oval stand to place paper in (captioner conference tidbit!)
  21. Business cards.
  22. Pens (three or more) — Yes, one is red!
  23. Microfiber cloths.
  24. Spare glasses.
  25. Lotion/chapstick.
  26. Sometimes a small fan.

Alan Peacock, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner and freelancer court reporter based in Mobile, Ala., said: “I do not have a short answer for this wonderful question. For me, I have a closet that is chock-full of bags, cables, cords, adapters, antiquated and new devices. I will pack my bag differently depending on the assignment. For example, an onsite CART assignment would require an entirely different setup than a realtime deposition. But for today’s purposes, I’m going to answer the question assuming that I’m going to a realtime deposition.” 

Here is his basic list:

  1. My steno writer and computer — that’s a given. If I’m traveling out of town, I also carry a backup writer and computer. My backup writer is the Lightspeed. It’s light and doesn’t require much room. I carry several SD cards with me as backup as well.
  2. Steno machine charger (and a backup in my car).
  3. Steno machine realtime cable (and an extra in my bag).
  4. iPads and iPad stands and Charger Unity with Charging Cords. Generally, I will carry a couple of extra setups just in case I get the chance to upsell realtime services to a client who did not order. I also keep one extra tablet running at all times by my side so I can easily swap out with someone who runs into trouble and loses a connection or has a technical issue.
  5. MiFi Device — for streaming or for my own private network. If I’m using realtime editors as well, I like to have one internet device dedicated to sending my audio stream to the remote scopist and proofreader and then a separate internet connection for my streaming to clients.
  6. Portable Router — As a backup in case internet fails. I can still stream locally.
  7. A 12- or 24-hour kitchen timer alarm clock — For depositions where the reporter has to track the time, these are cheap, portable and allows everyone to see how much time they have used.
  8. Office-sized stapler — The smaller ones do not do it for me. I like the comfort of having a good sturdy office-sized stapler.
  9. Wall power adapter — for plugging a grounded device into an ungrounded outlet.
  10. Two 6-foot extension cords and one small power outlet.
  11. Velcro carpet cord covers — I have two that are 6 feet each that I can lay on over my wires to prevent anyone from tripping over my cords. You can buy these in a variety of colors and sizes. They fold up nicely and can be stored in a side zipper of a ZUCA bag.
  12. USB thumb drives.
  13. Apple iPad (lightning to USB) thumb drive for saving attorneys’ annotated realtime files.
  14. Apple AirPods (for scoping quietly on breaks or in the hotel).
  15. USB card reader (for reading backup machine card in emergencies)
  16. USB microphone and stand for audiosync.
  17. XLR to 1/8-inch audio adapter for receiving audio from the videographer’s mixer. You may want to carry a male/female XLR adapter just in case.
  18. Machine microphone — I have two for daisy-chaining on long conference tables.
  19. Exhibit stickers.
  20. Ethernet cord.
  21. Computer adapters for VGA, HDMI, and USB C.
  22. Audio/mic splitter cable.
  23. Extra charging station for iPhone and Android devices for the attorney who comes in and needs a charge. It’s not required, but clients remember small courtesies like this.
  24. Pens, paper and highlighters. Always have extra pens. It does not look professional for the reporter to walk in and have to borrow a pen from the attorneys to write down names. Although they are not hiring us to write with a pen, it just seems more professional if you can always remember to stock extras, so you do not have that problem.
  25. Personal grooming bag: As a male reporter, I have found over the years that it’s helpful to carry a BIC razor with me, just in case a spot is missed. In this bag, I also carry mints, aspirin, and small bottle of unscented hand lotion. I also have an extra pair of readers/glasses in case I need them.

Sandra M. Mierop, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, an agency owner and freelance court reporter from Anchorage, Alaska, keeps the following on hand for jobs:

  1. Lenovo and backup Dell for Eclipse/Connection Magic.
  2. Luminex, charger, tripod.
  3. Three hot spots each with different carriers (AT&T, Verizon, local Alaska company GCI).
  4. Six Samsung tablets with charging cables.
  5. Marantz recorder.
  6. Three extra SD/micro SD cards for Luminex and Marantz recorder.
  7. Three USB external sound cards to receive court’s audio for syncing with Eclipse; earbuds for sound check.
  8. External hub with USB and SD ports.
  9. Three Luminex writer-to-computer cables (Samsung tablet cables can work, too).
  10. Exhibit stickers, pens, notepad, business cards, and microfiber wipe.
  11. First-aid kit (Band-aids, Neosporin, ibuprofen, Purell).
  12. Thermos.
  13. Reel-up extension cord with four outlets; small electrical outlet hub adding three extra outlets; gaffer tape.

Make plans to mosey on over to the 2020 NCRA Business Summit

The Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa in Austin, Texas, is the setting for the 2020 NCRA Business Summit taking place Feb. 9-11. No matter what size firm you own, operate, or manage, this event is NCRA’s premier gathering for anyone looking to grow their business, expand their markets, and boost their overall success. Register by Nov. 30, 2019 to take advantage of discounted pricing.

“Intense, energizing, inspiring, educational, and fun, that’s what the 2020 NCRA Business Summit promises attendees no matter what size their firm is. Plan to expand your sphere of colleagues while networking in beautiful Austin, as well as hear from a variety of experts in the areas of successful customer base building, honing effective leadership skills, and more,” said NCRA President Max Curry, RPR, CRI, a freelance court reporter and firm owner from Franklin, Tenn. “If building your business in 2020 and beyond is important to you, then attending the 2020 should be a priority.”

Karim R. Ellis, Keynote Speaker

In the lineup this year is keynote speaker Karim R. Ellis, founder of Empowered Education, a company devoted to developing both organizations and individuals. Ellis is a dynamic motivational speaker with 10 years of experience in the arena of speaking, training, and coaching, He takes great pride in cultivating leaders and champions, and his sole desire is to unlock an atmosphere of greatness in the lives of the people he connects with on a daily basis. Ellis will share with attendees his insights into successful leadership creation and development.

Also on the program is Chris Williams, co-founder of Wide Awake Business, established in 2004 to help companies grow. She is also the co-author, along with Martha Hanlon, also co-founder of Wide Awake Business, Customers Are the Answer to Everything, and most recently of Customertopia. Williams and Hanlon have been called one of the foremost authorities on in how to get and keep customers.

Chris Williams, Speaker

Williams will provide a two-part presentation, which will focus on how to create an easier, simpler, more profitable business. The sessions will cover how to:

  • Spend less time second-guessing yourself and seize the right opportunities
  • Ooze authority and confidence when you speak with prospects
  • Feel fulfilled because your “Big Why” engages more people
  • Enjoy your bank account statements
  • Lead more, build team, and personally do less of the “do”
  • Head out on your vacation without taking calls and putting out fires every day

The 2020 NCRA Business Summit program also offers a number of networking opportunities throughout the three-day event to provide attendees with the chance to expand their networks, engage with old friends, and build relationships with new ones. The event kicks off with a fun and exciting team-building activity followed by an opening reception and dinner.

Registration is now open and those who register by Nov. 30, 2019, can take advantage of discounted pricing:

  • Early Access Registration: Oct. 15 – Nov. 30, 2019
    Member: $975; Nonmember: $1,150; Additional Firm Employee: $850; Spouse/Guest: $200
  • Regular Registration: Dec. 1, 2019 – Jan. 31, 2020
    Member: $1,075; Nonmember: $1,250; Additional Firm Employee: $950; Spouse/Guest: $250
  • Last Minute Registration: Feb. 1 – 9, 2020
    Member: $1,125; Nonmember: $1,300; Additional Firm Employee: $1,000; Spouse/Guest: $300

A special hotel room rate for single/double occupancy for attendees is $209 per night plus tax ($237.73) and the resort fee is waived. Hurry, these special hotel rates end on Jan. 8, 2020. Deadline to register to attend is Jan. 31, 2020.

For more information and to register for the 2020 NCRA Business Summit, visit

How to set yourself up as a new freelance reporter

The JCR Weekly recently reached out to Michael Hensley, RDR, chair of NCRA’s New Professionals Committee about what makes a good freelancer and what you need to know in the first few years as a freelancer. If you’re new or considering transitioning from another area of the profession, consider his insights into his first few years as a freelance reporter.

JCR | Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Michael Hensley, RDR

MH | I am a freelance deposition reporter, and I’ve been doing that for a little over three-and-a-half years now. I’m currently located in Dublin, Calif., which is an eastern suburb of San Francisco. My home location is a great spot because I’m equidistant from most major areas for work in Northern California. I’ve covered assignments as far north as Sacramento, as far east as Stockton, and as far south as Monterey. I’ve even gone down to Southern California to cover assignments as well.

I still maintain a license for Illinois, and I recently obtained my CSR for Nevada. So I am able to accept assignments in those regions. I’m open to traveling for a lucrative opportunity. It’s part of what makes me a successful freelancer, in my opinion.

JCR | What was tough for you when you first started working?

MH | I found it difficult to keep up with the workload when I began. My intent was to take on as much work as possible to earn the income I wanted. What I failed to keep in mind was that I needed to still make time to produce transcripts as well as cover depositions. I had many nights where I slept very little to try to stay on time with production deadlines. Fortunately, I’ve learned how to allocate my time and resources to manage that more smoothly, even in such a way to be able to take vacations occasionally.

JCR | Did you have a mentor when you started?

MH | I have had mentors at every level of my education and career. To this day, I still have those I go to and seek advice. I was very fortunate to have some amazing individuals share their knowledge with me along my journey. I worked in a court reporting firm while finishing my education, and I feel that experience gave me a wealth of knowledge that would have taken me years of trial and error to figure out.

Even so, I’m the kind of person who likes to learn things by doing. I feel that making mistakes is the quickest and most valuable way to learn how you can perform a task with greater success. I learned by asking a lot of questions along the way. I then took that information and applied it to my own ideas and processes to develop a system that works for me. I’m continually evolving and growing to sharpen my skills and abilities so that I can be at the top of my game.

JCR | What do you think is the hardest part of starting out?

MH | I think the hardest part of starting out is learning how to interact with others in the profession. There is a certain way to communicate with attorneys; there’s another way you speak with reporting agencies; and there’s a way for you to connect with colleagues. Any of these encounters feels awkward at first. However, if you keep doing it over and over and pay attention to what things you do right and what things you can improve, then you eventually find the way that works best for you to get the job done.

JCR | You’re giving a session called Freelancer Starter’s Kit for NCRA on Tuesday, July 30. How did this session come about?

MH | As part of my efforts with NCRA’s New Professionals Advisory Committee, we are striving to produce content and educational resources to assist individuals who are new to the profession. I often hear many new reporters asking questions such as, “I got my license. Now what do I do?” Entering the freelance arena can be overwhelming at first, and I’m hoping to share what I’ve learned with others so that they can begin a career or a transition smoothly.

JCR | What do you hope people will take away from your session?

MH | I hope participants will gain the confidence they need to operate as an independent entity so that they can enjoy the experience and thrive. While it can be overwhelming, even fearful, working as a freelance reporter is ultimately a thrilling adventure. It is truly liberating to have a sense of control over your destiny, and it is so rewarding to see a direct payoff from your hard work.

You can earn 0.125 CEU by attending the Freelancer Starter Kit, which will be held July 30, 7 p.m. – 8:15 p.m. (ET). This session is sponsored by NCRA’s New Professionals Committee, which Hensley chairs. Webinars do not need to be viewed live. They can be purchased now and viewed within a 30-day window of presentation date. They will also be available for purchase later as E-seminars.

TechLinks: Standing desks – Are they right for court reporters?

By Lynette Mueller

Court reporters are always looking for ways to be more productive on the job and at the desk when completing their transcripts. Recently, I shared a link of the best standing desks of 2019 on my Facebook business page and received some great feedback and sharing from it! As the chair of the Technology Committee, I thought our members would love to learn more about the benefits of using a standing desk, as well as some top picks to choose from. 

According to “A standing desk, also called a stand-up desk, is basically a desk that allows you to stand up comfortably while working. Many modern versions are adjustable, so that you can change the height of the desk and alternate between sitting and standing.”

Several peer-reviewed studies suggest that sitting for prolonged periods of time may reduce life expectancy. There is much speculation and not much good data at this time to suggest that using a standing desk will combat the ill effects of sitting. While there is nothing to prove a good outcome from using a standing desk, there may be some benefits for court reporters. also mentions these benefits when using a standing desk:

  • Lowers your risk of weight gain and obesity
  • May lower blood sugar levels
  • May lower your risk of heart disease
  • Appears to reduce back pain
  • Helps improve mood and energy levels
  • May even boost productivity
  • May help you live longer

If court reporters do decide to make the plunge and purchase a standing desk, they should keep in mind that standing desks may also have some “side effects.” Some of the reporters’ comments on my Facebook post had a few suggestions to help with the transition.

  • Purchase an anti-fatigue mat for your desk
  • Purchase a drafting chair so that you can move freely from standing to sitting writes about these suggestions for the best anti-fatigue mats. The posters on my shared Facebook link specifically mentioned the FlexiSpot and Varidesk as their personal favorites. According to the Wirecutter article: “The Varidesk ProDesk 60 Electric is more stable in each direction than the Uplift or Jarvis, and a little bit quieter than those desks in raising and lowering (minus an occasional thudding sound when starting). It also comes with built-in cable management and was the easiest desk we’ve ever built. But it has no wood or bamboo desktop options, just five colors of laminate, which our testers disliked.”

Ready to consider getting a standing desk? also offered their picks for the best standing desks of 2019. also published an article with their best standing desk picks. Those are two great places to start your research.

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, is chair of NCRA’s Technology Committee. She can be reached at

Working from home while parenting

Holly Smith with her sons

The benefits of working from home for some people are priceless. For example, a work-at-home situation can offer flexibility, a more casual surrounding, and more time with the family. But for work-at-home professionals with small children, the situation often means creating a balanced environment where both work and family receive the needed attention.

In a recent JCR Weekly question of the week, readers who work from home and have small children were asked to share insights into how they manage to create a successful balance between the two. The answers ranged from hiring child care or sending a child to camp, to cutting back on work, relying on friends and family for help, and employing the game Fortnite or turning on YouTube.

Holly Smith, an online student at Brown College of Court Reporting in Atlanta, Ga., has two sons, ages 2 and 6 years old. To help manage her studies and parenting duties, Smith said she typically works on her assignments or other tasks involving school while the boys are preoccupied. “My 6-year-old loves video games, and my 2-year-old is usually playing with trains and cars or coloring,” she said.

“It’s important to me that my kids don’t feel ignored. They will only be little once. Typically, I will pull my machine out and practice in small 15- to 30-minute increments so that I don’t get overwhelmed. That’s usually the amount of time that my kids will stay preoccupied until they need or want something,” she said. “If they do happen to interrupt me during class time, I end up just putting my machine to the side and tending to them or playing with them until I can get back to my machine. It’s definitely a juggling act, and when my husband is home, he tries to help and distract as much as possible. But if you want it bad enough — and I do — you have to make it work. My boys, as well as my husband, are my reason to push through. So it makes it all worth it and keeps my motivation alive,” she added.

Rowan Knight working in the home office his mother made him out of a cardboard box complete with an open source steno machine, sound mixer, TV remote, and calculator.

Mirabai Knight, RDR, CRC, CRR, a captioner from New York, N.Y., often works from home and has a son Rowan, who will be 3 years old in August. While she said that sometimes he “works” alongside her when she has an at-home assignment or when she is practicing on her machine, she has the help of her wife when it comes to keeping the little one busy.

“My wife stays home and watches our son while I caption. I usually work in the living room, so he’s often in the room with me, but fortunately my wife is able to keep him from interfering with my equipment, though he’s actually getting much better about respecting that himself these days,” Knight said.

Smith said her 6-year-old also often helps her when she is practicing by working on his reading. “I have had him read me some Dr. Seuss books previously. It’s a challenge with all of the silly words that Dr. Seuss uses. My son is also getting so good at reading that it’s difficult to keep up with him, so it’s a challenge. A part of our homework assignment is reading steno notes to be able to understand them just as well as we understand English words. So I will treat those steno notes like little stories and practice reading them to my boys,” she added.

Machines fascinate kids

Mirabai Knight and her son, Rowan

“He loves playing with all my steno machines,” Knight said of her son. “He also knows how to get into ‘insert mode’ from ‘command mode’ in Vim, the text editor I use for much of my captioning, which makes me so proud! He always says, ‘I need to do some steno machine and computer work now! Let me work!’ And he knows where the R key is! I’m going to teach him steno as early as I possibly can.”

Likewise for Smith’s boys, said their mother, who noted that they are both also fascinated with her machine. “Sometimes I have to put my machine in a place in our apartment that they can’t get to just to keep them off of it, especially my 2-year-old. He knows how to turn it on and off. My 6-year-old has been interested in learning where the letters are and trying to write,” she said,

A flexible career that helps with parenting

Both Smith and Knight agree that a career in court reporting or captioning absolutely helps with parenting duties. For one, it allows parents the opportunity to spend more time at home with their children.

“That is one of the reasons I started looking into this career path,” Smith said. “I have been so indecisive with a career path that will allow me to be the mom I want to be to my boys, as well as allow the income potential that court reporting and captioning offers. I often feel like I won’t be good enough to make it. So the income and flexibility potential help push me to get back onto my machine when I’ve had a rough practice day and feel frustrated,” she said.

“It will open so many doors for my family that we wouldn’t be able to attain otherwise. My husband works so hard to provide for us, but while he makes good money, his job would never present the opportunities that court reporting can.”

Smith added that any money she can make once she enters the workforce will help with the family savings, as well as allow her husband to be home more often to spend time with the family. “We want to be able to take vacations together more often. We want to be able to retire at a reasonable age so that we can be the grandparents we want to be to our future grandchildren. I believe that this career choice is going to create a much better life for our family,” she said.

“Being able to work fewer hours with a fairly high hourly rate helps a lot. I’m the sole breadwinner for my family, so that let’s me be home with my son much more than if I’d had to work 40 hours a week,” Knight said. “Also I was able to take several months off and live on savings when he was born, which wouldn’t necessarily have been possible in a non-freelance job. And I can do some of my work from home. Being able to watch my kid eat breakfast while I remote caption international conferences has been such a joy,” she added.

Advice for other work-at-home parents

“It’s a battle in itself just choosing to open up your machine and spend time practicing, especially if you’re trying to be a full-time mom, keep your household chores up to date, spend time with your kids, and give your husband the attention he needs,” Smith said. “But you have to keep your eye on the prize. You have to focus on why you chose this field in the first place.

“Remember the possibilities that will open up to you. Those little people that are pulling on your arms and legs, interrupting your practicing and making you feel like you can’t do it, those are the same people that you have to do this for. Take your time. Close your machine and take a break when you’re feeling frustrated. Play with your kids for a little bit instead. Choose your battles, but don’t give up.”

And the best piece of advice Knight offers others: “Teach them steno!”

Catch the savings on registration for NCRA’s 2019 Business Summit before it ends

Act now and save! Online registration savings for NCRA’s 2019 Business Summit being held Feb. 1-3 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in beautiful San Diego, Calif., ends Jan. 20, and onsite registration and pricing starts Jan. 21. In addition, the hotel room block is still available on a first-come, first-serve basis so be sure to book now!

The 2019 Business Summit, formerly the Firm Owners & Executives Conference, promises to engage attendees with content, insight, the latest in business trends, and networking opportunities that will all result in boosting business. This year’s informative and cutting-edge sessions have been chosen specifically to provide the freelancers, firm owners, and managers attending with the latest tools and techniques for growing their business.

Here’s a glimpse of what’s happening onsite at this event:

Community engagement and how it helps your business

A session titled “Civic Best Practice: Corporate Community Engagement” will explore why corporate community engagement is considered one of the best practices in today’s business environment and how to be successful at it. Find out more about the benefits businesses gain by integrating community engagement into their business plans, such as boosting employee commitment and recruitment. Gains also include raising awareness of the services and products the companies provide and securing reputations as leaders in the community. The session will culminate with a special Veterans History Project, as an example of just one of many wonderful ways to showcase the services and skills your business provides while giving back to those in the community who have served their country. The live oral history will capture the story of Rear Adm. Ronne Froman, USN (Ret.). In addition to serving 31 years in the U.S. Navy, Froman was the first woman to serve as commander of the U.S. Navy Region Southwest. In her last Navy job, she also served as the director of ashore readiness for the chief of naval operations, responsible for nearly 90 Navy stations and bases around the world with a $7 billion budget. As a change agent, Froman’s careers have spanned the military, public, private, and nonprofit businesses. Rear Adm. Froman will be interviewed by Jan Ballman, FAPR, RPR, CMRS, of Minneapolis, Minn.

How storytelling can boost your business

Ann marie Houghtailing, entrepreneur, storyteller, and business coach, will present her Storytelling & Business Development session. Houghtailing, who launched her practice as a business development expert in 2009 with only $5 in her pocket, a MacBook, and a truckload of tenacity in the worst economic climate of her life, developed the Corporate Alliance Partner for the Institute for Sales and Business Development at the University of San Diego, Calif., just one year later. Today, she holds the reputation as one of the most sought-after business development and storytelling experts in the country and speaks regularly on narrative leadership and how to use storytelling as a tool of influence in business with her trademarked Narrative Imprinting process.

Court reporting in the 21st century

Speaker and past NCRA Director Mike Miller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, is a freelance court reporter from Houston, Texas. As a follow-up to his Tough Love sessions, which have been held at national and state conferences throughout the United States, Miller will lead a seminar called “Tough Love Part 2,” which will challenge the most sacred beliefs about the business of court reporting with a focus on why being stuck in 1985 isn’t going to alleviate any of the issues faced by agencies and reporters in the 21st century.

Simple shifts can lead to extraordinary outcomes

Also on the schedule is Eunice Carpitella, a professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, who will serve as keynote speaker. She will address the practical idea that simple shifts in our routine patterns of interaction and mindset make it possible for business leaders to include, engage, and unleash everyone in solving problems, driving innovation, and achieving extraordinary outcomes.

Don’t wait. Register now and save

Remember, online registration for the 2019 Business Summit closes Jan. 20, 2019, and onsite registration and pricing starts Jan. 21, 2019. And don’t forget, also making a comeback is the Super Bowl Party to close out the event – another great reason to stay overnight Sunday for an extra few days to really get to know this one-of-a-kind city. And finally, plan on staying later to enjoy what beautiful, sunny San Diego has to offer in February.

Caught in the eye of the storm

Bobbi Fisher

By Bobbi Fisher

On September 10, Hurricane Florence made her presence known on the weather radar with an alarming size. Forecasters predicted a strong Category 4 hurricane was headed toward the Wilmington, N.C., area – to include where I live and work as an official reporter in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Mandatory evacuations began for our area on Tue., Sept. 11. Mandatory evacuation means, if you choose to stay, you do so at your own risk; rescue attempts, if needed, may not be possible. Since we have only lived here for three years, we checked with our seasoned neighbors to see if they were going to evacuate or stay. Our angst grew when they told us they would leave for this projected monster of a storm.

Facebook Live is a wonderful tool to use to get live local weather updates without having to stay glued to a television. If you “like” your local news channel, they will send you notifications when live feeds are about to start so you can tune in. It also offers an opportunity to actually chat with your meteorologist to ask specific questions. I find it a wonderful tool for emergency planning.

With the generator fueled and ready to go and a few trips to the grocery store to stock up on cases of water and food supplies, we decided we would stay home and ride it out. We live about three miles from the oceanfront but far enough inland where storm surge wouldn’t really affect us.

Fisher Courthouse in Horry County, S.C. after Hurricane Florence

I am an official reporter for Family Court in Horry County (Conway/Myrtle Beach). My husband also works in the same courthouse building with me but for the Clerk of Court’s office. We had one hearing scheduled for Tuesday morning, so as I was heading in to court, my judge called me and told me to turn around and go home. By then, roads had already started to close and I wasn’t able to turn around where I was in the road because they literally had just put up barricades. I had to make a huge loop north and then turn back south to get back home. Roads were starting to shut down literally as the minutes were ticking away.

After returning home that morning, we started to watch The Weather Channel to track Hurricane Florence. They were now projecting it would come to Wilmington then turn a sharp southwest, heading straight over our house. It was then we decided we better evacuate to our family in Northern Virginia. This began the task of packing everything we could. We have two pit bulls, so we decided to take both of our cars – one dog in each car.

Along with the normal clothing items for the next seven days, I packed up my reporting equipment. I had just purchased a new Luminex writer the week prior, so that was the very last thing to go in the car. Along with my writer, I packed up a separate bag with my laptop and my external hard drives (now I’ve converted to Dropbox). I left my hard copy court dockets in the filing cabinet because I scan all of those anyway. I made sure that any other papers and equipment were high enough off the ground in case we did have water inside our home. As a reporter, even in time of crisis, you must consider securing your equipment and your files the best way you can.

As we started planning our evacuation, another fear was making sure we would have enough fuel to make the six-hour trek through the Carolinas to get back to Virginia, as thousands of people were fleeing for safety and we weren’t sure of the gas situation along our route. In fact, I ended up calling ahead just to make sure at least one station had enough fuel in their tanks for us to refuel. We left at 4 a.m., and even at that hour, our local police were monitoring every intersection. The lane reversal was in effect, which meant that all lanes were only running westbound. It was a pretty neat experience to be driving on the wrong side of the road!

There are two major ways in to the Myrtle Beach area: the 501 Bypass, which runs in front of Lake Busbee; and the 501 Business, which runs through the historic town of Conway. Traffic also has to pass over an old bridge in Conway that is scheduled to have major repairs done in the next few months, so a lot of people were very worried about whether the bridge would even hold up for this amount of traffic, which included tractor trailers and heavy equipment trucks.

The Waccamaw River, which runs through Conway, is the runoff water from the rivers that start in North Carolina, where the hurricane dumped several inches of rain. The National Guard quickly started dumping huge piles of sand and dirt and massive sandbags to create a dam on the 501 Bypass so we did not lose our main highway. Helicopters flew overhead delivering sandbag after sandbag to the nearby cold ash reserve to try to contain the pond waters from seeping into the Waccamaw River flood waters.

Even 10 days after the hurricane, we waited for our rivers to crest and recede. Hundreds of people were frantically packing their belongings to try to save what they could, and it would take many, many days before those homeowners would be able to return to assess their damage.

Reserved court reporter parking spaces at Fisher Courthouse after Hurricane Florence

It would take a few days before the flooding would crest locally for us, so at least we had time to prepare. Court ended up being closed from Tues., Sept. 1, through Mon., Sept. 18.

When the waters started rising at the courthouse, the court reporter parking spaces became filled with up to three (or more) feet of water, and then the waters started to encroach on the judge’s parking area as well. The reserved court reporter spaces where I normally park were now busted up to install huge drainage equipment.

Downtown Conway looked like a war zone. With the water rising, many streets were impassable and closed, leaving you to try to figure out how to maneuver around town. The Waze app is another tool that many people used to get around during the storm. Because the roads were closing by the minute, the Waze app had real-time information on which roads were open and would direct you that way.

Several hundred homes were flooded as a result of the overflowing rivers. Along I-40 in North Carolina, hundreds of dead fish littered the highway after the waters receded. Displaced animals could be seen trying to survive the waters: A crocodile was seen swimming at the local dog park. Eels and snakes were now inside people’s homes. Fire ants built “chain” bridges and floated on top of the water. One of our court clerks even captured video of a wild hog swimming through the flood waters in the back of the courthouse and walking out next to her window.

Once the mandatory evacuations had been lifted and we were allowed to return to our homes, we began the quest to figure out how to get home. With many, many miles of highway along I-95 in North Carolina and South Carolina under water, we decided to go west, then south, then circle back east; a trip that would take us 11 hours compared to our normal six-hour route.

For us in the Myrtle Beach area, it wasn’t so much the wind damage but the flooding as a result of the North Carolina rivers that flow downstream to us. Even almost a month later, things still have not returned to normal for us. Many are still displaced from their homes. We’re just getting our local roads back to normal. Schools were out three weeks because of the weather, and many of them were turned into shelters. And now the mosquitos have taken on a life of their own. (I hear they’re pretty big!  Almost quarter size!)

There is one thing to say about something this eventful: The community spirit really shines through. There are still so many food/supply drives and fundraising events going on to help those in need. “Carolina Strong” is the motto we live by here, and it really shows in our spirit to overcome and rebuild once again.

Bobbi Fisher, RPR, is an official court reporter from Myrtle Beach, S.C. She also serves as a member of NCRA’s Proofreading Advisory Council.

The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) published an article, “NCSC helps courts prepare for disaster,” in their October 2 bulletin.