Preparation, preparation, preparation

By Sandra Mierop

Last October on a conference call to come up with ideas about what the Technology Committee was going to accomplish over the next year, I volunteered to participate on the “Realtime Tips” project. It was right in my wheelhouse. Of all the things that I do as a stenographic reporter, nothing jazzes me more than realtiming, whether it’s for a trial, a deposition, CART for somebody who has difficulty hearing, or even to a big screen at a convention with 500 attendees.

What I didn’t expect was an email from Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, chair of the Technology Committee, assigning me as the “lead” for the assignment. To tell you the truth, I didn’t even know what a “lead” does for an assignment. I called Lynette, and she told me that I’m the one who pulls the assignment together and then writes the article for the JCR. I’m very lucky because Lynette also assigned two superhero reporters to this small team: Kimberly Greiner, RDR, CRR, CRC, of Lenexa, Kan., and Alan Peacock,  FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, of Mobile, Ala.

Well, panic still set in because I’m a court reporter, I write other people’s words, I’m not a writer for a published journal. So the first thing that I did was dive into old JCR articles to check out how other “leads” on assignments handled their tasks. After reading a bunch, I saw a theme develop. When an author writes in the JCR, very often the common denominator for their topic is preparation. I thought, “Well, that’s what I do whenever I realtime a job. I prepare for it. That sounds like the most important tip to me.”

Before any realtime assignment, I start with the basics, the Notice if it’s a deposition, the topic if it’s for CART and the big screen. I do a deep dive into terminology, put speaker names into my CAT job dictionary, and I try to get a copy of speeches for a convention or lesson plans for a college class from the professor. Then the day before a realtime job, I always do a test of my equipment. I make sure that my MiFi will connect to my tablets and CAT computer and go through my checklist of all of the equipment and backups that I need to bring. If I’m realtiming a trial or an arbitration, I have a practice session with the scopists and proofreader who are on the other end of my CAT software.

Invariably, something goes wrong at the job no matter how much I prepare. But I do the same preparation for every single realtime job, and so many things have gone wrong that figuring out the problems becomes a nonissue because most of those problems have already been solved on previous run-throughs or jobs. The key is to remain calm and think the problem through.

Greiner also spoke about preparation when she shared her tips. “The best realtime provided is when you’ve had an opportunity to prepare a dictionary that’s case-specific. As a freelancer and now as an official, I go to the court websites and look at the case information. I am then provided with the Complaint, so I know whether the case is a product-services issue or an employment-related dispute. I wouldn’t want to waste my time researching what a company manufactures or some damage claim to only find out that it’s an HR case. I like to put the words that I’m likely to hear again in my personal dictionary because it can never hold enough. I only create a job dictionary for case-specific briefs, attorney names, and speaker IDs.”

Kimberly continued, “You’ll always be relaxed if you show up with plenty of time to set up and anticipate any unforeseen troubleshooting that might arise. I use a WiFi realtime delivery. Be prepared with a WiFi system with or without the firm’s WiFi available to you. Also, always carry duplicates of items in your bag. Cables can go bad. We bend them and fold them into our bags daily. Be sure to charge your machine the night before. Bring water and food so that you can stay focused and not have food brain drain. When you’re relaxed because you’re prepared, your realtime will reflect that.”

Alan Peacock had some really great insight on preparation, too. He said, “If you’re in real estate, you know the three key words are ‘location, location, location.’ For the realtime reporting world, the three words are ‘preparation, preparation, preparation.’

“When you’re assigned to a realtime job, you must always do your homework. And just like in school, waiting for the last moment is not a good idea. You need to have a sense of the subject matter that you’re about to address. For example, say that you’ve been assigned a realtime deposition in a class-action suit and the broad subject is coronavirus. Where do you begin?

“We are all so fortunate today to have the internet to help us with topic-specific terminology. I first contact the scheduling attorney or the reporting firm and request a copy of previous depositions in the case. I also request to have a copy of the Complaint, the Interrogatories and the Answers to Interrogatories.  Then I search the internet for my witness. Is she published? Is she on YouTube? Can I preview her speech? Is there information on her specifically or her publications? What about searching terminology related to the subject? All of that will give you a wonderful base to start building a job dictionary. Once you have the terms, work on developing one-stroke briefs for difficult terms or high-frequency words.

“Have a checklist prepared for the day of the job and double-check that you have all of your equipment, your backups, your chargers, your dictionaries— everything that you need.”

Alan mentioned that he once spent hours developing a dictionary for a job and then forgot to load it onto his laptop. It was a tough lesson to learn, but he learned from it nonetheless.

Alan continued that we need to learn from our mistakes. “Know yourself and what you are likely to do and not to do. Take note of those issues and use a checklist to make sure you are prepared and ready to go. And if you ever feel like you don’t know enough or you are not up to speed on the technology or the topics, there are hundreds of reporters who are experienced realtimers who will help you. Find them on Facebook or in online user groups and reach out to them. I am always happy to help anyone who reaches out to me with questions, and I find myself reaching out to others more and more.”

Alan ended his interview with his very wise counsel, “My message would be to prep, take notes, make checklists, and prep again. Then go and be confident and show the world what you can do!”

And that’s what I did. I prepped. And now I’m an author in a published journal.

Sandra  Mierop,  FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, is an agency  owner  and freelance court reporter based in Anchorage, Alaska, and a member of NCRA’s Technology Committee. She can be reached at

NCRA Government Relations update

NCRA Government Relations has been very busy this fall. On September 24, 2019, Jocelynn Moore, Director of State Government Relations, attended the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Disability Advisory Committee (DAC) meeting to demonstrate our commitment to our captioning members and the associations that support the deaf and hard-of-hearing communities.

NCRA also has been advocating for members on Capitol Hill this month. On Tuesday, October 8, 2019, Moore attended a tour of the U.S. Capitol Dome, which was hosted by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and his legislative assistant Emma Rindels. The Dome, which was constructed between 1854 and 1865, weighs 8,909,200 pounds and cost $1,047,291 at the time it was built.

Jocelynn Moore, NCRA Director of State Government Relations, visits Rep. Mike Gallagher’s (Wisc.) office.

Following the tour, Moore had meetings with U.S. Representatives from Wisconsin, including Jim Sensenbrenner, Bryan Steil, and Mike Gallagher, to advocate for the Training for Realtime Writers Act of 2019. The stand-alone bill was drafted by Rep. Ron Kind, also from Wisconsin, and is set to be introduced later this month.

Lastly, in an effort to reduce NCRA’s expenses for the 2020 budget, we have successfully re-negotiated a contract with lower rates for our legislative tracking software while maintaining the same legislative services we have offered to our members in the past. NCRA Government Relations looks forward to continuing our work on state and federal legislative issues and to continuing our representation of our members nationally.

Get the edge by attending NCRA’s CRR Boot Camp

Professionals considering taking the Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR) test have the opportunity to gain an advantage by attending the CRR Boot Camp being offered at the 2019 NCRA Convention & Expo in Denver, Colo., being held Aug. 15-18.

NCRA’s CRR certification represents realtime pro­ficiency for those who earn it as it is recognized in the industry as the national certification of real­time competency. Holding the CRR also can lead to an increase in salary, as noted by a number of recent NCRA surveys.

“As the CRR Chief Examiner in Massachu­setts, I saw so many candidates come back time and time again to take the certification test. It was bittersweet. They couldn’t pass, but they kept trying,” said Kathryn Sweeney, FAPR, RMR, CRR, a freelance reporter and agency owner from Acton, Mass., who helped develop the boot camp pro­gram and who will be teaching it at the NCRA Convention & Expo.

“The idea of the boot camp came about when the Board of the Massachusetts Court Reporters Association (MCRA) approached me with ques­tions as to why there were not more people pass­ing the CRR exam and what I could do to maybe help those candidates,” said Sweeney, who also served as a beta tester for NCRA’s online testing system and as CRR Chief Examiner on behalf of the Association for 17 years.

“They gave me two hours and a place to give a seminar back in October of 2009. It was originally named ‘Ready? Begin.’ Those are the two most dreaded words for even the most skilled court reporter,” Sweeney said.

Because it was felt that the original name of the program might actually scare people away, it was renamed the CRR Dress Rehearsal. Over the years, however, said Sweeney, the presentation turned into a three-hour session and was appro­priately renamed again to the CRR Boot Camp.

Word about the program has been spreading across states, according to Sweeney, who has been presenting the session all across the country, with more state associations contacting her about presenting it at their meetings.

Unlike NCRA’s newest certification, the Certi­fied Realtime Captioner (CRC), which requires participation in a 10-hour workshop before being able to take the test, the CRR Boot Camp is not a prerequisite for taking the CRR test. However, said Sweeney, it can certainly help with increasing the chances of passing on the first take.

In the course, she explains to attendees the testing requirements, covers NCRA’s What is an Error?, discusses what is not an error, and talks about the online testing process. She also offers tips on working on self-preparation, includ­ing what to have on test day, what to do and not do on test day, and how and why candidates fail. Participants in the session are also asked to bring their equipment with them because Sweeney said she also lets them take a couple of practice tests, as well as manipulate the system settings and dictionary entries.

“There is so much material. Even if just one thing I teach resonates with an attendee, one thing that they can go back and fix or change, it may just be the one thing that pushes them over the hump and gets them that CRR desig­nation,” said Sweeney.

One reason she attributes the program’s success in helping CRR candidates be suc­cessful in passing the test is because much of the material she covers about being prepared includes information often missed, such has having flash drives or SD cards properly for­matted, which is included in the recommended reading on the testing website and contained in the pre-test emails they receive.

“The most frustrating part of being the proc­tor at brick-and-mortar testing sites was that I could not help the candidates. It was simply not allowed. They were supposed to just know all this stuff. Heck, candidates showed up without their driver’s license because they didn’t know they needed to show it to me,” she said.

“I strongly believe taking the CRR Boot Camp will increase the chance of passing this test. When I finished my presentation in Geor­gia, a woman who already had her CRR came up to me and said that she wished this seminar was around when she was preparing for the test; that it had all of the information and steps that she muddled through on her own. She said it took years of figuring out what was being asked of her and then changing her writing and learning her equipment and software in order to pass,” Sweeney said. “With this boot camp, I can help you in three hours.”

Perhaps the greatest benefit of taking the CRR Boot Camp is that attendees will know if they’re ready to take the test or not, while those who have taken the test before will realize why they didn’t pass, she noted.

“I am a huge proponent of not throwing money away. If you’re not quite ‘there’ yet, then don’t spend (the money) on this test. You will learn what you need to work on before you take the plunge and sign up for the test. You will know when you’re ready, instead of just winging it and hoping for the best,” Sweeney added. “The CRR really is the easiest test you’ll ever fail. But why fail at all? Learn what you need to do in order to pass. Come to my boot camp!”

Sweeney, who has been a court reporter for 28 years, served eight years on her state association’s Board of Directors, two years as president, and recently joined as a director again in April.

To earn the CRR certification, professionals are required to hold the Registered Profes­sional Reporter (RPR) certification, be a current member of NCRA, and pass a realtime testi­mony skills test at 200 words per minute with 96 percent accuracy.

For more information about or to register for NCRA’s CRR Boot Camp and the 2019 Convention & Expo, visit

Sharing her enthusiasm and her realtime

By Jessica Wills

Jessica Wills, a student at the College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind., volunteered to boost her school’s recruiting efforts by putting on a realtime demonstration at a local high school career fair. She was nervous at first, especially when she found out her realtime was being projected on a large screen. But she soon won over her audience with her speed and accuracy.

Jessica Wills

I attended Wheeler High School’s career fair on behalf of my school, College of Court Reporting (CCR) in Valparaiso, Ind. I wanted to help promote the profession and help students get a better understanding of what court reporters do. Upon agreeing to speak at the career fair, I thought I would set up a booth and provide information to the high schoolers about court reporting and, of course, bring my machine along to show them what it looks like. Little did I know that I would be providing realtime while Nicky Rodriquez, the Director of Admissions for CCR, did all the talking!

As a student, I have never had the need to have my CAT software enlarged on a projector to show my realtime. I don’t think I have ever been so nervous! However, Nicky assured me it would be just fine, and that translation and realtime capability is part of what interests students so much and will hopefully draw them in to wanting to learn more about the profession.

While Nicky explained the role of a court reporter, I wrote every word she said while the realtime came up on the overhead board. I found that although my notes weren’t perfect, the students hardly knew because they were so fascinated by the skill and how steno woks. I explained to them that I can typically read my misstrokes and correct them, or I can define them in my dictionary so that they will come up correct next time. 

With each round of students, I began to feel a little more comfortable. To impress them even more, we had a competition by having them pull out their cell phones and write along with me to a 120 wpm dictation. At the end, I read my notes back, which were clean and exact, while they found they dropped whole sentences! They were amazed by how accurately I recorded each word. I think I did a good job of demonstrating how accurate and efficient court reporters are in capturing verbatim dialogue.

Although I knew that writing realtime would not be easy, I managed to get over my nerves and present a clean realtime feed. I told the students that I take pride in this profession because it’s a unique career and a challenging skill.  I truly love explaining to others how shorthand works and what I will be doing for my career. I am proud to say that I’ve worked hard to be where I am today and will always look to better my writing and improve my skills as a reporter. Through court reporting school, I gained a feeling of self-accomplishment, and I look forward to achieving even more throughout this journey.   

Jessica Wills is a student at the College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind.

Actor Tom Hanks ‘hearts’ captioning

Photo by David Kindler

NCRA member Jo Gayle, RPR, CRR, CRC, a freelance captioner from Chicago, Ill., recently earned a shout-out from actor Tom Hanks for her captioning skills during an event held by the Chicago Humanities Festival. The JCR Weekly reached out to Gayle to find out more about being recognized by an international celebrity for her skills. The JCR Weekly also reached out to Brittany Pyle, director of production and audience experience for the Chicago Humanities Festival, to learn more about the benefits captioning brings to audiences.

NCRA member Jo Gayle, RPR, CRR, CRC

JCR | How did you connect with the Chicago Humanities organization?
JG | I was asked by a captioning company to caption some of their events.

JCR | How long have you been captioning for them?
JG | Three years, since fall of 2015.

JCR | What types of events do you caption for them and how often?
JG | I started out just captioning a few events, but this fall I did 15 events as well as a day-long marathon of interviews that I split with a remote captioner. The events are either interviews or lectures, and the Humanities Festival chooses which ones will be captioned based on audience interest and accessibility requests.

JCR | What do you enjoy most about working with this organization?
JG | They are extremely accommodating when it comes to making sure I have a comfortable and accessible work space. Also I’ve enjoyed the diversity of events and the famous people I’ve been able to caption: Alan Alda, Gloria Steinem, Al Gore, and James Comey, just to name a few.

JCR | What were you captioning when Tom Hanks gave you a shout-out?
JG | He was doing an interview with Peter Sagal of NPR to discuss his love of writing and his collection of short stories, Uncommon Type.

JCR | Did you know he was going to do that?
JG | What happened was they did not know the event was being captioned and only discovered it when they looked at the screen behind them that was going to display audience questions.

Here’s the back and forth from the transcript:

PETER SAGAL: We have a couple of questions from members of the audience who submitted them earlier. We selected a few. We’ll put them up on the screen.
TOM HANKS: Oh, really?
TOM HANKS: I thought this was a temporary graphic.
I just realized that. Has that gone on? So you get to say I read the best interview with Tom Hanks. Anybody deaf that is actually doing it? Anybody hearing-impaired?
PETER SAGAL: Hello, I am the person typing the captions.
(Laughter and applause.)
TOM HANKS: Let’s hear it — are they up here or back there?
THE CAPTIONER: I’m up here.
(Laughter and applause.)
PETER SAGAL: That’s great.
We actually do have some questions for you so we can put them up.
TOM HANKS: That is hilarious. I’m sorry. That is just fantastic. I’m sorry, that is truly fantastic.
“Which character in your book do you love the most and why,” says Jill. There you go. We want Jill’s name up there twice. I think that’s fabulous.

JG | I felt I had to insert myself in there so they would know it was an actual person doing the captioning and not voice recognition or artificial intelligence.

JCR | What was your reaction?
JG | I got a big kick out of it, but I was overwhelmed when I received this email from him through the Humanities Festival:

You tell Jo Gayle that she made our night! A personality to go with those magic words! It was an honor to share the stage with her! Tell her that, or better yet, send her a text one word at a time … It was a grand night,
Tom Hanks

JCR | Did you get to meet him?
JG | No, unfortunately.

JCR | Have you met any other celebrities through this work?
JG | Alan Alda is the only celebrity I’ve met.

JCR | How long have you been a captioner?
JG | I’ve been a court reporter since 1980, and I transitioned into CART in 2004. I don’t do broadcast captioning, only CART captioning. Transitioning into CART was the best career move I ever made!

JCR | How did you learn about the court reporting/captioning profession?
JG | After four years of college and two years of grad school, I couldn’t find a job in what I majored in (mass communications), so my father, who was an attorney, told me about the court reporters he worked with and actually found a reporting school for me. I looked into it and found my niche.

This whole experience has been unreal. From getting the shout-out from Tom Hanks to having the event posted on both the NCRA and Illinois Court Reporters Association Facebook pages and in an email from the Chicago Humanities Festival to their subscribers has been beyond my wildest dreams! And the recognition from my colleagues is the topping on the cake!


Captioning provides accessibility

Here is what Brittany Pyle, director of production and audience experience for the Chicago Humanities Festival, said about the benefits that captioning brings to audiences.

JCR | How long have you offered captioning services to your audiences?
BP | We implemented open captions at our events in fall 2015.

JCR | What prompted your organization to begin providing captioning of your events?
BP | The Chicago Humanities Festival is committed to accessibility for all audience members. Back in 2015, I was learning a lot from my involvement with the Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium (CCAC). Based on audience feedback, I sensed that many people in our audience identified as being hard of hearing, and some audience members were deaf but ASL interpretation was not their preference. Being able to understand what a person is saying on stage is the primary value of our events. It became clear to me that making realtime captions available and visible to everyone in the room was going to be a clear benefit to our audience’s experience.

JCR | How long have you used the services of Jo Gayle?
BP | We’ve worked with Jo Gayle since the beginning of utilizing live event captions in 2015. We also work with a few other talented captioners in Chicago. We have so many events running at one time that we often need more than one captioner on a given day!

JCR | You mentioned that she is your go-to person for captioning services. Why is that?
BP | Jo has amazing accuracy. I’m very impressed by how she can listen to a fast talker rattle off complicated terminology and get it perfectly right on the screen. She works very hard to prepare for our events. She and I work together in advance to make sure she has everything we know about a particular speaker, words they might use, the correct spelling of names. Jo does a lot of prep work on her own, looking up videos of that person, learning their speech cadence, things they often talk about when they’re giving a presentation. If our audience members can spot her in a theater, they will flock to her after an event to thank her for how much her captioning helped them get more out of the event.

JCR | What would you say to other organizations considering offering captioning services to their audiences?
BP | It is so worth budgeting for this accessible service. I find captions to be beneficial to a wide audience. It makes our events inclusive of people who are deaf or hard of hearing but also elevates an experience that could be less than ideal, say, in an acoustically challenging church or helps aid understanding if a speaker has a heavy accent. I would also urge other organizations to aim for open captions (as opposed to closed captions on a device) so that they are integrated into the entire experience, and someone can see them from any seat in the house without having to self-identify. I would also urge organizations to make it easy and transparent for a person to request the service of open captions from your organization.

JCR | Please feel free to add any additional information you think would be helpful for the article.
BP | The Chicago Humanities Festival is a guest in over 40 venues per year, producing roughly 130 events per year. We try to make our events as accessible as possible by showcasing how to request accessible accommodations on our website when buying tickets, and our audience services representatives are trained to ask each ticket buyer if they require accessible accommodations as part of their order when speaking to people on the phone. While we haven’t been able to afford to caption all 130 events just yet, we do budget for requests, pre-schedule captioning in venues that would benefit from them, and we are always fundraising and applying for grants hoping to increase the number of events with open captions. I also think it would be a logistical challenge to get realtime captioners at 130 events, since a demand at that volume would certainly exceed the number of qualified captioners in Chicago! I would love it if more colleges and trade schools provided a pipeline into this growing field of realtime captioning for accessibility.

Veterans History Project, stenographers work to collect stories

Radio station WTOP in Washington, D.C., posted an article about NCRA’s and NCRF’s involvement with the Veterans History Project program.

Read more.

Listen to radio story.

Why realtime is wicked awesome: Exorcise your demons with these tips

Happy Halloween from your NCRA Tech Committee! This is a spooktacular article with tips and tricks on how court reporters can boo-st their expectations and relieve fears about realtime. Realtime fear is not a grave issue when you can implement some of the fangtastic ideas from our committee members. Don’t be frightened — start your realtime journey today. So creep calm and carry on!

Realtime is a ghoul’s best friend!

Don’t fear impostor syndrome

Realtime trick or treat

Fight the realtime monster by being prepared

Realtime captions are pure magic in the classroom

Realtime is a ghoul’s best friend!

By Lynette Mueller

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR

Lynette Mueller

Court reporters need to embrace the future of court reporting and move ahead — the future is realtime! Realtime is “wicked” awesome, for sure! The benefits of realtiming for your clients and yourself are many:

  • improved skills
  • less editing time
  • improved translation delivery
  • quicker transcript turnaround
  • job satisfaction
  • name recognition (people will ask for you specifically)
  • increased income
  • readback is phenomenal

Fear ~ an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

Fear is normal for everyone. Even the best of the best in our profession, I’m sure, experience that tug of fear every now and then. We must not let fear hold us back, though. As the definition of “fear” states, it is a belief that something dangerous may happen to cause pain or a threat. There is no physical pain when providing realtime. Remember that we are the guardians of the record and provide an essential and valuable tool for our clients and participants receiving our realtime feed. There are many resources available to attain your realtime potential and become the most important person in the room!

Like with many activities in our daily lives, trepidation and exhilaration go hand in hand. Those two emotions definitely happen with me for every realtime assignment. But with some helpful tips from experienced realtimers, those court reporters who are on the fence about providing realtime can break through the fears and start embracing the beauty of this tool. Just as you salt bland food, realtiming for yourself can turn your work life from dull to delicious! Overcoming your fear of anything will give you the focus to achieve great things and to do what you really want to do. It takes much effort to strive to become realtime-proficient, but the rewards are worth it!

When I do start having that feeling of fear, I take a step back and remind myself to do a few things in order to control the situation – and these are simple steps that you can take too:

  1. I do my realtime testing and job dictionary building the night before in order to be ready for the next day’s job. A detailed prep session will relieve the perceived stress.
  2. I control my breathing. It has a calming effect on the whole body.
  3. I don’t overthink my realtime sessions. Fear and anxiety thrive when I imagine the worst. I go in the deposition setting with the confidence that I will do the best job I can. I’ve already prepared and done the testing — I know I’ve got this!
  4. I think about the last realtime session I provided and how well it went. Yes, the fear was present, but the client was extremely pleased with my output. I get a “high” for a job well done!

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, is a freelancer based in Memphis, Tenn. She chairs NCRA’s Technology Committee.

Realtime captions are pure magic in the classroom

By Amy Marie Yarbrough

With each new semester, there’s a cauldron of frights. What if the professor lectures like an auctioneer? What if there’s only one plug and it’s in the back? What if all the students around me are banging on their keyboards, making it impossible to concentrate? Messy realtime is no longer the apparition of my nightmares. Realizing their fears can be far more intense, working with deaf and hard-of-hearing students relieves my anxiety in a very organic way. Walking into a room full of hearing people can cause goosebumps! The mere presence of their onsite captioner is a cloak of security and comfort.

Realtiming in the classroom doesn’t have to be terrifying. If you utilize the hocus pocus of your software, your consumer will appreciate your captions for what they are: Pure magic.

My biggest ally in conquering realtime demons is the BriefIt pane in Case CATalyst. If you fingerspell a tricky word, for instance, it will immediately suggest a brief, avoiding the need to resort to pronouns if the lecture is dense. Right-click on devilish words/phrases and choose Suggest a Brief when one does not appear.

You may have also noticed in your Brief It pane the (1), (2), and (3) followed by words you wish you had correctly stroked. Those are Live Suggestions, and they are nothing short of supernatural. Familiarize yourself with your Realtime Commands dictionary, which is found in System Files. It’s full of goodies!

The best way to know you’re not writing like Frankenstein is to show your translate statistics. Are they ghastly? Perhaps they are not so terrifying after all. Are you misstroking words or phrases the same way every time? If there’s no conflict, define them. The evolution of your skills depends on your ability to write shorter and more efficiently.

Many of us begin steno school aspiring to caption and then realize how spooky it is for someone to see our realtime feed. We are far too hard on ourselves! Let’s say there are make 25 mistakes out of 5,000 words. Sounds like a lot; right? That is 99.5 percent accuracy. What do we do? We dwell on the 0.5 percent errors rather than celebrating the 99.5 percent success. Manage your expectations and always be striving. Knowing you gave your all can alleviate feelings of defeat.

Harness your fear, howl at the moon, jump on your broomstick, and disguise yourself as a fearless, enchanted writer who does not dread a cobweb of mistakes.

Amy Marie Yarbrough is a CART captioner and freelancer court reporter based in Atlantic Beach, Fla. She is a member of NCRA’s Technology Committee.


Fight the realtime monster by being prepared

By Deborah Kriegshauser

Deborah Kriegshauser

Realtime stage fright: Will I be prepared? Will my equipment hook up to the judge? Will it hook up to the attorneys? Will it translate appropriately? What will they think when there’s a steno outline or a mistran? Oh, yeah, we all fight those demons. We are all human; remember?

Being a federal official, we have the capability to log onto our federal docketing system and can pull up the briefs written by the parties as well as the charging documents or complaints. Take advantage of that opportunity. You truly will get a feel for the terms and spellings you need to have in your steno dictionaries, be it the job dictionary or your main dictionary. Nothing’s more satisfying than to see people’s names translate correctly, especially on the attorneys’ laptops. Pull up those witness lists as well, as the exhibit lists that are filed ahead of time. They’re a wealth of information! Get those case-specific terms entered into your dictionary ahead of time. You can fight this monster!

I freelanced previously in my career. In the deposition setting, you never know what you’re walking into. What a nightmare in itself! The best thing you can do is keep up with your steno dictionary entries. Improve on your prefixes and suffixes. Practice your number drills. There’s lots of phone numbers and addresses and Social Security numbers in depositions.

While we all strive to have everything as perfect as possible, remember that realtime is still considered a rough draft but that rough draft can be of benefit to all parties. Your judge is going through voir dire and when approached about striking a witness for cause, he cannot recall the prospective juror’s answers; pull up the realtime and do a juror number search. Your Spanish-speaking interpreter is interpreting the spoken words to the defendant and they lose their place reciting the commentary and questions that were sped through by the judge and counsel; consult the realtime on the screen at the podium. Realtime is so valuable! I need spellings of people’s names mentioned as witnesses or DEA/FBI agents; pull up the realtime file and plug in those spellings with counsel right there on the spot!

By using reverse psychology, I conquered the fear of my realtime not being perfect on the screen. As I would tell my judge, that’s a sign that that person is just speaking way too fast or maybe it’s because my hands, fingers, and shoulders are just exhausted from writing so long without any break. I have actually scored a break by the judge realizing there were suddenly more untrans on the screen. He realized it was suddenly time for everyone to have a break. He truly does not have an evil spirit!

Invest in your realtime skills! In our profession, it’s simply a matter of life or death. We need our realtime skills to maintain this great profession and keep it alive and well!

Deborah Kriegshauser, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CRC, CLVS, is an official court reporter based in St. Louis, Mo. She holds NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator certification. She is a member of NCRA’s Technology Committee.