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Whether you are already providing realtime to all your clients or whether you are just dipping a toe into realtime feeds, you can pick up something new from talking to other reporters. That is exactly the premise of NCRA’s Taking Realtime Awareness and Innovation Nationwide (or TRAIN, as it is called). TRAIN is a program designed to offer small-group training on a local basis, and it taps into the same spirit of sharing known among court reporters when computers, CAT, and, later on, realtime became a part of the court reporter’s services. At that time, many freelancers still worked out of an office and had the opportunity to discuss the day’s problems and offer suggestions on building skills.
Toni O’Neill, RPR, an official in Riverside, Calif., remembers her own experience, “The one thing to which I credit my success in providing a realtime feed is that I reached out and contacted other reporters who were providing realtime services. Not only could I pick their brains about what worked or didn’t work for them in the process of providing realtime, but they listened to my fears and trepidations and normalized my fear and nervousness about the process. Attending seminars about realtime also enables me to walk away with one or two tips that I immediately incorporate into my realtime routine. Even though I’ve been providing realtime for 22 years, I still am able to pick up new information and tips, reinforcing my belief that attending realtime seminars is well worth the time and the money.”
As TRAIN reached its one-year mark, the JCR polled some of the participants to get ideas for every reporter. See if one of these tips will entice you to get started or resolve a problem that you have had.
DEFINE ON THE FLY
Learn to “define on the fly” from your writer. Learn to quickly define words that are not translating properly by shortening them up and making a quick brief for them. Contact your software vendor for instructions if you do not know how to do this. Most of the CAT software has this capability.
A good way to learn how to be more efficient with defining from the writer is to define proper words from your court calendar or the case caption each morning before you begin the proceedings. This way, you will have plenty of time to define them without being rushed. As you get more and more efficient at it, you will begin to develop the ability to define quickly and literally “on the fly,” even while in the middle of proceedings.
Lesia Mervin, RMR, CRR
WRITE WITH CONFIDENCE
I have printed instructions for the attorneys to follow for Case-View, Bridge, etc., in order to help them with the commands if they’re not familiar with the programs. That seems to be very helpful. I have them in plastic sleeves, as Sue Terry [one of the
TRAIN Committee members] had recommended.
It’s very important to have the driver on a thumb drive. I made the mistake of not having that the first time I did realtime. I had to get an Internet connection and have everyone wait while I downloaded the driver.
I feel the more I think about what I’m writing while the attorneys are watching the screen, the more nervous I get. So I try to just write very confidently and not worry about the attorney watching my screen. That seems to help my nerves.
Janie L. Blair, RPR
My tip: Always prepare for the worst and hope for the best. What I mean by this specifically is, when providing realtime via any modality, whether by cables, StenoCast Bluetooth, WiFi, or the Internet, know your environment so your realtime setup/equipment will be reliable to send a realtime feed.
Sandy VanderPol, RMR, CRR
ASK A BUDDY
To help build your confidence before your first live feed to attorneys, set up realtime for your videographer to view. This will be a good way for you to get used to another set of eyes on your screen. Ask for the videographer’s impressions to help build your confidence or to work on problem areas.
Lisa Migliore Black
EDIT YOUR DICTIONARY
I have been reporting since 1976 and did not learn a computer compatible theory, obviously. When I first started doing realtime for myself, I edited everything to improve my dictionary and edited my dictionary on a regular basis, along with making changes to my writing.
I also practice hooking into another computer using every system by every means available to me. My court has 15 judges, and each one has a different computer or laptop and needs a different hookup or setting. I learned from Sue Terry in our initial BRATS sessions here in Ohio how to look for and make the changes quickly. And when I attend a TRAIN session, I always practice hooking up my computer to someone else at the session.
Susan M. Horak, RDR, CRR
- Know your software. Stay up to date with your software. Take advantage of the tips and tricks that are already built-in features of your software. CAT vendors have done a lot to help reporters provide excellent realtime services.
- Be open to change. Realtime writing is a journey towards excellence. A plethora of realtime writing books and websites explore ideas on how to improve steno theory. You don’t have to embrace every single idea. You can pick and choose what you like and ignore what you don’t like. You’re the person in control of your steno machine — no one else!
- Build your dictionary with prefixes, suffixes, and root words. Input major cities, colors, flowers, trees, car models, common first and last names, etc. If you know it, put it in your steno dictionary, as Mark Kislingbury, RDR, CRR, says. CAT software has dictionary building features to make it easier than ever to build your dictionary.
- My final suggestion: A good starting point is review your common writing mistakes that you are fixing during the editing stage of transcript production. As an example, for over a decade, I kept fixing the word “and” (written APBD) during editing. I would misstroke “and” and the words abdomen, apprehend, April, an, ab, everything but “and” would be the ultimate translation. Obviously, a huge amount of time was involved in editing that simple three-letter word. Something had to change. A student told me she was being taught SKP- in school. I wasn’t immediately enthralled with the idea, but I pondered it for a while and it grew on me. My realtime writing improved tremendously once I made the SKP- change. Of course, my production time improved along the way.
Allison A. Kimmel, RDR, CRR, CBC, CCP
BRIEF THE PHRASES
- A great tip I got was to pay attention to the phrases your judge says all the time and then brief it for a clear realtime session. For example, in pleas and sentencings, the judge might say “knowing, intelligent, and voluntary,” so use NOIF or something like it.
- Know your software. Take a refresher course or call your support to help with your realtime translations.
Marie Fresch, RMR
CLEAN UP AS YOU GO
I realtime for myself, and the best advice I can give is that it is so helpful to see how you are writing while on a job. It gives you the opportunity to clean up your work right on the spot.
Christina N. Blair
GET ON THE TRAIN
Since getting involved in TRAIN, our reporters are more confident and emboldened with the knowledge that they do not have to write everything perfectly. We now have more reporters that are able and willing to supply our bench with realtime feed. They realize, too, the importance of keeping ourselves marketable. Currently, we have 17 judges who receive realtime either on a daily basis or when they have a trial and want the added benefit of the realtime feed. Twenty-one of our 55 reporters on staff are capable of providing realtime. This is a significant jump from two years ago and even a year ago. I expect this number to continue to grow as I continue to pose the question, “Are you ready to realtime?”
Our latest project that we are undertaking with our IT department is to provide realtime feed to judges’ iPads. Now that’s exciting!
Denise Sanders Pellerito, RPR
Court Reporting Department Manager
Here is one thought and it’s not all that positive: As a profession, we are only as strong as our weakest link. If you aren’t doing realtime and you are not willing to take the next step in order to be a realtime reporter soon, you are holding the profession back. Bottom line, it is no longer an option for a profession serving the public in this day and age, with the large population of hearing-impaired and Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, etc., to not be the best when it comes to preserving the record. We are the only method that can do this instantaneously. If you aren’t with us, you are against us. Commit, put your goals in writing, and be the professional you are trained to be!
Reagan Evans, RMR, CRR
FOCUS ON THE BENEFITS
Providing realtime really forces me to be the best writer I can be. I write cleaner, I define more, and I make sure that the deposition stays under control. And all of that cuts down on transcription time. That’s really what I’ve liked the most.
Also you are offering a service that not everyone does, so you get priority when it comes to job assignments.
Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
DO IT YOURSELF
One tip that I think has helped me most in being a solid realtime provider is that I’ve always refused to let someone else set up my computer. I spent a little time figuring out how to set all the options myself and where to check ports and connections. While many of the large agencies and courts provide IT help to assist you, I wanted to be sure I knew how to do it myself. I’m not always going to have IT help with me on the job, and it pays to invest the small amount of time learning how to put it together yourself. NCRA now has many helpful videos to walk you through the do-it-yourself way, and you’ll learn in the process. Be a do-it-yourselfer.
Always check your ego as you’re stepping out of the car in the morning. Make realtime fun. It can be. Laugh with the mistakes and your clients will, too. Strive to be your best, but don’t fret when it’s not perfect. Nobody is going to suffer or go to prison if your “best” stroke becomes your “breast” stroke.
Invest in yourself. Keep your equipment and software up to date, and know how it works. Your CAT user group is one of the best places to learn the tips you need to be a success. Even with 37 years in the industry, I always learn something new at every gathering. It adds up and makes you a better reporter.
Here’s a tip I’ve given that some people have appreciated. You don’t have to be “sending out” your realtime to be improving it and striving to get to where you feel comfortable doing it. Invest a small amount in a netbook or iPad, and do what’s necessary to get it working. Then realtime to just yourself. You’ll know how to do the hookups and won’t be nervous if you’re asked some day to provide realtime service. You’ll also improve your writing, and that makes you more money. Time is money. You never need to let anyone see that extra device you’re realtiming to; you’re just learning and getting better. In the meantime, you’re producing faster, better transcripts. A raise!
A small agency I worked with used to have monthly breakfast meetings. We’d get together for breakfast and choose one reporter to pick on for that month. We’d print out a rough of his/her transcript, and all of us would go through it to make suggestions on how to improve the writing and suggest briefs items that were causing lots of editing. Again, check the ego in the car before you head to the meeting. It was one of the best ways to improve skills that I’ve ever seen. It’s like “The Biggest Loser” but with fun ways to improve writing.
Print out transcripts and occasionally analyze what is causing you the most editing. I would write down words, phrases, or anything that needed to be changed to lessen editing, and tackle them a few at a time. Sometimes when you look at a transcript outside of the proofing chore, you might realize that you are making the same mistakes over and over on certain words or letter combinations, and you can work on that. Within a short time, you’ll find that you are spending less time editing and getting better realtime results.
One more tip that’s really helpful. Use a good scopist occasionally, and then ask for his or her honest feedback on the repetitive mistakes you make that drive them crazy. That person will see things you won’t, and if he or she is honest with you, the scopist can truly help to make you a better writer. Three cheers for scopists who help improve their clients with good feedback! Some of the best suggestions I’ve had came from a good scopist.
Sue Terry, RPR, CRR
For more information on NCRA’s TRAIN program, visit ncra.org/TRAIN.
© Copyright NCRA 2013. Originally published in NCRA’s JCR magazine, May, 2013.