Friday, November 11, 2011

Skills Test Nerves

***I'm posting this now and not the week before the next NCRA skills exam, because the time to prepare isn't a week before the test.  The time to prepare is NOW.***

complete nervous breakdown in 3....2....1....

So it took me nine total goes to finally get the CCP skills this May, and here are a couple things that made the difference this last time.

(Note: The last five times I took it, I actually COULD write 180 for accuracy.  So these tips only apply if you've GOT the CHOPS.  The first four times I wasn't ready. The tip there is DON'T TAKE IT IF YOU DON'T HAVE THE CHOPS YET.)

1. Instead of taking the test 30 minutes away from home where I always took it, and seeing familiar faces, and getting swept up in all the bitching ABOUT the test before the test*, I drove 250 miles to the next closest testing site where I didn't know anyone.
1.1: Therefore it was much easier to not get swept up in the negativity.
1.2: I spent money on a (cheap) hotel, gas, meals, and another phone charger since I forgot mine, so you BET I was going to be sure I was prepared this time!!

2. To be SURE I was prepared for the test, I realtimed various literaries with the specific goal of practicing pulling out of tailspins caused by nerves/trailing/thinking too much. What killed me the previous few times was: I'd write along just fine, la dee dah, and make a mistakw -- asterisk -- mistake, and thenn starrt to freeze up adn gt nervus because of ithenasvnskegf;dsjn;asdg;lns;lkasldfalsd.

Like that.

I practiced getting nervous.  Specifically.  If I was writing along at the target speed and felt myself start to slip, GOOD! It's an opportunity to get better at pulling out of a tailspin.

See, I always realized that if I'm writing depos while mentally in la-la land and an atty asked, "Could you read back the last question?" and I had NO CLUE what the question was, I knew I'd NAILED the question perfectly -- punctuation, hyphenation, homophones, everything.

I trained myself to look at a picture of one of my wrestling crushes so I'd slip back into la-la land and stop thinking about the words or my fingers.  As I wrote a practice take, I'd feel myself slipping or thinking -- and then look at him.  Soon it became almost a hypnotic suggestion (heck, I probably DID technically hypnotize myself, but I'm not an expert).  I'd start to slip, look at my picture, and my fingers would take back over the writing.  Just like that.  He's not my current crush anymore, but it still works.

Trust your fingers.

I did take after take, starting with my 180 literaries and working my way up.  I wrote each take imagining this was THE TEST, and I graded them afterwards with extreme prejudice.  I got to where I could do 200 wpm for a couple minutes at accuracy, so I knew I had a cushion.  I finished my 200 wpm takes and thereafter practiced literary at speeds not under 220 wpm.

I brought the picture to the CRR test.  Set up just as if I was doing a regular job.  Didn't visit with others beyond exchanging pleasantries; practiced a few -- just a few, as I tend to test better cold -- minutes of Magnum Steno's 220+ wpm dictation.

The warm-up minute was finished, and the hands started to tremble -- but I took a deep breath and looked at my picture.  I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I could DO THIS.

Ready? Begin.

*My fellow test-takers, I love you all, but we do get to bitching when we get together. Just sayin'. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Convention Aftermath 2011

I gave my first continung-education seminar ever on August 1 at the NCRA 2011 Annual Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Downside: It was Sunday morning, and there wasn't a huge crowd.  Upside: It was Sunday morning, and there wasn't a huge crowd.

A good crowd, nonetheless.  Maybe about 20-25 people? I don't know.  Hard to count when you're too busy wondering HOW WAS I GOING TO FINISH THE SENTENCE I JUST STARTED AND WHY DID I JUST PUT THIS GRAPHIC UP OMG I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE DID I LEAVE OFF IN MY NOTES.

It felt exactly like the realtime contest -- plenty of nerves beforehand, plenty of nerves during; however, there were good stretches where I was confident and articulate, and there were also areas where I flubbed and stumbled and dropped.  But, like the realtime contest, it felt ATTAINABLE that in the near future I will be confident and clear all the way through.

And I MUST thank my dear husband Greg for jumping in a time or two with insights here and there.  He's not just my husband and best friend but also my wingmate.  In fact, if I get asked to teach on social media again, we may copresent.

In the months leading up to this session, I did a heck of a lot of research into successful social media marketing.  That research plus my own experience revealed several points in common, which I shared then and share below:

1. Determine your purpose.  And I should've said right after clicking on the slide, "Use the right platform the right way." (I had a funny pic, but I didn't tie it in with the point. Note to self.)   Use each platform according to its natural culture and determine who your target audience is.
2. Add value.  You must bring something to the table, because people OPT-IN to follow you and don't want to be bombarded with ads.
3. Engage with your followers by listening and responding.  People want to CONNECT with you, not be talked at.
4. Be real and consistent.  Post regularly, and don't portray yourself as something you're not.
5. Look at your profile and your interactions through the eyes of your prospective customers.  Would you hire you?  Avoid the text-speak and take down the drunk pictures, at least. Like this one.
Notice also that the cap is still on my borrowed beer.
6. Cross-pollinate and direct everything back to your blog or website.  If you update content on one platform, post on ALL platforms that it is updated.
7. Take the relationship offline.  Handwrite thank-you notes.  Meet up (in public).  Don't wait for someone to contact you first.
8. Be patient.  This is like gardening; it takes time, patience, and consistent effort.
9. Embrace opportunity! The fear of success can be just as damaging as the fear of failure.  Have a plan.

There.  And it didn't take me 90 minutes to say!

Afterward, Greg and I headed to La Creperie or however you spelled it for a light--LIGHT--lunch.  My stomach was still deciding whether or not to accept food.  We ate and deconstructed the seminar, so it will be better next time.  Next time?  I hope so.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Guide for NCRA National Convention Newbies

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PhotobucketThe first time I stepped into an NCRA National Convention exhibit hall was in 2008 at Anaheim, CA.  I was completely overwhelmed by all the court reporting action that was going on.  I remember on the plane home my brain was so full of new information and new friends I could barely read or even rest.

I highly HIGHLY recommend you go to a National Convention if you've never done so.   If it's your first time, here are some tips:

These first three tips are for us nerds, because we like things to be written down and listed.
Convention can be like going to a grocery store.  Look through the convention brochure and make a list--yes, a list--of information you want, while you're there take copious notes, and review them a bit at a time after you get home.
Make a list of books/products you want to buy, because you'll score good deals.  Especially if you hit up the booths before they close on Saturday!
The heros you look up to are Actual People.  Talk to them and pick their brains if you have the opportunity.
Mingle like crazy.
Go to all the sessions no matter HOW hungover you are.
Go to the Saturday night party and hang out with your new friends.
There will be drunk people there. Try not to be one of them.  We're all Facebook friends now, and pictures have a way of getting uploaded and tagged.  It can take a while to live down.  No, I'm not going to name names...but I COULD.
The Sunday morning sessions will be filled with everyone's luggage.  You may bring yours too. It makes for a good footrest.
Come to my session, "Social Media for CART Providers," on Sunday morning!  What I will teach will apply even if you're not into CART. Bring your smartphone or notebook computer and start building your online network RIGHT THERE!
Follow up with your new friends a few weeks afterwards.

Convention veterans, what are some other good tips?  Anyone going to the Annual Convention for the first time this year?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

July 31, 2011, 10:15 am

That's the official time for the seminar I'm doing at the NCRA 2011 Annual Convention, which has been titled "Social Media for CART Providers."  I'll be talking about using social media as your marketing strategy -- and in my case, social media IS my marketing strategy.

I've got lots of tips to share which will apply not just to CART providers, but anyone wanting to grow their business.  Feel free to join us, even if you're not a CART provider.  I've got so many ideas and tips that I don't know if 90 minutes will be enough!

But I'm stuck on one thing:  the "brief biographical sketch" I need to submit by June 1.  This is hard to write!  Third-person writing is not my forte, but I do what I must For The Children For The Profession.

What street cred must one have to be considered a social media expert? I am more knowledgable than most on how Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn works, but NCRA hasn't developed a "Facebook" certification.

I've got my RMR and quite possibly the CCP (skills tests results pending); I'm a member of my state's membership committee and NCRA's online social media committee.  I've listed those.

I'll think of something.  You'll have to come to Vegas on July 31st to see what I end up writing.  See you in two months!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

2011 director's cut

I've been asked to present a session at this year's NCRA Annual Convention in Las Vegas about marketing yourself through social media. I've got my rough outline and TONS of information to give.  Over the next couple of months I'll share some of it here for those of you who can't make it to the convention.

I'm also itching to use this graphic, but I probably won't. So here it is:

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Career Day 2011

Every year around the end of February, Lake Land College in Mattoon, Illinois, holds the Eighth Grade Career Conference. Eighth graders from area schools take a half day to explore various careers to jump-start their thinking on the eternal question, "What do I want to do when I grow up?"

This year the Illinois Court Reporters Association was represented by Sarah Wilhoit on Thursday and Georgia Rollins and I on Friday. We set up at a table on the perimeter of the Field House gym, as were the other professions, and the sessions began with the students seated in the middle and watching the motivational speaker, "Chalk Guy" Ben Glenn, create a gorgeous landscape with chalk.

An aside: Volunteer for this just to watch his chalk painting. I've seen it six times now, and every single time I get teary-eyed from the beauty. Check him out online if you're intrigued.

After the presentation, the students must visit at least three booths and ask certain questions. For example, "What do you like most about your job?" "What classes should I take in high school to prepare for this career?"

Our booth was set up next to the bomb squad, and their rep brought grenades and pipe bombs. You can see his paraphernalia on the table behind Georgia. (Needless to say, the TSA were NOT represented at this conference.) For the first half of the day, Georgia and I sat and watched the bomb squad's line of interested students grow to stretch halfway across the gym. On the bright side, our lack of customers gave us time to set up the projection screen so everyone could see our realtime.

Georgia did most of the talking while I wrote her and the students, who, like, totally, like, freaked out because, like, what they were, like, saying was, like, appearing in big yellow letters for, like, the whole world to, like, see. (I write "like" with commas around it as LAO*EUK.) And Georgia did a wonderful job! She was dynamic and engaging, and the kids walked away from our booth understanding that court reporting and captioning is an amazing and valuable profession that just may be for them.

After the students left, we had a lunch break, after which we reset for a brand new bunch of eighth graders. This time I was able to CART the full session: the welcome, announcements, and Ben Glenn -- and if you ever caption him, heads up. He likes to say "Sasquatch."

This is my serious face.

Georgia and I could see several students' heads turn towards our screen, and that definitely brought in some interested kids! A gaggle of four or five young men were tickled when I told them that if I want the phrase "to a reasonable degree" to come up, I write TURD. They liked the idea of getting paid to caption sports games, whether on TV or in the stadium.

Afterwards, a mother and daughter expressed their appreciation to me because they recently came to the States, were learning English, and better understood today's happenings because they could see my realtime. Thank ME? I thank THEM for the appreciation! That made this day extra special.

Don't hoard your skill, everyone. Share it.

Monday, January 10, 2011


... do you care that your fellow student who entered school at the same time you did is now two speed levels above you? (Are you any less graduated because you did it after her?)

... do you compare yourself with speed and realtime champions NOW? (Do you feel you must have top-tier speed NOW? Do you think they got their awards after only a couple years of working?)

... do you care that So-and-So passed the RMR in the first try, while you're taking it for the 20th time? (Are those letters any less valuable because you didn't attain them on your first attempt?)

Are you doing the best you can? Are you pursuing your goals? Are you pursuing excellence in your current or future career? Have you made progress towards the "next step," whatever that step may be for you?

Then why do you give a crap if you're doing so slower or faster than someone else?