Had the pleasure and privilege of going to Mary Ann Payonk’s Empowerment Conference 2019. It happened October 17 through October 20th. It’s all about court reporter empowerment, and it’s been running for years. It’s all about reporters, including skills and knowledge necessary to succeed. It featured CaseCAT trainings by Grace Molson and Dineen Squillante. It had an effective communication workshop by TALLsmall, whose course and guidance can help reporters in a really big way. It had California heroes Kimberly D’Urso and Kelly Bryce Shainline from Protect Your Record. Empowerment attendees also had the pleasure of having Brewster Rawls speak to them on antitrust. The short of it is that there were attendees from over 20 states and the United Kingdom. It’s all summed up by its de facto slogan, “when reporters get together, great things happen.”
Every single person I spoke to had one thing to say about Empowerment: It recharged them. That really gives us a good look into something about our work. It can get draining. It can get isolating. We can go long periods of time without seeing each other, or any other stenographic reporter. Protecting the record can get very lonely, and it’s these conferences that remind us we’re not alone and that there’s a whole cadre facing the same issues. Honestly, Empowerment did the same for me. It was recharging. It was refocusing. It made me not only want to commit to every future Empowerment conference, but all of the conferences I often skip due to personal reasons.
Just for a glimpse into what we saw, I’d like to focus in on the TALLsmall presentation of October 18. We went over communication and words that can dilute our message, fillers, doormats, downplayers, and doubt creators. A lot of reporters in the room said something along the lines of they use those words to be polite, or so that they wouldn’t come off as a know-it-all, or so that they wouldn’t be seen as “bossy” or “a b****.” For me, sitting in that room, every single thing the reporters said resonated with me. I remembered times when I felt the same way. I remembered times I got walked over because I didn’t know how to say what I needed to say. MAPEC 2019, in my view, is a wake-up call. We’re largely a field of introverts. A lot of us picked up that machine so that we could go to work, do our job, and not have to speak to people. We’re dealing with salespeople. We’re dealing with people who deal with people every day. We’re dealing with lawyers, whose prime directive is to argue a client’s position. This is the veritable David v Goliath of communication, and many of us are not beating Goliath today. It makes perfect sense for our state associations and every conference to start hosting more workshops on communication. Doesn’t matter if it’s TALLsmall, Al Betz, Toastmasters, or Katen Consulting. Sitting in that room, I took away that we need these workshops so that we can pass those skills on and foster an environment where new reporters are not getting walked over like many of us have been for 10, 20, 30 years. It’s a chance to empower not just ourselves, but the industry, the next person to take up the baton / tripod.
If you get a chance to connect with Mary Ann, go to the next MAPEC, or any conference that you’re on the fence with, my advice is make the leap and go. Do it. It’s worth it. You’ll make new connections. You’ll reinforce professional relationships. You’ll come away full of ideas for your own state and how things can be better. On a personal level, I’m a fanboy. I got to see for myself that all of the people I adore really are all that. They’re funny, smart, caring people. I got to meet some of my own fans, and that was worth more than my weight in gold ( > $6 million).
If you haven’t searched up #MAPEC2019, get going. You can still experience the pictures, the vibes, and get yourself psyched up for MAPEC 2020. I could write a thousand words pleading with you to be there, but it can all be summed up in a single image.