MAPEC 2019

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.


StenoFest 2019

Marc Greenberg’s been a real ally for the stenographic community. He runs Simply Steno, created the For the Record documentary, and most recently came out with StenoFest 2019, a virtual conference and webinar hub that let us start court reporting and captioning week off with a bang. I’ll be the first to admit, I dropped the ball and didn’t advertise it on here, and didn’t contribute to its success this weekend, February 9 and February 10.

They had tons of speakers and influences from all over the stenographic community. I couldn’t be present for some of my favorite steno personalities like Dom Tutsi or Mirabai Knight, but my understanding is I’ll be entitled to watch those on demand soon.

I did get to catch Mark Kislingbury talk on Sunday about shortening writing. I very rarely correlate a person’s success to their ability to help others succeed, but Mark had a very interesting theory and mathematical concept I think everyone should learn and know. Take your strokes per minute, divide that by 60 to get your strokes per second. He basically posited that writers will fall somewhere between three strokes a second and five strokes a second. He then said look at your strokes per 100 words. If you take multiple strokes for every word, it makes it much harder to reach high speeds even if you have very high finger speed. If you are phrasing and briefing, and you are getting many words into a single stroke, then you can achieve very high speeds even if your strokes per second are low. I support all writers, whether we are writing it out or briefing, but it is definitely worth taking the time to consider the math. If you are writing 3 strokes a second and every stroke is a word, that’s 180 words per minute. If every two strokes is a word, you’re down to 90 words a minute. It makes that much of a difference.

Bottom line: StenoFest was great. On Sunday, I saw over 300 people logged in from all over the world, including Australia. I think there was a lot to take away from it and if you have any interest in any of the seminars that occurred throughout the day, I advise you to look into getting it on demand. Everything from the pain of vicarious trauma to the future of court reporting was discussed, and it can all be relevant to how you live and work as a stenographer. Thank you, Marc, for StenoFest. I know you will inspire more webinars, more sharing, and a larger community.