As we savored the last bites of our beignets and bid adieu to the jazz-filled streets of New Orleans, our minds raced with the inspiration and camaraderie shared from the AAERT’s latest Executive Forum conference. Held March 31 and April 2 at the Renaissance Arts Hotel in downtown New Orleans, attendees not only enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the city itself, but they also enjoyed dynamic presentations that stirred ideas, fostered motivation, and recognized the excellence that digital reporting has to offer the judicial field and AAERT’s role in supporting its membership.

Vendors lined the perimeter of a lovely room featuring fabulous pictures from local artists. Engaging conversation was occurring everywhere anyone looked as exciting features in technology were demonstrated. Experts answered questions with both patience and eagerness to share all that is available for use by transcribers and digital reporters. Our President, Jan Harris, welcomed everyone warmly, and hugs and handshakes were exchanged among new and old friends and colleagues.

The presentations were spectacular. William Snowden kicked off the conference with a thought-provoking discussion about implicit bias. As he shared his personal experiences – from childhood through adulthood – as well as his professional experiences and knowledge, those in attendance were enlightened as they grew to understand how their own biases exist and how to address them.

Geri DeAngelis led a panel which included Ben Jaffee, David Ross, Larry Swope, Mike McDonner, and Sandi Wilson who led us in recognizing, celebrating, and communicating the value of digital reporting and its role alongside other methods of word capture.

Zhandra Marin, an attorney and cybersecurity expert, was a featured speaker who provided valuable information and advice on protecting not just our professional digital footprint, but also our personal materials. With the advance of ASR, saving files to the cloud, and avoiding security risks, her expertise was very timely.

Chris N. Cheetham-West, author and business executive, taught attendees over two sessions how to maintain the culture of our organizations in an increasingly remote environment. He also presented on the best leveraging marketing efforts to reach our target audience and how to take advantage of all that social media platforms, ads, and Google searches have to offer. His work-from-home strategies, advice on promoting well-being among employees while promoting accountability for all team members gave everyone plenty of food for thought.

Geri DeAngelis once again took on the role of moderator with a panel discussion focused on the legislation and challenges that face our professional community throughout the country. Ben Jaffee, Kathy DiLorenzo, Mike McDonner, Richard Russell, and Susan LaPooh addressed the concerns of our membership with lively and important conversation.

Jen Krueger and Kelly Moranz guided us through the process of change that we all go through when something new is introduced. In our ever-evolving technology-driven profession, change and transformation are upon us. Taking a bit of time to better understand the stages of transition that lead to successful transformation was well received.

Some fun was had with Ben Jaffee as his presentation, Strength-Based Leadership, had participants answering questions on their phones prior to the start of the session that resulted in group placement for an activity where we built towers with marshmallows, tape, string, and spaghetti noodles – and yes, they were uncooked! This was an entertaining yet enlightening session that recognized the importance of team work and acknowledging others’ strengths and talents to maximize best results.

And while all those fabulous sessions were going on, vendors were continually accessible for one-on-one chats and some hands-on training. Talented photographers were available for professional headshots. Sharing a fabulous photo that gives potential clients as well as colleagues an idea of one’s personality before meeting in person or virtually can set the tone pleasant interaction. The cameras were clicking, that’s for sure, and the photos much appreciated. The hotel was lovely. The food was delicious and gave us truly a taste of the local favorites.

It seemed that everyone left the conference with a renewed sense of purpose and a determination to implement the valuable lessons learned into their professional journeys. Our next opportunity to spend time together is in St. Louis, and we hope you’ll meet us there this June at the annual convention!

– Your Professional Development Committee

All sessions were recorded and will be made available on the LMS later this year.

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