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Spectacular achievement is always preceded by unspectacular preparation (Robert Schuller). This is true in any industry but is especially true in the captioning world. Depending on the type of event, prep can be short and sweet or extensive. The reality is that being prepared can make all the difference in the accuracy of that event and it being spectacular. It can be the difference between 95% of the content having accurate spellings, words, and terminology versus 98% or greater. That means 56 errors in five minutes of talking at 225 words per minute versus 22.5 errors in that same time frame and same speed. This high accuracy is so important because the audience can misunderstand the story or miss the meaning completely.

Names and terms are very important to a company or client’s culture. Imagine going to a tech conference about Google Analytics to become a better Web Developer, but you’re hard-of-hearing. You’re relying on the captions to essentially better yourself and your business. It is crucial for the captioner to get names of speakers, sessions, and terminology ahead of time to write as accurately as possible. If I can get speaker presentations the day before, that is ideal. You never know what names or acronyms they’re going to use in their presentations. Since I’m not a Web Developer, I don’t come across these terms on a daily basis.

However, this is true for any event or show. If I’m working remotely for a television station, I may not be familiar with surrounding cities, landmarks, and celebrities of the station I’ll be captioning for. This is important in news, especially for a weather event. Access to teleprompter scripts in this case is extremely helpful. I do use Google all the time, but scripts can narrow that down for me and make the most of my time. If it is a government webinar or training for an organization, I probably haven’t heard of the acronyms used or the software that is used for the job. Having that ahead of time makes everything go smoother and decreases the likelihood of an error. I cannot overstress the importance of this. The same is true for sporting events, city councils, graduations, tournaments, conferences, etc.

All of these terms and names go into dictionaries in my captioning software. I start with a basic general dictionary, and then I load technical ones depending on the client and content. For example, a medical dictionary is loaded for a nursing student’s classes. A network with specific reporters and sports teams has dictionaries loaded with those unique names and spellings. I have to distinguish between Dion, Deon, and Deion. I have to know the difference between effect and affect, which sound the same.

Being prepared can be tedious and not the most glamorous work, it ensures that everyone can understand the content being presented, whether they are deaf, hard of hearing, have ADD, or are hearing and have the sound turned low or off. The truly the spectacular achievement is communication access at a 98% accuracy as a minimum. When everything goes off without a hitch, everyone gets to be a part of that success.

Tess