What is AT Banter?

Well, to me — it’s many things.

It’s a weekly opportunity to see a couple of guys that I’ve grown pretty close to over a period of over 15 years, have a few laughs with them, and talk about issues that are important to the three of us.

It’s a dedicated, weekly time sink that requires me to edit, clean-up, and post an hour long show to a Friday morning deadline, sometimes requiring me to shuffle around any number of other tasks or activities in order to ensure it’s on time.

It’s an opportunity for myself (and my co-hosts, Ryan Fluery and Steve Barclay) to learn, whether it’s regarding a new emerging technology that’s being applied to Assistive Technology or a story from a guest regarding their personal struggles and how they overcame them.

But most of all, it’s a passion project, the result of a marketing meeting over ciders at the lunch room table of Aroga Technologies. A crazy, out-of-the-box (well, at least for us) idea borne out of the desire to help give the company’s social media network a boost and another chance to produce some valuable  content and information for the community.

We initially imagined a short, 20 minute audio podcast specifically about Assistive Technology products that Aroga sold, interspersed with industry news and released on a bi-monthly basis. My co-worker and cubicle-mate of almost 15 years, Ryan Fluery, provided a key sounding board and the more we talked about it, the more developed the plan became.

Before long, we pitched the idea to Steve Barclay, our long time supervisor and now part owner of the company. He loved the idea and agreed to participate in it, despite his days already being full with trying to keep the company running smoothly.

Ryan was the office audiophile, so he knew all about the various audio components that we’d need. He used his own credit card and Amazon account and began amassing a snake’s nest of cables, microphones, and even a 4-channel mixing board. We convinced head office to order us a new desktop computer that would serve as a recording device and technical hub that would host the various software packages that were needed.

Then, on a sunny Spring day in May, the inaugural episode of what Ryan had started calling ‘AT Banter’ was recorded – and it was an unmitigated disaster. As it turns out, Podcasting is right up there with golfing, yoga, dancing, horseback riding and marriage as something that looks deceptively easy but is in actuality quite difficult to do.

Recorded while the three of us were crammed into my office, the episode was resplendent with audio problems, verbal gaffes, and long, drawn out lulls of silence while Steve, Ryan and I sat unsure of what to say next. We powered through it and, once the mics were turned off, we had managed to record over 35 minutes of somewhat shaky content.

That first episode, despite its brevity, took me a week to edit and clean up. It was a trial by fire bringing into Adobe Audition, a new software package for me to learn on the fly. I spent my days learning all about noise reduction filters, compression, and sweetening the mix so we didn’t sound like we were mumbling into tin cans on the ocean floor. I sweet-talked our normally shy receptionist, Rachel, into recording the voice over for the intro and outro and placed it over a bed of royalty free music, created a Soundcloud account, a WordPress site that would serve as home base, an RSS feed, and submitted it to iTunes.

And a podcast was born.

Since that day in May, we’ve spent countless hours planning, researching, and recording. We’ve talked about everything from Braille Literacy and emergent Brain Computer Interface technology to the portrayal of Disability in comic books. We’ve talked to passionate entrepreneurs starting non-profits and we’ve talked to YouTube celebrities. We even managed to get our ugly mugs on TV, being featured on a segment on AMI-TV’s AMI This Week.

So, what is AT Banter?

Well, despite its flaws that any established or professional broadcaster or podcaster may point out, it’s something I’m insanely proud of and passionate about. I feel privileged to work alongside Ryan Fleury and Steve Barclay, two guys that have been members of my work family for longer than I care to admit  (let’s just say that we all had a lot more hair when we all started working together). Together we’ve managed to maintain and grow AT Banter far beyond what any of us expected. We continue to develop the show and learn not only about the art of podcasting itself, but also about the community that are most proudly are a part of.

As we forge ahead into Year 2, we continue to be faced with challenges we weren’t expecting, sometimes overcoming our own set of adversities using metaphorical bubblegum and band-aids (although at times we are lucky enough to procure duct tape – both figurative as well as literal). But through it all, the three of us still maintain our passion for the industry, our love for the community, and the desire to make the world a slightly better place than we found it.

Rob Mineault
June 2, 2017

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