This article first appeared in the Spring 2011 issue of CSA Voices. Photos by John G. Meadows.
Daniele Rossi of Toronto has recently joined the CSA board of directors. For several years he’s been involved with social media as a podcaster, web designer, and artist. It was his involvement with social media that had led him to accept his stuttering.
Before he launched his Stuttering Is Cool website in 2007, he’d been making podcasts based on his work as an artist. When he first began podcasting, he would edit out his stutters. “Sometimes I would keep them in but for the most part I would remove 99 percent of the stuttering.”
He began to question this strategy when he realized that he couldn’t edit himself in real life. In Episode No. 9 of his early podcasts as an artist, he decided to talk about his stuttering. That led him, in time, to develop a podcast show devoted to stuttering.
If I start a blog, will anybody read it?
Daniele’s presentation at PodCamp Toronto 2011, at Ryerson University on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011 was entitled Reach Out and Touch Someone. PodCamp Toronto 2011 describes itself as Canada’s largest gathering of the new media community including writers, producers, photographers, designers, podcasters, web developers, and bloggers.
Daniele came across as relaxed during his talk. From time to time he stuttered but stuttering did not impede his message. It was clear he was aware that the audience had a strong interest in the information he was sharing.
At the outset, he disclosed that he stutters. “As you all notice, I stutter. So if there’s anything that you need to clarify throughout the presentation, feel free to raise your hand. I won’t be offended.”
He began by asking if anyone in the audience was starting a podcast or blog or already had one. One person had plans for a podcast called Renaissance Man about men’s issues and “schools of thought that fell by the wayside.” Another spoke of a podcast and blog in which everyday topics are chosen and given a positive spin.
Daniele said the reason he asked is because he’s been coming to PodCamp Toronto since the first Toronto conference in 2007. “Every time I meet someone who is planning on starting something, the first thing they tell me is, ‘I don’t know if people will actually listen, or people will read.’”
“So my presentation will be all about answering that question, which is, ‘Yes, of course.’”
In his Stuttering Is Cool podcast show, Daniele encourages listeners to not let stuttering get in the way of their lives. He also asks them to send him their recordings, which he includes in his proceeding episode.
Stuttering is not, of course, everyone’s unique emotional experience. “Perhaps there’s something else,” said Daniele, “that you wish that your friends around you and your family can relate to.” It could be the break-up of a relationship; or you’re the parent of a child with severe food allergies; or a returning war veteran seeking to share your experiences with others with similar stories. Or you’re a graphic designer switching from film photography to digital photography.
“We’re living in an age where we can meet those people. Of course, it’s not necessarily in person, but it’s online.”
Work at building your audience
In November 2007, when starting his podcast, he did not expect to reach a wide audience. “I thought, forget it, this is not even going to reach four episodes – and two weeks ago, I posted my hundred and fifth episode. So you never know where it’s going to go.”
“So will people listen? Of course they will. The only thing that you’re going to have to do is put the work into it. For example you can’t expect to just start a podcast or put up a Facebook page and expect everyone is going to flock to it and have keen conversations.”
Usually you’re going to have to put some work into it. You need to build a support system.
He described an epiphany he had when a listener noticed Daniele was online late one night. The listener was a post-secondary student with questions about how to meet girls when you stutter. Daniele spent half an hour sharing tips and experiences and later thought, “Gee, I wish I had all this when I was growing up. And then that’s when I had this whole epiphany moment: He’s on the other side of the country, and we’ve never met in person, and because of the cheap hardware and the Internet and the social media, that’s how we met. Because I posted my podcast, and because he found it.”
He advised that people not worry too much about the tool they want to use, whether Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or MySpace – because each is a communication tool, dedicated to sharing of knowledge.
He described a companion website he’s developed based on a tiger character who serves as an analogy of stuttering. A friend Daniele had met through his podcast told him about visiting a zoo where visitors could play with a baby tiger. Each time a person’s back was turned, the tiger would try to nip the person from behind. That reminded the friend of stuttering.
“This is exactly the way that stuttering works,” said Daniele. “If you try to avoid or switch words, stuttering takes over your life.” The companion tiger website is a way to attract another audience.
In 2007, when he began, Daniele went to Facebook as a way to find people who identified themselves as stutterers. Once he had the beginnings of an audience, he was active in starting conversations. “Whatever tool you use, be sure to initiate conversations. Be very proactive with your listeners.” Respond quickly to emails, and when interviewing, avoid questions that elicit only Yes or No responses.
He also mentioned Meetup.com, a website that facilitates in-person meetups. He learned of a Toronto Stutterers Meetup Group and made a point of attending, given that it’s hard to meet stutterers in his immediate geographical area.
It’s important, concluded Daniele, to seize opportunities.
“You are going to find a lot of opportunities that come up. Sometimes you’re going to have to find them. If there’s a conference about your niche topic, go and propose a speaking session. Maybe reach out to the media.”
He described how The King’s Speech has enabled people who stutter to raise awareness about stuttering – in some cases by telling their stories on the Six O’clock News.
In the Q & A session, one questioner asked: “When you first began making presentations, what made you decide that it was time to share information?”
Daniele replied that in his first PodCamp, in 2007, someone said that everyone should come up to the front and present, by creating their own PodCamp session. At first, he thought he was ruled out because he stuttered. But he made friends and found his friends in the podcast community were jumping up on stage and giving their presentations. “It made me want to do the same thing.”
He found it helpful to disclose his stuttering. “All that you have to do is disclose your stuttering and then you can just give your presentation.”
Stuttering is Cool
Daniele Rossi’s eBook about stuttering and social media
Toronto Stutterers Meetup Group
PodCamp Toronto 2011
Backstories about the first PodCamp in Boston in 2006
Two prominent members of the podcasting community organized CreatorCamp in Ottawa. They subsequently created an eBook sharing their best practices in organizing that event:
Podcasters Across Borders (PAB) first started in 2006:
Conference about radio documentary and art