Today threw me a curveball of such astonishing velocity it tore straight through my confidence and directly to the heart of my stance on where I believed my career path would one day take me.

But after a few minutes of self analysis and navel gazing I jumped back on the horse ready to set off on another rip-roaring adventure.

Why? Because nothing, ultimately, really matters. Nothing but happiness and a rebootable yearning for unflappable faith in yourself.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t see the logic in everything. I can have a cup half empty moment as often as the next guy or gal.

I’m aching to be the guy who is impervious to wobble. I’m as far from that as Nelson Mandela a foetus. But I have this chance and it only lasts a lifetime so I’ve mastered the art of the shrug. It’s much easier to let things go than to let it hang around your neck.

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks via Compfight cc.

Back to the day in hand. A great session at work, making some monumental progress towards the greater good. Website is looking dang fine, social engagement is through the roof, and more importantly than all that stuff, people are starting to notice a difference. Actual human staff.

And that to me – the respect of my peers – is everything.

Day done, off to Manchester. The city. My nemesis. I’m the guy who would give everything away for a pokey little beach hut or a crumbling shed in the country. But I’m going to try.

And try is what I attempted at tonight’s recording of Yakker, the show determined to demystify digital and talk tech specifically for the workers of Manchester, generally for anyone with an ear for the geeky, progressive and modern business-focused.

After my wonderful other half had dropped off the audio rig at Studio North I was in a good state. Everything was in place.

Curveball #1: We had five people on the show. Three regulars, some guy who really knew his onions about social media, and Nick Wright, the co-founder of Studio North.

In the world of podcast, three definitely is a crowd. Four is unlikely, five is unprecedented. This was no man’s land. Know why? My board – the mixer where all the mics go – is configured for four.

This required some hasty decisions to be made with the limited number of leads in my magical podcasting sack.

Serendipitously I’d brought my trusty Zoom H4n to mediate on proceedings as chief recording device. It records four channels.

My mind went into overdrive figuring out the various ways I could and could not record five voices. I settled on bringing the left channel output from the mixer into the external mic input of the Zoom H4n and, after a while, further consolidated two of the five mics to the XLR inputs on the base of the recorder.

The problem that later transpired was having one of my co-hosts – one incredibly talented and super svelte Chris Marsh from Melbourne Server Hosting (and he of @marsh80) – on the right channel.

For the first 20 minutes I was confused why he was only coming through on another mic. His was working as a solo track before recording. Why not now? The right channel on a left-only recording settled that score.

But I wasn’t entirely satisfied with Nick Wright, that Studio North co-founder, either. His feed wasn’t making me smile.

Maybe it was because his mic was coming directly into the recorder, and it needed phantom power (or maybe it didn’t, and phantom power was switched on).

Regardless, not a great sound there, either. The levels in the Zoom H4n reflected my weakness as a preditor (producer/editor; love that) but mindful of the shortness in time we had to get the show down, it did go on.

Curveball #2: The script. I like to have a semblance of a show framework upon which to riff. Tonight the table was awash with paper. I was sure I had my own manuscript, but as I started the preamble it was clearly not. “Circling the runway” was how Goog Al Mackin delicately put it.

So I had to cut and start over. Not the work of a professional podcaster and veteran ambassador of the European Podcast Award.

By this point I was perspiring profusely. I was exhibiting the kind of nerves reserved for Felix Baumgarten or that guy on the motorbike in Las Vegas about to descend 10 storeys on an invisible ramp.

I bumbled. I erred, I lost the plot. I was in many ways the very epitome of a drug-addled teenager trying to make his first benefits claim. It wasn’t pretty.

Sat on the bus home right now I’m looking back at that sorry episode wondering how I could have made things work.

I have the answers. More planning. More practice. More careful consideration, due diligence.

Like the mischievous inflatable boy with a pin in the inflatable school, I let everyone down. It’s not something you want to do on a regular basis but it is character building.

But like a butterball, I’ll be bouncing back for more. I’ve learned my lesson. Do more, before. Spend way more time in preparation mode.

Thinking about this specific example:

  1. Establish the parameters as accurately as possible. Recognising in advance there were five players in this game would have made the recording situation a darn sight easier on the day. In any situation recognising what you have to work with, what the objectives are, and giving yourself plenty of buffer time to get the job done, is sometimes – frequently – more important than the physical act of completing the task itself.
  2. Rehearse. Whenever you’ve got something important to do it rarely harms the situation to play it through. Think theatre. When does the actor venture on to the stage to paying public without having spent many weeks or months mastering the script? Anything less would render their performance sub-standard. It’s how life works. Rehearsal can simply be mastering a skill. It’s finding your voice. Talking to the right people to get the background information you need to deliver that presentation. It’s filling in the gaps to give of yourself wholly and without reservation. Rehearsal in its many forms breeds the kind of bulletproof and unwaivering confidence that puts the extra in ordinary.
  3. Master your surroundings. Whenever you’re doing anything public, or involving people other than yourself, it really makes a difference to get the lay of the land. This is particularly useful if you have an important meeting upcoming (and if it’s not important, it’s not in my calendar). Feeling at home is halfway to being in control of any situation. It fosters confidence and when paired with being prepared through rehearsal, it’s everything you need to be that superstar you are.

Though the fourth episode of Yakker is borderline disastrous in my eyes, purely on account of my momentary incompetence, it teaches me everything I’ve ever needed to know.

To be fully rehearsed. To never be rushed in the context of a very important occasion. And to always know your place.

Yakker is purely awfully good, rather than just awful. By my own admission I was the weakest link in the latest incarnation but it’s definitely growing up to be a respected member of the digital community in Manchester and beyond.

Here’s how to listen to it. Enjoy!

Enjoyed this lesson for content strategy success? Get in touch on Twitter @davethackeray and let me know your thoughts.