by Noah Lugeons
(Warning: The following post has nothing to do with anything. It’s sort of a rambling bit of personal reflection loosely disguised as news about the show. )
I have this habit of over-preparing. Now, I know that sounds like a blatant ego stroke so I feel like I need to qualify it a bit. Let me give you a recent example.
Shortly after we started the podcast I got an unexpected and very welcome compliment from the host of a podcast I really enjoy. Cecil from Cognitive Dissonance dropped me a line just to tell me that he really enjoyed the show. He offered a few words of encouragement and closed the email with a preliminary invitation to guest on his program. I believe his exact words were, “When you’ve got a few more episodes under your belt we’d love to have you on to talk about the show.”
I’ve been a fan of his show for quite a while and I suppose it’s fair to say that he and his co-host Tom were a big part of the inspiration that got Heath and I started with this whole project. So needless to say, I was quite excited and flattered by the thought of appearing on their show.
A couple months went by and last week Cecil emailed me again to set up a date we could get together for a Skype interview. We locked down the date about 6 days in advance. So I had 6 days to over-prepare.
Now, with that long preamble, allow me to elaborate on what I mean by “over-prepare”. Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of all the things I did to prep for guesting on their show:
- I re-listened to their last 6 shows so that I’d be sure to be on point if I needed to refer back to a statement one of them recently made.
- I went back into their archives and grabbed 8 different episodes where they interviewed podcasters with the hopes of learning some of the common questions they ask.
- I wrote out answers to the dozen or so questions I anticipated and practiced them a few times until they sounded natural.
- I talked my wife and Heath into doing “practice interviews” so that I could work on transitioning from one topic to another, improvising for curve balls, keeping my answers non-rambling and concise, etc.
- I wrote a 6 stanza poem that incorporated 5 inside jokes about their show.
- I tested a new set up on my audio rig that would allow me to record my end of the audio without degrading the audio I was transmitting (using 2 mixers, 2 mics and an H4N Digital recorder if you’re interested in that kind of thing).
- I made two pages of hand written notes, including notes on a news story they wanted to cover with me.
- I read said news article and found 3 ancillary articles on the same subject in case anything not covered in the original came up.
This is, of course, in addition to running the interview through in my head two or three times a day for the six days leading up to it.
Now, I should clarify something here. As flattered as I was by the invite, this wasn’t an atypical prep-schedule for me. I did as much prep work when I appeared on Thank God I’m Atheist and Post Rapture Looting. I over prepare like this when we record each episode. I over prepare like this when I conduct an interview for the show. I over prepare like this when I go hiking or camping or to the 7-11. It’s the kind of person that I am.
And what’s more, I recognize that most of it is useless. Of the 12 questions I had prepared answers for, they only asked one of them and I didn’t give them the answer I’d prepared.
In truth, I already knew that Cecil and Tom were damn good interviewers and even if I was woefully under prepared, I’m sure they’d have kept things interesting and funny. I knew that they’d do all the heavy lifting and make it as easy on me as possible. And still I drove myself (and my poor wife) crazy for a week with an insane determination to be the most prepared guest in the history of their show.
I suppose much of it comes from just being a control freak. When I record our show, I’m the editor. I know that if I don’t like the way a joke sounded or if I say “um” one too many times I’ll be able to cut that out. I know that if I listen back over it and don’t like the way I worded something, I can re-record it. If I make a mistake, I can fix it.
Ultimately, my preparation marathon probably made no difference at all on the quality of the interview. I suppose that most of it could be considered an elaborate nervous tick. But it fooled my brain into thinking it was in control long enough to convince it to do the interview, and I suppose that’s all that really matters.