It’s an election year so why not drag out an analogy from one of the most intense Presidential election years ever: In 2000, the race for the White House between George W. Bush and Al Gore came down to one state-Florida. The race was so close that election officials were called to examine and count ballots, and take a look at those ballots with “hanging chads”.
Hanging chads were the tiny little circular pieces of paper left behind when voters marked their choices on voter cards with perforated, push-in style selections. The problem arose when some voters did not push-in hard enough, leaving behind a hanging chad. Some election officials had to use their best judgement as to whether or not the selection for that candidate had been made.
It was a controversial election and the end result is elections no longer use this style of voter ballot card. Unfortunately, when it comes to media training and messaging, many of us form messages with lots of hanging chads. These types of hanging chads constitute excessive and unnecessary words and phrases that do nothing to enhance the message but rather, they just sort of hang there, adding confusion and clutter and muddying the intended message.
During my media training workshops, I have discovered many examples of hanging word chads during on-camera mock interview training. Some examples I’ve heard include, “I’m glad you asked me that”, “Great point…”, “Indeed…”, “Yeah…”, “Oh yeah…”, “No doubt…”, “No question…”, “Thanks Rich…”, etc.
So what’s wrong with answering a question beginning with one of these varied responses? If doing a news media interview, using any one of these will make editing that much harder because the editor will have a hard time cutting off your hanging chad. The news media does not want to use a sound bite which begins with “Oh yeah” or “Thanks Rich…”. When you answer a question beginning with a hanging chad, there usually is not a long enough pause to cut off the awkward beginning.
Like the voter hanging chads, word chads don’t add anything and they don’t enhance your messages. They only clutter and confuse. Instead, force yourself to cut off the chad and get right to your message. This may take some practice since for many of us, word chads can be a hard habit to break. But, you will be amazed how much cleaner and concise you can be with your message points, without the hanging chad.