Until the cows come home

May 30, 2019
The politics and the gamble of endless ramble

In human resource management, paired interviewing is the name of a rarely-used interview technique that consists of coupling job candidates randomly from the available pool, then conducting the interview by throwing questions to each person in alternate order. The main objective of such an activity is to weed out applicants whose body of knowledge and experience is below a threshold, by exposing them simultaneously to two adversary sources: the line of questioning from the interviewer, and the responses the competing candidate.

Such a strategy almost always end up exposing the individuals who talk more than they should, as well as those whose shaky talking points inevitably lead to contradictions.

Imagine for instance interviewing two writers for a single available position in a technical journal. Both candidates sport similar references and seemingly good portfolios. However, one of them has very little knowledge of the target industry, while the other does. Guess which candidate will talk the longest?

I'll tell you: the candidate with the least amount of specific knowledge is the one that will most likely ramble on for the longest time. I called this the politician syndrome: the less a political candidate knows or care about something, the more eloquent that person will make him- or herself appear in order to compensate. If you can suffer through watching a political town hall or pre-election debate, you will see that rambling is how politicians confidently get away with non-answers to almost everything that gets thrown at them. When confronted with a difficult question, whenever the first words that come out of their mouth sounds like: "Great question. Here's how I will address [question]" everyone knows they are lying and will not actually answer the question in any meaningful way. 

Let's look at another example: an article about The Dos and Don’ts of Creating Videos For Branding published a few days ago. The post itself is the typical output of a what marketers call a content mill: the product of a business built around the perceived insatiable need for content at all cost by companies that want to make it online. In this particular case, the author writes a list of gotchas you might encounter when creating branded videos. It would be an interesting subject in and by itself, if -- and only if -- the author knew anything about producing videos for brands. However, I am willing to bet she never came close to producing a video in her life; she's probably too busy trying to keep up with her bills by finding new customers in need of printable words and vomiting as many words a minute as possible on a Word document to make ends meet. In other words, she knows nothing about videos, yet she manages to ramble on the subject for nearly a thousand words. 

So what does my rambling (above) have to do with making videos? Good question! Here is how rambling affects your videos negatively.

Keep it short, or keep it shut.

In the last example, the irony is that the author suggests, among other points, to avoid rambling in videos. Instead, as much as possible, you should go straight to the point and make your video message clear and concise. Short videos do get better engagement. This "advice" is common sense for any publication, regardless of the media that the message appears on.

The truth is that rambling is a well-known mechanism used by anyone trying to avoid tacking the subject or question at stake. It happens when someone talks seemingly endlessly around a subject in the hope that the flood of words will somehow unveil an answer that the speaker is incapable of answering directly. It can also aim at changing the subject by interfering with the main intention and forcing the dialog to take a different path. It's a form of verbal pollution.

It can happen when you create a video. In that context, rambling means that the content of the video is long-winded. The human brain is wired to recognize such a tactic; that's because the brain is also wired to use that same tactic when needed. Since your target audience is human and your goal is engagement, avoid what can be perceived as rambling. When putting together a video -- branded or not -- you should either keep it short, or keep it shut.


Yannick is a service provided by Codecide, a company located in Chicago, IL USA.
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