Presentation Skills 3. The Rule of Three
This is one of the oldest of all the presentation techniques – known about since the time of Aristotle.
People tend to remember lists of three things. Structure your presentation around threes and it will become more memorable.
The Rule of Three – We remember three things.
The rule of three is one of the oldest in the book – Aristotle wrote about it in his book Rhetoric. Put simply it is that people tend to easily remember three things.
Remember as a kid when your mum sent you down to the shop to buy a number of things. But when you got to the shop all you could remember were three things. This is the rule of three
Odds are that people will only remember three things from your presentation
What will they be?
1. The audience are likely to remember only three things from your presentation – plan in advance what these will be.
Believe it or not, the chances are, people will only remember three things from your presentation. So before you start writing your presentation, plan what your three key messages will be. Once you have these messages, structure the main part of your presentation around these three key themes and look at how they could be better illustrated.
2. There are three parts to your presentation
The beginning, the middle and the end. Start to plan out what you will do in these three parts. The beginning is ideal for an attention grabber or for an ice breaker. The end is great to wrap things up or to end with a grand finale.
3. Use lists of three wherever you can in your presentation
Lists of three have been used from early times up to the present day. They are particularly used by politicians and advertisers who know the value of using the rule of three to sell their ideas.
Veni, Vidi, Vici (I came, I saw, I conquered) – Julius Caesar**
“Friends, Romans, Countrymen lend me your ears” – William Shakespeare
“Our priorities are Education, Education, Education” – Tony Blair
A Mars a day helps you to work, rest and play – Advertising slogan
Stop, look and listen – Public safety announcement
A classic example of the rule of three was Winston Churchill’s famous Blood, Sweat and Tears speech. He is widely attributed as saying I can promise you nothing but blood sweat and tears. What he actually said was “I can promise you Blood, Sweat, Toil and Tears”. Because of the rule of three we simply remember it as Blood sweat and tears.
There are lots of other examples of the rule of three on this link
4. In Presentations “Less is More”
If you have four points to get across – cut one out. They won’t remember it anyway. In presentations less really is more. No one ever complained of a presentation being too short.
Three Presentation Essentials
- Use visual aids where you can
- Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
- The audience will only remember three messages
So there you have the presentation essentials. I suggest that you print out this little box and stick it in your work book for future reference.
So does it all work? Well it works most of the time – but don’t take my word for it Read these three posts on the Forum and make up your own mind….
Good luck and happy presenting.
** Technically the quote is – Veni (I came), Vidi (I saw) , Vici (I crushed them) which is falsely tied to Gaul and Britanny Conquest by Julius Caesar, but was prononced before the Senate after the crushing of a small revolt in what is now Turquey…
20 April 2009
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