Education, Education, Education

We have all been guilty of giving a presentation that confuses our audience with too much information. You want to show that you know your stuff, but if you cram in too many facts and figures you ultimately just end up losing your listeners. There’s plenty of psychological research which supports the idea that the brain finds it easier to grasp three facts at a time.

So the chances of your audience remembering more than 3 points are pretty slim. But if those three key points are hidden in the middle of a lengthy presentation or interview, the audience are still likely to miss the point; you then run the risk of miscommunication and lose an opportunity to tell your story. One thing we teach in our media training courses is that a reporter needs to be fed the relevant facts in an interesting a way as possible; the trick to achieve this is to keep it short and sweet. However cutting corners and leaving out relevant information isn’t in your best interest either. A good approach is to understand your audience and communicate in a way that will resonate with them.

Nursery rhymes and children’s stories often feature a group of three characters in order to deliver moral messages in a memorable way. For example the three little pigs, Goldilocks with the three bears and the three little kittens who lost three sets of mittens. However, it is adults as well as children that find three a more manageable number to work with. This strategy has been used throughout history in ground breaking speeches and lots of politicians use the power of three as a way to grab headlines as well as their audience’s attention. For example; Tony Blair famously used the rule combined with repetition to produce a powerful message in his 2007 campaign “education, education, education” and in his last speech to the House of Commons Churchill said “never flinch, never weary, never despair”.

Even when making presentations the rule of three can be reiterated by limiting yourself to three bullet points on a PowerPoint slide. This not only makes the slide less cluttered and easier to read, but is more likely to remain in the mind of your audience. By having just three key points on a screen at once the chances of them being remembered are far increased.

The most memorable presentations are presented in a clear, concise and well informed manner. So don’t forget; if you want to make an impact, be remembered and change the world, three is the magic number. – June 2011

Share this article