Curtis FitchCurtis Fitch

By Training

Death by PowerPoint is not a road any presenter wants to go down, neither is looking out at a room full of bored, sleepy zombies or worse, an empty room.

We are always looking at ways of improving our presenting style to ensure key messages are effectively delivered.

Of course, this isn’t isolated to presentations.  Creation of our online web support material has involved getting the key learning across to our audience efficiently.

This can be tricky when you’re battling against ever decreasing attention spans with a fidgety audience.  One of our customers, The Guardian, wrote this interesting piece; “Say it quick, say it well” on just this topic.

So what can help?

Kevin Parker, owner of pmpgenesis, is an accomplished trainer, writer and public speaker.

Kevin wrote about the power of three, in relation to presenting, which we are pleased to share.

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 child when your mum sent you down to the shop to buy a number of things?

When you got to the shop all you could remember were three things.  This is the rule of three.

Putting it simply, if you want your message to be remembered put it into a list of three.

Think…. “If there are only three points that I would like to leave my audience with, what would they be?”  And then use no more than three themes per slide.

The audience is likely to remember only three things from your presentation – plan in advance what these will be.

Once you have these messages, structure the main part of your presentation around them and look at how they could be best illustrated.

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!

There are three parts to your presentation.

The beginning, the middle and the end.  Plan what to 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.

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.

Here are some great examples.

“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.

…..rule of three used in the film industry.

“The good, the bad and the ugly.”

“Sex, lies and videotape.”

Finally, here are other examples of the rule of three.

“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” – The American Declaration of Independence

“Government of the people, by the people, for the people.” – The Gettysburg Address

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” – Benjamin Disraeli

“This is not the end.  It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” – Sir Winston Churchill

“There are three principal ways to lose money: wine, women, and engineers.  While the first two are more pleasant, the third is by far the more certain.” – Baron Rothschild

“Unwept, unhonored, unsung.” – Sir Walter Scott

“Duty.  Honour. Country.” Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, and what you will be.” – Gen. Douglas MacArthur

“The rule is: jam tomorrow, and jam yesterday, but never jam today.” – Lewis Carroll. Through the Looking Glass.

Sam Southey
About Sam Southey
The mountains are my second home. Scotland’s North West Highlands are never far from my thoughts. I climb up, camp wild and sleep well in the hills.
Presentations and the Rule of Three