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13th April 2015

Three is a magic number! How to use the power of three in public speaking

Writing your Content

The human brain seems to absorb and remember information more effectively when it is presented in threes. There's a reason there were THREE Musketeers, why it wasn't Four Little Pigs and the Wolf of Doom, and why it isn't Larry,Curly, Mo, AND Chuck.

The power of three is an impactful speech writing technique that you can (and should) indeed learn, practice, and master. Threes are deeply embedded in our culture as easy ways to remember things. Most people share the feeling that if they have one piece of information, they can probably slot in another piece of information on either side to make three in total. The outline of an effective speech will have three sections: an introduction, body and conclusion. The repetition is powerful because it can make your message more persuasive, memorable, and entertaining.

It's no coincidence that these three part quotes are well known: “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; “sex, drugs, & rock n' roll”; “truth, justice, and the American way” (Superman's three things worth fighting for. Superman is cool.).

It's also no coincidence that good stories have a beginning, middle, and end. Films, literature, and video games are often crafted in the form of a trilogy. Three IS a magic number.

Using the Power of Three allows you to convey concepts more thoroughly, highlight your points, and increase the prominence of your message.

That’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Examples of the Power of Three can be found in some of the most famous speeches ever written:

  • Friends, Romans, Countrymen. Lend me your ears.“ - Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar
  • Government of the people, by the people, for the people“ - - Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address
  • “Our priorities are Education, Education, Education” – Tony Blair

The rule of three describes triples of all types — any list of three related elements. Two more specificvariants are hendiatris and tricolon.

Hendiatris

A hendiatris is a figure of speech where three consecutive words are used to express one idea.

Examples include:

  • Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité (French motto)
  • Citius, Altius, Fortius (Olympic motto)
  • Wine, women, and song” (Anonymous)

Tricolon

A tricolon is a series of three parallel elements (words or phrases). A tricolon is a sentence with three clearly defined parts (cola) of equal length, usually independent clauses and of increasing power.

Examples include:

  • Veni, vidi, vici.” (Julius Caesar)
  • Be sincere, be brief, be seated.” (Franklin D. Roosevelt)
  • "Never in the history of human endeavor has so much been owed by so many to so few" (Sir Winston Churchill)

Three is the smallest number of elements you need to create (or break) a pattern. Using the power of three allows you to change your audience in some way: inform them, inspire them, or amuse them. Focusing your message on no more than three significant points, and repeating them in different ways throughout your presentation, is certain to give your presentation the maximum impact. Using The Power of Three is one of the most simple and effective ways to make your audience remember you and your words!

 

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