Ever notice it’s easier to remember the area code on someone’s phone number than the last four digits of their number? That’s because the area code is three numbers. The last four digits are, well, four. Our minds quickly and easily connect to things that come in groups of threes. There are plenty of theories for why we do this. Three is the first prime number. We divide time into past, present, and future, and we live in a 3-dimensional world. Regardless of why we connect so easily and so often with things that are grouped in threes, lies the fact that we do.
As a presenter, keep that in mind. Your audience will connect to groupings of ideas that come in threes more easily than groups of five or six or seven.
Since we relate so easily to a triad, it makes sense to build your presentation, speech, or meeting around triads. This has a few major benefits:
1. It forces you to limit the amount of information you share.
2. It puts your information into a grouping your audience is already inclined to consume.
3. It creates a natural rhythm of beginning, middle, and end.
Do you see what I did there? I could have given you two reasons to group your ideas in threes or I could have given you five reasons. But two reasons to do something in groups of threes wouldn’t feel quite right, and five reasons would have felt wrong too. If I had given you five reasons, you would have likely only remembered three anyway and I would have lost control of which three you remembered.
By grouping main ideas in threes, you speak to a cadence that your audience members are conditioned to all day, every day, in multiple areas of their life:
- Books have a beginning, middle, and end.
- One of the classic children’s stories is Goldilocks and the three bears.
- Another is Three Blind mice.
- The Declaration of Independence puts forth three unalienable rights: life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.
- The U.S. government has three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial.
- Government agencies include the FBI, CIA, and FDA.
- We eat—or are supposed to eat—three meals a day.
- At Starbucks you can choose from three sizes: tall, venti, and grande.
- Fountain sodas come in small, medium, or large.
- Christians believe in the Holy Trinity: The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
- Buddhists take refuge in three jewels: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha
- A devout Muslim makes a pilgrimage to three holy cities: Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem.
- Cars have three rear-view mirrors
- Cars have three main gears: drive, neutral, and reverse.
- Traffic signals are red, yellow, and green.
- Basketball has a 3-point line.
- Hockey has a hat-trick: three goals.
- In baseball each team gets three outs per inning.
- Julius Cesar’s most famous quote had three parts: Veni, vidi, vicci (I came; I saw; I conquered).
- Third time is the charm.
- He’s giving me the third degree.
- TV networks favor three letters: ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, CNN.
- Barnum & Bailey became famous for it’s three-ring circus.
- 3-D movies.
So as you begin to layout your next presentation, speech, or even meeting, ask yourself what are the main points you want to share with your audience and build your program around three of them.
You may have five, or six, or seven key points that you thing you want to make, but since your audience relates to triads, pick the three most important points and build on those.
Think of it as the ABC’s of communication. Sorry, couldn’t resist.
After all, there’s always time for the next presentation, speech, or meeting, but the audience might not come back to those—or give you their attention if they do—if you don’t speak their language the first time around.