What Is 'The Power Of Three' in Public Speaking?

The ‘Rule Of Three’ is an unwritten rule that makes communications more powerful.

The great orators of times gone by understood the power of three. They used this “tricolon” rhetoric device to persuade, influence, and even to manipulate.

Three is a magic numbers to humans. We respond to things that come in three in a special way. Infomation becomes more engaging, messages more impactful and ideas easier to remember.

It’s for this reason that stories are near-universally split into three parts: Beginning, middle and end – or past, present and future.

Applying the rule of three to your speech, pitch or presentation can dramatically improve it’s resonance with an audience. Let’s explore how this works.

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The 'Power Of Three' in historical speeches and writing.

Julius Caesar famously said: Veni, Vidi, Vici – “I came, I saw, I conquered”. Part of  the reason this quote is remembered by so many people 2000 years later is it’s use of the power of three.

In fact, tricolons are a constant of life. Found everywhere, every day, for every age group: The three little pigs, Goldilocks and the three bears. The Three Musketeers. Snack, crackle, and Pop, and Just-do-it.

Tony Blaire won an election with ‘education, education, education.’  Ebenezer Scrooge was visited by three ghosts, and have you heard the joke about ‘an Englishman, a Scotsman, and an Irishman.’?

Famous triplets include Winstons Churchills ‘blood, toil, and tears.’ In fact, Churchill said, ‘blood, toils, tears, and sweat’. but, due to the power of three, most people remember only the triplet.

Martin Luther King Jr said: ‘Justice, goodwill and brotherhood.’ And Elizabeth Gilbert wrote ‘Eat, Pray, Love’.

Re-read this article to see how many tricolons you can find. I have added many; the good, the bad, and the ugly. Ok, that last one was easy, peasy, lemon-squeezy.

How to apply the 'Power Of Three' rule in your next speech or presentation.

When speech writing, first think about the three stages of a speech: beginning, middle, and end. 

The three stages could include:

Basic Speech:

Stage 1: Explain the speech message.
Stage 2: Reference three ways to convince the audience of the message.
Stage 3: Summarise the speech.

Medium Speech:

Stage 1: State authority on the subject.
Stage 2: Storytelling; set-up, confrontation, and the resolution.
Stage 3: Call to Action.

Advanced Speech:

Stage 1: Create intrigue.
Stage 2: Explain the message three times with Facts and logic, storytelling, and a metaphor.
Stage 3: End with an audience interaction (call to action).

With a structure in mind, the next stage is to add more content. Write and re-write the speech. Rehearse and re-write the speech. Deliver and re-write the speech. 

Within the re-writes, review the language and sentence structure. Do some sentences drag on, become boring and creating disinterest? Could it be shorter, snappier, and more engaging? 

Think three: three words, three sentences, three repetitions. Rhythm works well within the power of three: ‘twinkle, twinkle, little star…’

Ending with a longer third sentence can also be memorable: ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ Or add alliteration to make the tricolon even more memorable, such as with ‘Veni, Vidi, Vici’.

Tricolons emphasise a point, create a sense of completeness, and, well, sound nice! President Franklin D. Roosevelt agrees, saying: “be sincere, be brief, be seated.”

Finally, remember the advice from Benjamin Franklin “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

Now that you’ve been taught how to use the power of three, learn it fully by involving it’s use in your next speech, pitch or presentation.

Ready to feel the joy of powerful
communication skills?

Join our next 1-Day
Public Speaking Masterclass

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