The Power Of Three: The Ultimate Speech Structure​

Ed Darling
12 min read

What you’ll learn:

  • What is the ‘power of three’ in public speaking.
  • How to make your message memorable.
  • Rhetoric, structure and the power of three.
power of three speech structure

The history of the power of three.

Great speakers throughout history have understood how to use the power of three within their speech structure.

This “tricolon” rhetoric device is used to persuade, influence, and even to manipulate.

Three is a magic numbers to humans, because it’s the minimum number required to create a pattern.

We respond to things that come in three in a special way. Infomation becomes more engaging, messages more memorable, and ideas more inspirational.

It’s for this reason that stories are universally structured 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.

The power of three makes memorable soundbites.

Julius Caesar famously said: Veni, Vidi, Vici.

“I came, I saw, I conquered”.

Part of the reason this quote is still remembered 2000 years later, is it’s use of the power of three.

When we look closely, tricolons are found everywhere, and for all age groups:

  • The three little pigs.
  • Goldilocks and the three bears.
  • The Three Musketeers.
  • Snack, crackle, and pop.
  • 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 Winston 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 spoke of: “justice, goodwill and brotherhood”, and Elizabeth Gilbert wrote ‘Eat, Pray, Love’.

So how can we use the rule of three in our own communications?

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The power of three for speech structure.

The best way to implement the power of three is in your speech structure.

The most basic use of the power of three is the traditional “beginning, middle and end”. When telling a story, this is the structure that feels most natural. If you’re preparing a speech or presentation, here are other speech structures which harness the power of three:

Use three points to make one argument:
“I believe solar power is the future, and today I’m going to share three reasons why…”
Use three case-studies to share your services:
“We help sports professionals to perform at their peak, let’s look at three people we’ve helped…”
Share three lessons learned:
“After 10+ years in business, here are the top three lessons I’ve learned along the way…”
Past, present and future:
“Here’s what we used to do, this is what’s happening now, and what we’re working towards is…”
There are dozens of creative ways to do this. The important thing is that you’re taking the overall topic or message and structuring it into three sections which the audience can digest.

The power of three in your sentences, content and rhetoric.

With a structure in mind, the next stage is to add more content.

The rule of three can be applied to sentences, phrases or single words.

Sometimes these ideas will naturally come out while you’re writing. Other times, it’s helpful to read back through your script and look for areas to improve.

Are there certain sections that seem to drag on or meander?

Using the power of three can help you to write content that is shorter, snappier and more engaging. Think in terms of rhyme, alliteration, and repetition for extra memorability.

Here’s a few examples:

  • “Our product is more simple, safe, and secure”.
  • “We’ll be here for you this year, next year and the year after.”
  • “There’s one quality that determines success: discipline, discipline, discipline”

Ending with a longer third sentence can also be memorable: ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’

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 understand the power of three, you’ll begin to notice it soundbites, sentences and speech structures. It shows up everywhere from marketing, to politics and even in the news.

It’s one of the most fundamental and powerful forms of rhetoric because it’s easy to apply. Start using the power of three to build confidence in your communications, and have more influence with your audience.

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