"Human behaviour flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge." - Plato
Threes are seen and heard as complete groups, and it is seems to be much easier for us to remember. For example would - The TWO Little Pigs, Goldilocks and the FIVE Bears or even Scrooge being visited by a FOURTH ghost of Christmas – have made as memorable stories? It's also no coincidence that stories on their most basic level have three distinct phases: a beginning, a middle and an end.
When Tony Blair gave his rousing speech to the Labour party conference in 1996, it was the deliberate use of threes that had a lasting memory on the British public and the press.
When Steve Jobs gave his brilliant speech to graduates at Stanford in 2005, he started by saying "Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it, no big deal, just three stories". He went on to use those three stories to give a personal and moving guide on how to live your life.
In Orson Welles' Citizen Kane, there is a memorable use of threes in Kane's closing lines to Mr Thatcher, the character's guardian and banker - "You're right, I did lose a million dollars last year. I expect to lose a million dollars this year. I expect to lose a million dollars next year. You know, Mr. Thatcher, at the rate of a million dollars a year, I'll have to close this place in, 60 years".
The next time you are putting together your next presentation, look at where you can create groups of three to emphasise your points and increase the power of your key message. Like all good rules be prepared to break it as well - the last thing you would want is your audience to notice you are using it.
Planning your presentation on screen sounds efficient, but it can often lead you in unhelpful directions. When it comes to story design, there’s still no substitute for good old pen, paper and Post-Its… > Read more