Tag Archives: lists

You Can’t Read This…

Large AudienceHow many times have you been listening to a presentation and the presenter gets to an extremely dense slide and says, “I know you can’t read this in the back, so I will read it to you…” Aaaggggghhhh (that’s my frustration coming through). I don’t know about you, but I sit there and think to myself, if you know I can’t read it, why didn’t you use a bigger font?

While we may think that jamming as much text as possible on a slide is the way to go, that’s not necessarily the case. Use big fonts, fewer words, and emphasize what is essential on the slides. Then discuss each bullet or topic. Use your words as the presentation, not the written words on the PowerPoint slide. Ten-point font is going to be too small… try 24-point or 32-point and keep your bullets short.

Remember, the goal is audience clarity and retention, not stuffing your slides full of words for you to read.

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The Rule of Three…

When giving presentations or public talks, the Rule of Three is a powerful rule to remember. You should commit this to memory and practice writing and presenting using this rule. The rule is simple: When making a point, use three words or ideas in a row. The audience is more likely to consume and comprehend an idea when it is presented as part of a trio.

Using the Rule of Three allows you to present a concept more clearly, concisely, and memorably. In his book Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, Roy Peter Clark provides insights into the magic of the number three. He states, “Use one for power. Use two for comparison, contrast. Use three for completeness, wholeness, roundness. Use four or more to list, inventory, compile, and expand.”

The rule of three has created timeless speeches, stories, and historical foundations. Some examples include:

  • From the Declaration of Independence – “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”
  • From religion – “Father, son, and holy spirit”
  • From movies – “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”
  • From children’s stories – “The Three Little Pigs” or “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”
  • From real estate – “Location, location, location”
  • From Julius Caesar – “Veni, vidi, vici” (“I came, I saw, I conquered”)
  • From entertainment – “Three-ring circus” or “The Three Stooges”

As you can see, the Rule of Three has a powerful history. It’s nothing new and has been used throughout time to make powerful points, in the formation of governments (Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches), and to engrain concepts into the memory of generations.

So, remember in your next speech to use the Rule of Three… and that’s  the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

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The Magic Number Is…

Very often our presentations culminate with “the “X” steps to success,” or “top ‘X’ takeaways,” or “top ‘X’ goals for today.” The question begs, what is “X”? Should X be three, five, seven, 10… ? The more takeaway bullets we can give, the better, right? Wrong.

Less is more when it comes to your bulleted steps or takeaways from a presentation. Scientific studies of the brain and memory have shown time and again that people can keep three key points or steps in their short-term memory. After three, the brain kicks one out so there’s room for the next. You may have seven on the slide, but your audience has deleted four from their short-term memory and most likely retained only three.

If you really think about it, three is a great number. Things always happen in threes… three represents a beginning, a middle, and an end, or a past, a present, and a future. I feel a bit like The Count on Sesame Street, but three is a magical number with a great ring to it. Plus it ties things up nice and neat, keeps things simple, and forces you, as the presenter, to focus on what is really important for your audience.

If you have more to say, think about directing the audience to the information elsewhere… provide a web address, print material, or a blog site. Think about why your audience is there listening to you and what they want to leave with. Put yourself in the audience’s shoes.

Think about how you can condense your material into points that are manageable and easy to remember. Maybe it’s a key word for each. Count them out on your hand using three fingers. And remember – three is the magic number. Less is more when it comes to presenting.

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