Already in the 4th century B.C., the Greek philosopher Aristotle formulated his theory on the three persuasive appeals: ethos, pathos and logos. Since then, Aristotle’s rhetoric has become one of the foundations of public speaking and, as such, an equilibrated mix of the 3 ingredients should be considered a prerequisite for any well told story.
Humans like structure and lists. But their capability to recall the things you tell them is often limited to a few items. Two points don’t say enough, while four are often too many to remember. So three it should be.
As already stated and illustrated in my November 7th blog post about Obama and the rule of three, series of 3 have been used by famous speakers like Julius Caesar, Abraham Lincoln, Steve Jobs and Barack Obama.
In his book about “the presentation secrets of Steve Jobs”, Carmine Gallo attributes a complete chapter to the rule of three, calling it “one of the most powerful principles of persuasion”.
“So few communicators incorporate the rule of three in their presentations that you will stand apart simply by doing so. The rule of three—it works for the marines, it works for Jobs, and it will work for you.”
And finally, there is another three-tuple you should always keep in mind as a presenter. Wise words by American writer, lecturer and public speaking teacher Dale Carnegie:
“There are always three speeches for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.”