Who’s to blame?

Did you ever realize that only 7% of your message is conveyed by actual words or content, while 38% is transmitted by tone of voice and volume of speech? (The other 55% is delivered through non-verbal means.) That’s at least what Dr. Albert Mehrabian’s published in his book “Silent Messages” about his research on nonverbal communication and emotions.

Even if you don’t agree with the numbers above (personally I have some problems with the mere 7% attributed to words that you speak), there is some lesson to learn for public (and non-public) presenters.

Although I realize that most blog posts are written only for reading, let me engage you in a small oral exercise. Read the text below aloud and put emphasis on the words in bold.

I didn’t say it was your fault.

didn’t say it was your fault.

I didn’t say it was your fault.

I didn’t say it was your fault.

I didn’t say it was your fault.

I didn’t say it was your fault.

I didn’t say it was your fault.

Did the way you stress certain words actually change the meaning of the statement?


Always make sure that your tone is consistent with your message. As such, it might be good to know the context and what comes after. The full version of this phrase (which is said to be one of Winston Churchill’s favorite paraprosdokians) sounds like: “I didn’t say it was your fault; I said I was blaming you.

Obama and the rule of three

The rule of three has been explored, exploited and employed by famous narrators, orators and presenters throughout ancient, modern and contemporary history: Julius Caesar, Abraham Lincoln and Steve Jobs have used it in their speeches.

Today’s re-elected U.S. president Barack Obama is also a well-known champion of the rule of three.

Here are only a few examples of how the president has used series of three, addressing his supporters earlier today in Chicago (the full transcript of Mr. Obama’s victory speech is published on CNN.com’s live blog)

Thank you for believing all the way, through every hill, through every valley.

You’ll hear the determination in the voice of a young field organizer…
You’ll hear the pride in the voice of a volunteer…
You’ll hear the deep patriotism in the voice of a military spouse…

That’s why we do this. That’s what politics can be. That’s why elections matter.

 It’s not small, it’s big. It’s important.

We believe in a generous America, in a compassionate America, in a tolerant America.

Open to the dreams of an immigrant’s daughter…
To the young boy on the south side of Chicago…
To the furniture worker’s child in North Carolina…

That’s the future we hope for. That’s the vision we share. That’s where we need to go.

Our economy is recovering. A decade of war is ending. A long campaign is now over.

I have listened to you, I have learned from you, and you’ve made me a better president.

The courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting.

America, I believe we can build on the progress…
I believe we can keep the promise of our founders…
I believe we can seize this future together…

For more reading about the rule of three, you may also check out blog posts by Brian Clark and Andrew Dlugan.