By Cate North
Three is a magic number for presentations, speeches and other marketing content.
Crafting three main points and finding ways to group concepts into blocks of three will give your audience substance while easing the way for them to remember you and to understand your message. The easy-to-remember part is helpful for presenters as well. Anything that builds confidence will release some of the pressure and calm those butterflies you may be feeling.
I discussed and incorporated this concept in my “Powerful Presentations and Public Speaking” session on Thursday, January 15 at Elevate CoSpace, the first and only co-working place in Summit County. I was part of their “Elevate Your Biz” series of free seminars.
Three Components of Every Presentation
I try to structure every presentation or speech around three core concepts or points. If you’re thinking, “I have too much information to condense into three points!” you are right. You have too much information. Unless you are conducting some kind of half-day/all-day meeting, brevity is your friend. Even if you have an entire day and lots of material, finding a way to categorize and encapsulate your information into three buckets will lead to a better presentation.
Since my session was about creating and delivering more powerful presentations, I developed my speech around the three components or steps of every speech or presentation: Content, Delivery and Outcome. This is the chronological order most people follow – first creating the content, then the delivery, and then some kind of result, whether it’s a ‘soft’ outcome like greater understanding or a ‘hard’ outcome like making (or losing) a sale.
I like to turn that sequence around:
1. Outcome: In my experience, it’s best to prepare for any presentation by thinking first of Outcome. What do you expect, hope and want to happen as a result? How do you want your audience to feel? What do you want them to think or do?
Identify the outcome you desire and how you can attain your goals by meeting the desires, needs and expectations of your audience. This will better prepare you to begin writing, and help you communicate more effectively.
2. Content: Your content is what you have to say. It starts with a general topic and a clear, overarching point or thesis – think back on those essay-writing days from college or high school! With your key point and desired outcome in mind, plan your content by creating an introduction, the body of your presentation and your conclusion or call to action – another group of three!
· For your introduction, you want to start with a spark. Tell a story or anecdote, share an interesting fact or observation, something to immediately grab the attention of your audience.
· For the body, follow the general format of three main points or themes, supporting information for each one, and smooth transitions between them.
· For your conclusion, finish strong. Appeal not only to logic and reason but emotion. Repeat key information you want them to remember. Use reassuring language. Include the ‘ask’ for any specific decision or action you want them to take.
3. Delivery: This is you actually giving your presentation. In my session, I discussed the importance of body language and vocal variety. If you stand frozen in place or mumble or speaking in a flat monotone, your message will be diluted. Stand tall but relaxed, shoulders back, chin up. Don’t be afraid to look at your audience – if in front of a large group, pick a few friendly faces left, center and right and focus on them. Breathe. Smile! You can fool your audience as well as your subconscious self that you are confident and having a great time.
Outcome, Content, Delivery – Give each of these components equal focus and consideration for more powerful presentations and better outcomes.
More on the Power of Three
I’ll finish with 3 links (would you expect anything less or more?) to articles that provide additional context on this concept of sticking with three.
1. This article from Business Insider delves into some of the psychology behind “3” and how it can improve your marketing efforts:
2. Persuading your audience to do something like give you an order, invest in your business, or volunteer time or money to your cause? This article from The New York Times discusses the persuasive power of three:
3. I talked about the value and importance of adding story to any presentation, whether it’s a one-on-one interview, meeting with clients or high-stake sales pitch. This link, written by a San Francisco arts critic, presents a more literary view of the number three, to help get your own creative juices flowing.
Cate is a Content Marketing Consultant, Writer and Speaker with a focus on helping clients and others bridge the gap between knowing and doing. She is an active member of Toastmasters. She is the founder of FastBlurb content services, helping businesses get to the point for attention getting, memorable marketing and other communications. Find her at fastblurb.com or @fastblurb on Twitter.