Using the power of three for impact in your pitch
Groups of three are everywhere.
Stop, look, listen. Hands, space, face. The three little pigs. Snap, crackle, pop. Blood, sweat, tears. I came, I saw, I conquered. The father, the son and the Holy spirit. We could go on….
The power of three is one of the oldest and most effective principles in communication. Basically, it describes communicating three separate ideas together as a group. It is used in literature, comedy, music, marketing and even law. And it is a powerful technique to incorporate into our pitch. It can make our pitch more impactful, compelling and memorable. But why?
There are three very good reasons.
1. Three is the smallest pattern
We are drawn to groups of three because three is the smallest pattern. Our brains are drawn to patterns, we seek them out and they evoke a satisfied feeling in us. So the rule of three literally makes our audience feel good.
Secondly, connecting information is how our memory works. It is easier to remember a pattern than remember words scattered on a page at random. One thought leads to another. So presenting our ideas in a group makes our message easier to recall. If you hear - Heinz meanz…. What does your brain jump to? Beanz. It finishes the pattern.
2. Grouped information is easier for us to process
How many dots are here?
How about here?
For most people, it takes less time to count the third set of dots. But why is this the case?
It’s because they have been presented in a group. It is far easier for us to process the dots when they are grouped together. This is an important idea when communicating anything. Three dots… or three adjectives... or three reasons why your client should partner with you.
Of course, when pitching, our aim is for our client to remember how we can help them and to understand our approach clearly. Making it as easy as possible for them is going to help us keep their attention.
Emotions, of course, enhance our memory.
3. It keeps our message concise
Another thing that can help us keep our client’s attention is keeping our message concise. Which is useful aspect of the power of three.
A surefast way to disengage whoever you are talking to in a pitch is by sharing too much. You can likely relate to a time when you have been in a presentation or a pitch when the speaker seems to be talking endlessly, sharing point after point in a scattergun approach. Instead of listening we end up tuning in and out... thinking about who we are going to connect with after the talk rather than listening to what they have to say.
By thinking carefully about our structure and sticking to the rule of three, we can avoid going off on a tangent. We are in control of the amount of information we are choosing to share - it is deliberate and planned.
Used well, the power of three will deliver fruitful results. So how can we make the most of it during a pitch?
You can use the power of three in different ways:
1. For your overarching structure
Thinking of your pitch as a whole, a clever way to use the power of three is dividing it into three sections. This goes further than having an introduction, body and conclusion. Think of the three main overarching points in the body of the pitch.
Then you build your sub points underneath each of the three sections. This will give your pitch a clear, strong base structure from which to hang your ideas. It also means you give yourself a limit to how many points you can make, reeling you back from losing your client’s attention from oversharing.
Two structure options that work well for pitches:
Them - us - we
Their challenge, how you can help with it, what would the partnership look like
Why - what - how
Why are they looking for help? What is it that you have to share? How will you approach the task?
2. On your slides
We can visually use the power of three to share key points on individual slides. We tap into our audience's psychological attraction to threes. Making things visually pleasing is always a win.
3. To add impact to a point
Obama, like many politicians, is renowned for harnessing the power of three during speeches to persuade and compel. For example, Obama has used:
It’s not small, it’s big. It’s important.
I have listened to you, I have learned from you, and you’ve made me a better president.
Our economy is recovering. A decade of war is ending. A long campaign is now over.
We can do this too during our pitches.
Read the following aloud. What sounds better?
A) We believe we are well suited to help you because we will use our 15 years of experience to help you achieve your goal and we understand your market.
B) We believe we are well suited to help you because firstly: we have a deep understanding of your market, secondly: we are dedicated to helping you achieve your goal and thirdly: we have over 15 years of experience.
A and B communicate the same amount of points, B does it in a more impactful way. Small tweaks can make real difference.
When communicating the three points verbally, you can create structure even more in your audience's mind by using verbal cues like ‘firstly, secondly, thirdly.’ Equally, casually counting on your fingers can help emphasise your point.
We would love to hear from you if you have counted the number of times the power of three was used in this blog(!)... or if you are interested in learning more about how to pitch with impact. Also, for more on pitching, take a look at our other blogs in our pitch series.