Power of three – Writing and presentation basics (Video)

Posted on: December 15, 2020

The latest short video (8 minutes) explores an idea to help you improve the impact and persuasion of your writing and presentations. So here it is the Power of three – Writing and presentation basics. And it ends on a seasonal note.

(Video script)

Hi I’m Kim Tasso. And today I’ll be sharing with you an idea that will help to improve your writing – and your presentations – the power of three.

Psychology and the power of three

There are some psychological reasons why three is important. An early psychologist – George Miller – indicated that we had a hard time retaining more than seven to nine digits in our short-term memory.

Contemporary scientists have put the number of items we can easily recall in short term memory closer to three or four chunks of information. And humans seek patterns in things – there’s brevity and rhythm in three.

Our ability to make decisions is also bounded by three – people want a choice – but not too much! So three is good.

Three is vital for our physical survival too – as we die after

  • Three minutes without air
  • Three hours in a harsh environment
  • Three days without water
  • Three weeks without food

The Latin saying “Omne trium perfectum” means everything that comes in threes is perfect or Every set of three is complete!

(OMG sign) OMG! How many sayings can you think of that have three elements?

The power of three is all around us

At School we learn the three Rs – Reading, Writing and Arithmetic

The primary colours are red, yellow and blue

In sports, the winners are ranked by gold, silver and bronze

We use relative temperature measures of cold, warm and hot and traffic lights use red, amber and green

And many people use low, medium and high as relative measures

Economists and forecasters need three points for a trend.

And we all enjoy a three course meal!

Politicians – especially this year – use three in their mottos – we’ve all heard Hands. Face. Space.

Architects and engineers know that triangles are the most stable shapes – we see them a lot in the construction of bridges.

Photographers use the rule of thirds for great images.

And while we are on art – one of my favourite sculptures is the THREE GRACES. This links to Greek mythology as goddesses of such things as charm, beauty, and creativity. Or theological virtues, specifically faith, hope and charity

Philosophy uses the power of three. Socrates – in Peaceful Warrior – said that life has three rules:

  • Paradox – Life is a mystery, don’t waste time trying to figure it out
  • Humour – Keep a sense of humour – especially about yourself
  • Change – Know that nothing ever stays the same

And while we are on philosopher – the ancient Japanese used (THREE WISE MONKEYS)

  • See no evil
  • Hear no evil
  • Speak no evil

That’s still good advice today…

The power of three in writing and presentations

 One of the most compelling brand tag lines I developed was for a property consultancy back in 1998: Real people, Real solutions, Real estate.

Lots of stories and fairy tales use three elements for stories. I can think of:

  • The three musketeers (although there were four)
  • Three blind mice
  • Goldilocks and the three bears
  • The three little pigs (The first little pig sets up the story by building his house of straw, which the wolf blows over. The same happens to the second pig’s stick house, creating a sense of anticipation. The third pig breaks the pattern when he builds his house out of bricks, pushing the fable’s resolution)

In many stories, the main characters are often described with three words and have to endure three trials (think about Rumpelstiltskin). Three makes things memorable. And persuasive.

At school we learn a three-stage structure for writing – beginning, middle and end. But that doesn’t work so well for persuasive communications. So we have to be creative with other structures.

In grammar there are three perspectives to write from and this dictates the pronouns to use:

  • First person – I, me, we, us (another three is me, myself and I)
  • Second person – you, your, yours, yourself, yourselves
  • Third person – he, him, his, himself, she, her, hers, herself, it, its, itself, they, them, their, theirs, and themselves

In persuasive communications – the use of the second person is most effective. Using I too often sounds a little bit self-centred and not focused on the reader.

There is past, present and future tenses – writing is persuasive when it uses the present, active

Aristotle argued there were three elements to be included in all writing and speeches:

  • Ethos – establish your credibility
  • Logos – the rational and logical argument
  • Pathos – the emotional persuasive element

From all the work on stakeholder engagement and buy in that making a rational argument is not enough. You have to get that emotional connection to gain traction,

In my many posts on presentations, I suggest that you focus on three key messages – with supporting evidence and stories – to make a big impact.

Back in April 2020 I produced a short video introducing myself using the power of three throughout  I also did a video with seven tips for great writing.

And to finish

And just to finish – and I am sure that my Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh friends won’t mind if – as it is that time of the year a couple of seasonal THREES.

Christianity is based on the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

And the story of Christmas wouldn’t be complete without the THREE WISE MEN (Christmas card).

So I wish you peace, happiness and prosperity (another three) for the New Year. Let’s hope 2021 is a bit better than 2020!

Other articles on writing

Seven secrets of great business writing (Video) (kimtasso.com) (April 2020)

Writing tips for finding news stories, backstories and explainers (kimtasso.com) (April 2019)

Top persuasive writing tips – Audience, structure and content | Kim Tasso (February 2019)

Persuasive writing: Titles and tweets (kimtasso.com) (November 2017)

Persuasive writing – nine writing tips | Kim Tasso (October 2017)

selling legal services with storytelling | Kim Tasso (September 2017)

Persuasive writing tips – Five technical questions (kimtasso.com) (March 2017)

persuasive writing – for business development | Kim Tasso (February 2017)

Business development writing for lawyers | Kim Tasso (July 2016)

Book Review – Persuasive writing (how to harness the power of words) by Peter Frederick (kimtasso.com) (January 2016)

5 favourite thoughts on business development writing | Kim Tasso (March 2015)

11 top tips on marketing and business development writing in the professions (kimtasso.com) (April 2014)

Feedback from an effective writing workshop | Kim Tasso (April 2012)

Book review by Kim Tasso – Ian Atkinson’s Business writing | Kim Tasso (April 2012)

Book Review: Hypnotic Writing – How to seduce and persuade customers with only your words By Joe Vitale (kimtasso.com) (April 2012)

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