I remember sitting in calculus class in high school seriously questioning why I was working so hard to understand fractional and negative exponents. Honestly, there were so many times throughout my 19 years of formal education that I thought, “Will I ever really use this?” Just a few examples include playing the recorder (which was cut throat in fourth grade), memorizing the periodic table of elements, and learning how to dissect a frog. I can now add how to write in cursive to the list since they apparently don’t teach that anymore.
But, seriously, I would never be where I am today without the amazing teachers and education I was lucky enough to receive. And, in celebration of that I am going to write about one of the things that I honestly use on a pretty frequent basis. It is called the Rule of Three.
The Rule of Three is an age-old principle that relates to how humans process information. Scientists have found that we are not very good at remembering or comprehending large quantities of information at once. Apparently, three is the ideal number of items we can learn and retain. Our brains also learn better when information is presented in a pattern. Think the Three Little Pigs, The Three Billy Goats Gruff and Goldilocks and the Three Bears (which I have basically memorized while reading them daily to my 2- and 4-year-old daughters).
So, the Rule of Three reminds us that the best way to get our readers to remember what we are writing about (or talking about or presenting about) is to present the information in three succinct points.
The Rule of 3 at Work
Here are some easily recognizable real-world examples (that don’t involve children’s picture books).
Steve Jobs was a master of the Rule of Three, applying it in nearly every presentation and product launch. In 2007, Jobs introduced the first iPhone as the “third” of Apple’s revolutionary product categories (the first two were the Macintosh and the iPod). He even said that Apple would be introducing “three” revolutionary products – a new iPod, a phone, and an Internet communications device. Jobs repeated the three products slowly until the audience finally figured out he was talking about one device capable of handling all three tasks.
If your listener will only remember three things from your blog, conversation, presentation or email, what will you focus on? Does knowing this change the way you think about communicating with your audience?
Sometimes we get so caught up in our businesses that we forget that most people know absolutely nothing about our business. We also make the mistake that people want to know everything, when in reality they just need to know how your business will make their lives easier or better.
Do you own a residential painting business? Focus on why customers will be happy they selected you instead of the competitor. For example, do you provide free quotes, do you color match absolutely anything, and retouch within a week? Write about those things.
Instead of writing about every product or service you provide, focus on what makes your business stand out from the crowd. Consumers have endless choices, so tell them why they should choose you – succinctly and repetitively.