The next time you're preparing for a media interview, remind yourself of a few popular childhood nursery rhymes like The Three Little Pigs, Three Blind Mice and Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
Now you’re probably wondering what children's fairy tales have to do with a media interview. Well, if you haven’t guessed already, it’s the ‘Rule of Three’.
Whether you’re doing a media interview, giving a presentation, telling a story or even selling a house, the Rule of Three ensures you are memorable without confusing or overwhelming your audience.
The simple reason is that people tend to remember things when they’re clustered in threes. Less than three can be forgettable or unconvincing; any more than three and communication starts to break down because you're giving us too much to think about.
It's one of the oldest of all the presentation techniques, known about since the time of Aristotle. We find something complete and satisfying about messages grouped in threes.
That's why the number three is a favourite of storytellers, writers, public speakers and, dare I say, even politicians. Author Lewis Carroll, renowned for his Alice in Wonderland stories and The Hunting of the Snark, referred to The Rule of Three more than once in his work. Even real estate agents use the power of three to spruik the benefits of “Location, Location, Location”. On Budget night, Australia's opposition leader Tony Abbott used the Rule of Three to get a simple message across in his Tweets (left). And he almost delivered a "triple whammy" by repeating the word "increases" three times.
Perhaps we are conditioned from a very young age to respond favourably to ideas or concepts when they are grouped in threes, due largely to repetitive advertising, which we touched on in an earlier blog.
It is proven that the human mind works best on pattern recognition and three is the smallest number needed to create a pattern.
So if you want to deliver memorable content or engage more effectively with the media, clients or staff, choose three concise stories, three concise ideas or three concise points that best illustrate the message you want to get across.
If you raise any more than three ideas in a media interview, the danger is you will confuse the reporter and ultimately their readers, listeners or viewers. You’ll also be giving the reporter too many angles to choose from and it might not be the angle that suits you or the organisation you represent
If you limit your talking points to just three, there’s a much greater chance the story will pan out how you had hoped. So when you’re planning for a media interview or crafting your message, remind yourself of the Rule of Three. As they say in the movie American Pie 2: “The rule of three. It’s an exact science.”
Do you already use the Rule of Three in media interviews, sales pitches or business meetings? We’d love to hear your thoughts.