www.wellsaid.com March 2015

Have you ever noticed how many things come in threes?  For example, we learn the ABCs; study Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic; and hear stories about The Three Blind Mice, The Three Little Pigs, and Goldilocks and the Three Bears. We eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at morning, noon, and night using a knife, spoon, and fork.  We live under the sun, moon, and stars, on the third planet from the sun, in segments of days, months, and years. The list goes on!

This phenomenon is known as the Rule of Three. When you apply it to your speaking and writing, you make it much easier for your audience to understand and remember your message. Please enjoy the coaching tips and examples below.

Thank you for your loyal readership, and best wishes for your continued communication excellence! 


Kind regards,


The Rule of Three:

Make Your Message Clear, Concise, and Memorable 

By Darlene Price, Well Said, Inc.

"...Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
- Thomas Jefferson , United States Declaration of Independence

The Rule of Three has helped make history. Thomas Jefferson asserted there are three 'unalienable rights,' which are given to all human beings by their Creator and for which governments are created to protect.  Abraham Lincoln proposed a
"government of the people, by the people, for the people."   Inspired by both messages, Martin Luther King, Jr. relentlessly worked for  "justice, good will, and brotherhood ."  

From politics to the workplace, great communicators use the Rule of Three to craft their message and make it memorable. Here are a few examples of how to apply this technique to make your communication more impactful:


1) Discuss your three-part strategy. How did Amazon go from a start-up in 1995 to an Internet colossus with $61 billion in sales last year? CEO Jeff Bezos uses the Rule of Three to tell audiences about his success:   " We've had three big ideas at Amazon that we've stuck with for 20 years, and they're the reason we're successful: 1) Put the customer first. 2) Invent. 3) And be patient. "  No doubt, Jeff Bezos has dozens of ideas that contributed to his success over two decades; however, by sticking to three, his message is clear, concise, and easy to remember.

2) Articulate your top three goals. General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt says, " Every leader needs to clearly explain the top three things the organization is working on. If you can't, then you're not leading well. "  As a leader, what are the top three goals you're working on--for your team, department, or organization?  There may be several; however, select the top three and communicate them clearly and memorably. For example, you might tell your boss, "My top three goals for FY16 are 1) Increased profit through cost reduction; 2) Improved efficiency through Six Sigma initiatives; and 3) Improved employee satisfaction scores through training..."

3) Give three main reasons for hiring you. Most importantly, learn to sell yourself using the Rule of Three. Give three reasons why your interviewer or prospect should hire or promote you. For example, "I believe there are three main reasons I would be an excellent fit for this role.  First, my relevant work experience...  Second, my track record of successful results...  And third, my ability to work well with others..."


1) Present three key benefits of your solution. Sarah, a top salesperson for a leading supply chain company, finally cinched a 15-minute appointment with a major prospect. Despite the 76 products she represents, Sarah focused her brief meeting on the top three product benefits, which solved the prospect's key business challenges: 1) Increase operational efficiency  2) Lower total cost of ownership  3) Improve customer satisfaction. Convinced by Sarah's value proposition, the prospect scheduled a product demo where Sarah closed the deal. 

2) Describe a 'how-to' process in three steps. For example, the American Heart Association teaches and illustrates cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in three easy steps:

i)   Call (If the victim is unresponsive, call 911)

ii)  Pump (If the victim is not breathing, begin chest compressions)

iii) Blow (Pinch the victim's nose, cover his mouth with yours, and blow until his chest rises). In this case, the Rule of Three may be life-saving!


3) Divide your presentation into three sections. Steve Jobs applied the Rule of Three in nearly every presentation and product launch, including the very first iPhone demonstration. He presented this innovative new solution as a combination of three devices:

i)   A widescreen iPod with touch controls
ii)  A revolutionary mobile phone
iii) A breakthrough Internet communications device


1) Develop a three-letter acronym, which represents your key points or steps.  The Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal is the most widely used tool for evaluating the cognitive ability of business leaders. Despite the complexity and research behind the tool, clients are given 'Three Simple Steps to Smart Thinking' and are urged to "Think R.E.D. "
R ecognize assumptions
E valuate arguments
D raw conclusions

2) Select three alliterative words, which crystallize your message.  Renowned business strategist and author Kenichi Ohmae presents his 3Cs to audiences across the globe. He advises leaders that a successful business strategy must take into account three main players:
The  C ustomer
The  C ompetitors
The  C orporation

3) Create a catchy three-word slogan, jingle or motto that captures your message .   For example:

Just Do It (Nike)

Never Stop Improving (Lowe's)

We Try Harder (Avis)

Stop, Drop, and Roll (National Fire Safety Association)

Confidence In Motion (Subaru)


Good luck using the Rule of Three to make your message clear, concise, and memorable. And, remember the secret to success:

Practice, Practice, Practice!


If you would like to learn more about the Rule of Three and delivering powerful persuasive presentations, please read my book,

Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results

Feel free to contact me directly to schedule in-house corporate training or private individual coaching for you or your team. I would be honored to support your communication success!

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