Archive for the ‘Structural Strategies’ Category

Remember “Three” When You Speak

The Magic of Three

The number three is a magical number in the English language. We see it in movie titles as in “The Three Stooges, The Three Musketeers and The Three Amigos,” we see it as far back as being the most famous phrase in the Unites States declaration of independence – “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, and we see it  by speakers and comedians all across America.

I don’t know why this is so. We can theorize the reason for this phenomenon from today till tomorrow, and in fact some people have, but my philosophy is, “if something works – just go with it!”  Why spend your energy trying to figure out the “why” of it when you can just be in the “now” and just go with it. If it is good for our founding forefathers, if it is good for Hollywood, then it is good for me – You see, there is the rule of three in action!

So how does “the rule of three” work to create humor?  When comedians create their humor, they use what is called the “set up – punch”.  Comedians use this set up-punch formula to get every one of their laughs. Comedians don’t always need to use the rule of three, they are so good at creating humor that they don’t always need to rely it, but for the rest of us speakers, using the rule of three is a technique that we should always use, and that if done right, can almost guarantee a laugh from the audience.

The psychology of the Set up-Punch Formula

What is the comedian’s secret to getting a laugh from the audience? Comedians are not psychologists, but they know how the human minds works  – at least when it comes to getting a laugh.  Comedians know three things about the human mind very well when it comes to humor.     

1. That a “Spontaneous shift” is the key.

2. That proper timing is crucial

3. That the content must be appropriate for the audience

Spontaneous shift

So what is a spontaneous shift? A spontaneous shift is when the speaker puts the audience on one track. The speaker fills up the mind of their audience with a vivid picture of one particular thought or idea and just at the point when the audience is expecting to continue on that track, the speaker suddenly puts them on a totally different track and Walla a laugh occurs!

The key here is spontaneous. From the speakers perspective, it may not seem spontaneous, because the speakers is prepared and knows what he or she is planning to say. However, from the perspective of the audience it definitely comes across as spontaneous. How many times have you had conversations with friends or family and laugh seemed to easily flow. If you think about it, you will probably realize that the instant the laugh occurred, someone said something spontaneous and which also put everyone else’s thoughts on another track.

Proper Timing

Putting your audience on another thought track is not enough. You also need to have your timing down in order to make an impact and receive a laugh. Your punch line needs to come immediately after the set up. If you wait too long, you will lose the impact potential of your punch line.

When using the rule of three, you are essentially doing the same thing as what comedians do with their set-punch in their comedy routines, but your set up will be a bit longer.

The rule of Three in Action

A friend of mine and fellow speaker, Marry Cheyne, had used the rule of three extremely well when she delivered her speech “Nelly”  at the  Toastmasters 2009 international convention. She gave some background about how challenging and uncomfortable it was for her to come to Australia as a 7 year old Chinese. She then said, “I was so uncomfortable that I felt like a fish out of water, like a bird out of its nest, like a guest (pause) at a toastmasters meeting.” The last line, “like a guest at a toastmasters meeting” was the punch line. The other two lines were the set up for her punch line.

The background story gave the audience the “thought track” of her being uncomfortable, The first two lines went along that  track –  uncomfortable like a fish out of water , uncomfortable like a bird out of its nest and then she throws the twist – Like a guest (she pauses) and then says “at a toastmasters meeting”. The audience was expecting her to stay serious, but she doesn’t. She spontaneously puts their thought on another track and walla she gets a laugh!

The Rule of Three must be Adaptable to Your Audience

When coming up with the right content for the rule of three, make sure your content is applicable to your audience. When Marry came up with her content, she knew who her audience was. It was a room full of fellow toastmasters. So everyone in her audience knew how uncomfortable a guest at a toastmasters club meeting feels, because at one time or another everyone was a guest before they became a member. That is why it was funny to that audience. Her line would not have been funny to a group of people no affiliated with toastmasters and surely she would not have used it. So always make sure that your content is appropriate to your audience. Enjoy tinkering with “the rule of three” for your next speech!

How to Make Your Message Stick With Your Audience – Anytime, Anywhere!

The Size of Your Speech Does Not Matter

If you ever have to give a presentation, whether it is for 60 seconds or 60 minutes, you need to make your message stick. What use is a message that gets thrown back into the ether once your audience goes home and can not remember or recall what you said to them a week, or even a month after you spoke to them. You want to not only impact your audience while you are speaking to them, but also long afterwards.

Create a Phrase or Slogan

So how do you do this? You do this by creating a phrase or slogan that basically sums up your entire message and which lingers in the ears of your audience members – even long after you leave the speaking platform. This is the first part of the World Class Speaking PARTS formula that we use to coach speakers when they are creating their message. The phrase must be 10 words or less. The reason for this is because anything longer that 10 words will be difficult for people to remember. In addition, If the phrase, as you will soon see, has a bit of a rhyme, it will add to its ability to be remembered.

Okay, so now perhaps you might be thinking, “How on earth can I sum up an entire speech in one phrase?” I will be honest with you, coming up with the right phrase will not be easy, in fact, it will take some effort, but when you do, you will be well rewarded. When you anchor your message to your audience, you will be rewarded handsomely by not only being remembered by your audience, but by the people that brought you in to speak – and you will be called back time and time again.

How I Created My Slogan

It was 7:00am on Thursday March 18 2010. I had attended my weekly BNI meeting in Westfield New Jersey, where I give my usual educational networking tip of the day. BNI is an international referral organization where business owners get together to network, develop relationships and give referrals to each other.

Aside from my position in the chapter as the educational coordinator, my specialty there is also as a public speaking coach, keynote speaker, and presentations skills trainer. The education that I gave that morning was about the need to meet with the people in our BNI chapter – not just in the chapter at the weekly meetings, but also outside of the weekly meeting in order to develop the relationship, so that an atmosphere of trust and likability is developed.

I started the education that morning by talking about a study that the founder of BNI Dr. Ivan Misner and BNI had conducted over a 6 month period where they had polled close to 2,350 business owners, sales people and professionals from both retail and service industries. The poll included people from countries across the world. People from the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada and the United kingdom had participated in this poll.

What Dr. Misner and his group at BNI had found, was that more that 80 percent of the respondents preferred receiving more business through networking groups or an introduction of some sort. So in other words, they wanted to receive referrals. In BNI they have a term for setting up times to meet with other members of the chapter to get to know one another and develop friendships that leads to the giving and receiving of referrals. They call this form of getting together, a “Dance Card.”

So as I was doing my educational that morning, and after telling my fellow BNI members about the conclusion of Dr. Misner’s study, “that most business owners would rather receive their business through word of mouth and referrals”, I turned to my group of 38 members and said, ” I have been here for close to 8 months, and guess how many dance cards I have had? Five. That’s it!” and upon hearing that, many people in my chapter wanted to stone me! This was obviously not a good thing! I was not setting a very good example of developing relationships.

However, I purposely put my ego on the line for the sake of making a point. In my public speaking skills workshops, I talk about how, when you self deprecate, you enhance your connection with your audience. So in order to bring the point home to my fellow BNI members that morning, I had to make an example out of myself, so I could connect with my audience and drive my point home to them.

So, after members of my chapter were done having their laugh at my expense, I then paused and made my point. I said, ” and guess whom I was receiving all my referrals from? That’s right. The ones whom I had been doing the dance cards with” and then I said ” If you want to advance in the referrals that you receive. If you want to advance in your business – you gotta dance. “If You Want to Advance, You Gotta Dance” – my slogan was created.

Claudia, the area director of our BNI chapter just happened to been sitting in on the meeting that morning, and she walked up to me after the meeting and said, “Lewis, wow! I really like that slogan, “If you want to advance you gotta dance” -That was a great slogan you had created.” I thanked her and left the meeting to start my day.

Testing Your Slogan for The “Stick Factor”

One week later, The following Thursday morning, I was again sitting at my BNI meeting where I did my educational tip of the day. We then had our usual 90 minute meeting where each member of the chapter does their 60 second commercial on their business, followed by two presentations from our members, which is then followed by a referral go-around where everyone in the chapter starts handing out referrals to one another.

So when it came my turn, I decided to do something interesting. I handed out some referrals and then decided to test the waters and see if my phrase that I had created the week prior, did indeed get anchored with the audience. I turned to my audience and said, “I am free after this morning’s meeting, So If anyone has time to kill I would be happy to meet up with you – because if you remember what I said last week, “If you want to advance…” I paused, and let the audience do the rest. Amazingly they said “You Gotta Dance!” My phrase had worked! It stuck with them. It passed the Stick Test!

Final Thoughts

Creating phrases and slogans are not easy, but if you really take the time to think about your speech, you will eventually come up with the proper phrase or slogan for your message. You will not only have a great message but you will have created a phrase that is like glue that will connect your message with your audience even long after you leave the speaking platform. Because when they remember your phrase, they will remember your message.


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