Why Every Financial Executive Must Know of the Rule of Three

Have you ever noticed in life how things are naturally configured in groups of 3? Consider:

  • The 3 R’s
  • The three pigs
  • The three bears
  • The three wise men
  • The three pillars…

There are 3 reasons for us to remember this key principle in developing our communication skills. I’m going to call this the ABC rule of 3, just to mix my metaphors:

1. A = Audience

The rule of 3 helps writers and presenters make their subject matter more memorable with their audience. The rule of 3 strikes the right balance between being brief enough to remember, but long enough to create a pattern or story. Consider this famous Winston Churchill quote:

“A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt; long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.”

2. B = Brain

It turns out, there a good scientific reason for this phenomena as well. Our brains are conditioned to remember chunks of information when they are served to us in groups of 3. When information comes in a packet of 3, the outcome is more effective, it more satisfying, and surprisingly, it can even be funnier. Consider the following:

“An accountant is someone who solves a problem you never knew you had, in a way you don’t understand and for a fee you can’t afford.”

3. C = Credibility

By breaking our information into three parts, we elevate our credibility by conveying a key message that is both simple and catchy. The Latin phrase, “omne trium perfectum” (everything that comes in 3s is perfect, or, every set of 3 is complete) is an elegant origin of the idea that has cascaded through the ages. Communicating in three parts gives you an air of confidence.

Today you’ll find the rule of 3s around you in everyday life, yet few of us incorporate it into the finance information we produce and distribute. Like it or not, the finance function is in the news dissemination business and competing against the likes of twitter, facebook, and yahoo for the attention of our managers. Those with responsibility for reporting financial results would be well served to keep this rule in mind.

Do you want your readers to remember none of your important insights or the three most important?

To learn more about this topic, take our “Delivering Killer Presentations for Financial Executives”professional development course today.

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