Listeners like lists. But how many points should you include in the list?
Three is the magic number.
Comedians know that three is funnier than two. Writers know that three is more dramatic than four. Jobs knows that three is more persuasive than five. Every great movie, book, play, or presentation has a three-act structure. There were three musketeers, not five. Goldilocks encountered three bears, not four. There were three stooges, not two. Legendary NFL coach Vince Lombardi told his players there were three important things in life: family, religion, and the Green Bay Packers. And the U.S. Declaration of Independence states that Americans have a right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” not simply life and liberty. The rule of three is a fundamental principle in writing, in humor, and in a Steve Jobs presentation.
The U.S. Marine Corps has conducted extensive research into this subject and has concluded that three is more effective than two or four. Divisions within the marines are divided into three: a corporal commands a team of three; a sergeant commands three rifle teams in a squad; a captain has three platoons, and so on. If the marines were kind enough to study this stuff, why should we reinvent the wheel? Go ahead and use it. So few communicators incorporate the rule of three in their presentations that you will stand apart simply by doing so. The rule of three – it works for the marines, it works for Jobs, and it will work for you.
The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo p. 51-52