The day is still vivid in my memory. It was the day I had to give a speech in public about public speaking. No pressure right! As if speaking in public wasn’t enough pressure, I stood there as the alleged expert in the field about to deliver my first speech as the president of Nottingham Public speaking society. I should have been anxious, worried and downright scared but the truth is, I felt ready, prepared and motivated because I had an ace up my sleeve: I had tricolons.
Also known as the rule of three, A tricolon is a sentence which lists three things in succession. Famous examples include The Good, The Bad and the Ugly or Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The magic of a tricolon comes in that it makes you sound as though you an authority in your subject matter and in so doing adds impact, power and elegance to any speech you make.
Just as a Hansel and Grettel strategically placed bread crumbs to help them find their way back home, I had strategically placed some key tricolons throughout my speech to help me feel confident and powerful in what I was saying. If there were any points I wanted to place extra emphasis on, I used a tricolon. Any points I wanted to stay memorable to my audience, I used a tricolon. And, on special occasions, any point I wanted to make humorous, I used a tricolon.
Tricolons are an excellent way of achieving the aforementioned eefects because the brain naturally respsonds better to things when they are in 3’s. We are used to things being listed in threes and and it has been drilled into us from a young age. Think back to your child hood. How abominable would it be if there had been 4 little pigs instead of 3? How atrocious would it have been if there had been 2 blind mice? The ubiquitous nature of things being three starts in childhood and continues through our lives. When we first learn to cross the road we are told to Stop, look and listen- not Stop, look, listen, analyse, consider, determine, asses etc. We would simply forget. Furthermore, companies take advantage of this magical number when selling us their products. Snap, crackle, pop (Rice Crispies) or Buy it, Sell it, Love it (eBay) are all familiar to us and remain memorable because they are listed as a trio.
As I executed my tricolons I could see that my audience were really buying into what I was saying. With the help of tricolons, I sounded confident in what I was saying and as a result, they were confident in what I was saying. Instead of saying things such as “Tricolons are an effective way to add impact to your speech” I said “Tricolons are an effective way to add impact, power and elegance to your speech” (Just like at the beginning of this article). My audience had been used to experiencing things in three’s all their life and by utilising this powerful tool I was putting them in familiar territory with a rhythm they could relate to. It was here that I learnt that any audience, regardless of the occasion, will always respond favourably if there is something they can relate to. The tricolons were working like a charm.
A word of caution though. Just as much as tricolons can be your best friend if used well and if all three components are remembered, they can also be your arch enemy if poorly executed. Once a tricolon has been initiated, the audience know what is coming and a costly mistake here will be more obvious than at any point during your speech. Imagine listening to a campaign speech and you hear the speaker say “We are here because we want reform, we are here because we want change and most of all we are here because we want [insert hesitation]”.
As you can see, this is the last place you want your mind going blank. The audience are in eager anticipation of your next words and if hesitation occurs, the silence will be unforgettably deafening and recovering could to be an insurmountable task.
Therefore the key to tricolons is practice. To deviate momentarily from 3’s, we have the 5 p’s: Proper Practice Prevents Poor Performance. They never get old. If tricolons are practised and you know exactly what you are going to say for each one you have, you will leave your audience on the edge of their seat wondering what hit them.