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All good things come in threes
Is it true? Why three and not four? Or five? The number three seems to have a special meaning for us humans. The three kings, the three musketeers, three piglets. Everywhere there seems to be three of everything.
This is no coincidence. Our love for this number depends very much on how we humans process information. We love patterns and are masters at tracking them down. And three is the smallest number of elements a pattern needs. That’s why many jokes work with three people:
“A politician, a researcher and a civil servant want to gather snails together. After thirty minutes, the researcher has 162 snails in his basket. After one hour, the politician presents 87 pieces.
The official is swallowed from the ground and is only back after more than four hours, but without a snail. He says: “This is the madness with the fast critters! As soon as I see a snail and bend down after it, it’s already gone!”
Why does this joke work? Because we know at the latest after the second enumeration, here comes something else! And that creates tension. And tension is always good.
What does that have to do with storytelling?
So the next time you prepare a presentation and want to explain five important points to the audience, try reducing the list to three. This will help you keep the information in your head. Exactly, because our head recognizes this pattern. And our head likes that.
Steve Jobs knew it
And if you’re still not convinced by the number three, here’s a video clip when Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone:
Steve introduces three revolutionary products (from 01:22min.)
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