Monday, July 23, 2012

Putting things in threes: 2 great video examples from women speakers

We've talked before about why crafting your message in an outline of three points works so well. It's almost hardwired in humans as part of our ancient oral storytelling tradition, and in modern times, it's an easy way to organize your content for brevity and clarity when you speak.

But how does it work in practice--in real public speaking? How do you put things in threes when you give a presentation or talk? Luckily, I have two great video examples for you to watch, both by women speakers: Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, and Melinda Gates of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Both of them put their talks into threes that offer you good role models for organizing a speech.

Sheryl Sandberg uses this TED talk to look at the question of Why we have too few women leaders. She uses her three points to suggest the answers to that problem, and her three points are:
  • Sit at the table. 
  • Make your partner a real partner. 
  • Don't leave before you leave.
Watch and listen to how she works her three points into the talk, stating them together at the beginning, then working her way through each one. This talk also is notable, as Max Atkinson has pointed out, because Sandberg conveys a lot of data without slides or charts--and some of that data is used to buttress her three points, carrying the message a step further with data or examples.

Melinda Gates, speaking at TEDxChange on What nonprofits can learn from Coca-Cola, shares three unexpected lessons she observed while doing her foundation's charitable work in sub-Saharan Africa. Seeing Coca-Cola even in remote locations where health care couldn't be easily delivered, she shares the lessons for what nonprofits can do better in these three points:
  • taking real-time data and feeding it back into the product, 
  • tapping into local entrepreneurial talent, 
  • incredible marketing
Gates's big idea uses the element of surprise--you surely weren't expecting a lesson from a corporate giant in this foundation executive's talk--but quickly fills in the outline with concrete steps nonprofits can take from Coke's playbook. In effect, her three points suggest the possibilities nonprofits can reach for when they emulate a successful company working in the same region. Watch how she, too, clues the audience in to her outline, then works her way through it:

What did you observe about how these talks are organized? Share your notes in the comments.

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