JS Tip 156: From the Speaking Workshops: Supporting Your Central Idea

Last week we talked about centering your presentation on a single idea: a single, declarative sentence that captures your intent.

This week we’ll talk about supporting that central idea.

Remember these numbers: 3-2-5. These are the magic support numbers (and the magic list numbers and the magic PowerPoint numbers).

Ideally, support your central idea with three supporting points:

We recommend you approve next year’s budget.

The budget has three major advantages . . . .

In western culture (the culture we’re a part of), the number three occurs and reoccurs on a regular basis. Three blind mice. Three Stooges. Three branches of government. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It’s a number we’re comfortable with.

Support your central idea with at least two supporting points. One supporting point just isn’t enough. We call this “the law of sufficiency.”

And use no more than five supporting points. More than five boggle the mind. Too many. Can’t keep track.

If you have more than five supporting points and you can’t discard any of them, group the minor points under an umbrella of two to five major points (ideally, three).

We do this every day.

How many numbers in your telephone number? Ten. But how do you remember your telephone number? In three groups of three, three, and four.

How many numbers is your social security number? Nine. But how do you remember your social security number? In three groups of three, two, and four.

This stuff works.