One of the first lessons we are taught as speakers is that we should “tell them what we are going to say, then tell them, then tell them what we have said.”
The lesson is as old as Aristotle, and there’s a good, science-based reason behind it: the Serial Position effect (as outlined by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus).
He observed that we are far more likely to remember the first thing we are told, and the last thing.
So, if we say up front what the audience is going to learn, and then remind them at the end what they have been told, then they will remember the opening-and-closing signposts – and the information those signposts point to.
This strategy is used all the time in the military, where it is essential that key information is embedded firmly in the minds of the audience – because their lives may well depend on it.
Of course, trainers in the military are also likely to demand an instant audit of the material – asking participants to explain in their own words what they have learned. As a speaker, you probably won’t have that chance.
But even without that instant feedback, the tell-them triple is a strategy that you might like to try when giving informational presentations (for example, to colleagues at work or in a business seminar, etc)
In social or life-event speeches, you don’t need that sort of recall – because the purpose in generally to entertain rather than to inform.
But there are different sorts of triples that you can use in an entertaining speech – and we will consider them in later workshops.
Tomorrow’s tip is on why – and how – to use stories to engage your audience.