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The Secret Rule Behind Apple Presentations

By now, Apple has probably sold millions of iPhone 6 and 6 Plus units. In fact, Forbes is reporting that they might have reached the 20 million mark already. This comes as no surprise after all the hype surrounding the new releases. For months, blogs churned out theories on the specs of the new iPhone models.The excitement became even more palpable after CEO Tim Cook divulged details during the Apple keynote presentation last September 9.

Apple is obviously a well-loved brand. Because of that, people will keep an ear out for news on their products and innovations. Still, their keynotes always have an extraordinary quality. Apple presentations are famous for being memorable, engaging, and easy to understand. It won’t be an overstatement to say that they’ve become a benchmark for effective delivery.

Presentation expert Carmine Gallo recently wrote about the secret behind this success, and you’ll be surprised to learn that it’s a simple rule we’ve already talked about in the past. The secret is the “rule of three.”

What is the rule of three?

According to Gallo, the rule of three is among the most “profound concepts in communication theory.” Basically, it states that information presented in 3 parts are inherently more interesting and memorable. Considering our short attention spans, presenting ideas in three’s allow for better understanding and comprehension.

If you think about it, you’ll notice the rule of three everywhere. From advertisements to nursery rhymes, plenty of the things we read and listen to follow this simple structure. Here are a few examples, as listed by Presentation Magazine:

Good speeches are peppered with lists with three items

1. “Friends, Romans, Countrymen” – William Shakespeare in Julius Caesar
2. “Blood, sweat and tears” – General Patton
3. Our priorities are “Education, Education, Education” – Prime Minister, Tony Blair

They are used in religion…

1. “Father, Son and Holy Spirit”
2. “Faith, Hope and Charity”

… in Public Safety

1. “Stop, Look and Listen”

… and in the film industry

1. “The good, the bad and the ugly”
2. “Sex, lies and videotape”

Another presentation expert, Sarah B. Marshall, offers this definition:

My improv coach, Kristin Schier, explained the rule of three this way. She said, “The first time you say something, it’s an incident, the second time you say something, it’s a co-incidence, but the third time you say something, it becomes a pattern”. In fact, she’s right, three is the smallest number of elements you need to create a pattern (or break a pattern).

The rule of three in Apple presentations

In the September 9 presentation, Tim Cook structured his speech into three main parts. First, he discussed the details of the new iPhone 6. Next, he talked about Apple Pay. Lastly, he announced the upcoming Apple Watch. Steve Jobs used to do the same thing. In the keynote he delivered in 2010, he talked about three main things: the iPad, the App Store, and the iPhone 4.

Gallo also pointed out that Cook’s application of the rule of three doesn’t stop there. After introducing Apple’s latest innovations, Cook and the other speakers grouped discussed new features into 3 parts as well.

On the iPhone 6 camera:

“Three things make your photos great. The lens, the imaging sensor, and the brains behind it all, the processor.”

On Apple Pay:

“Apple Pay is easy, secure, and private….Cashiers don’t see your name, your card number, or your security code.”

On the Apple Watch:

“The activity app measures three separate aspects of movement with the goal of helping you sit less, move more, and get some exercise.”

While these new products are certainly technologically complex, Cook and his team were able to communicate their ideas in an accessible manner. By using the rule of three, they allowed their customers to follow along without feeling confused. Best of all, they made it easier for journalists and bloggers to share sound bites all over social media.

Apple presentations teach us that even the most complicated concepts can be condensed into something that won’t scare your audience away. At the same time, they show that simplicity can also be thought provoking. As Gallo puts it, “complexity demands a simple explanation if you hope to capture the imagination of your audience.” The best way to do that is by following the rule of three.


READ MORE: One Simple Rule That Makes Apple Presentations ‘Apple-Esque’ – Carmine Gallo | Forbes


Featured Image: Paul via Flickr

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