The Magic Number is Three

A recent study provides ample evidence of something we’ve suspected all along: when offering reasons in an attempt to persuade, three reasons work best.

Researchers at Georgetown University and UCLA looked at six scenarios where reasons or claims were offered to persuade:

A breakfast cereal
An old friend reuniting with a former boyfriend
A restaurant
A new brand of shampoo
An ice cream shop
A politician

For each of these six scenarios, one, two, three, four, five, and six reasons were offered in support of the persuasion attempt.

The study concluded that when the audience suspects that persuasion is a motive (which is always the case with business audiences), persuasiveness peaks with three positive claims, and falls off with four or more claims. As the number of claims increases from one to three, targets find the additional information useful. But once you hit four, you trigger their skepticism and your persuasiveness diminishes significantly.

Lesson: Always offer three reasons in support of your proposal, idea, or argument. If you only have two, think of another. If you have four or more, cut the excess out. Three is the magic number.

See Kurt A. Carlson and Suzanne B. Shu, When Three Charms but Four Alarms: Identifying the Optimal Number of Claims in Persuasion Settings, at


Kickass Business Presentations is out

Why this book?

There are so many books about presentation skills out there, and over the years I’ve read scores of them. Most of them repeat the same nonsense:

Only 7% of your message comes from the words you use, and 93% comes from body language, tone of voice, and your appearance. Ridiculous! The study usually cited to support those numbers said nothing of the sort.

You need to locate your diaphragm and learn to breathe properly. I’m no doctor, but I’m pretty sure your diaphragm is right where it belongs, and you don’t have to worry about your breathing. My guess is you’ve been breathing all your life, and you’ll get enough air whenever you speak.

You need to follow a bunch of rules that all good presenters follow, so that you will be a good presenter just like all the other good presenters. In other words: bland, boring, plain vanilla. You don’t want to be like every other good presenter – you want to stand out.

These books are all about style and polish. If you follow their advice you might do well in a Toastmasters competition. But a business audience is far more demanding. A business presentation is not a beauty contest, it’s about persuasion.

So I decided to write a different kind of book. One that focuses on understanding your audience and developing a clear message. Creating slides and other materials that do what they’re supposed to do. Using persuasion techniques to win your game. Giving you the delivery techniques that make a difference (not polish!).

If you’re content to be like everyone else and settle for average then any book will do. 

But if you want to knock it out of the park with your business presentations, then this is the book for you.

It’s also illustrated!

You can get it now at Coming soon to bookstores, Amazon, and ebook portals.