The Remarkable Power of Three

The Remarkable Power of Three

Leaders need to be great storytellers.

Too often, they’re not.

Saturated with information, they’ll go on interminably, without ever getting to the point – any point. Or they’ll make it about themselves, not about us. And it’s really, as I’m sure you’ll agree, all about us.

It doesn’t make us bad people. It’s how we roll.

Fortunately, there’s help at hand – simple, convenient, and accessible – for all leaders, present and future. It comes in the form of a remarkable yet elementary template that can transform their communication, and yours.

It’s called The Power of Three, and it’s been around for a very long time.

Abraham Lincoln used it in the Gettysburg Address. The best writers and speakers still do. 

Smart decision-making

Great communication is all about smart decision-making. What information does the audience require to fully understand and respond to your story? What can it do without?

The Power of Three helps you make the right calls, quickly and efficiently. Basically, it facilitates the organization of content within three main categories – Context, Action, and Vision.

All you have to do is place the right stuff in the proper silo, and away you go. 

Context has to do with the background of an issue, your interpretation of it, and how it relates to your audience. Action covers your initiatives, and the outcomes they’ve brought, or will, bring about. Vision requires an outlook on the future, a continuing commitment to a plan, goal or ideology, and – this is key – a call to action. 

Your indispensable roadmap 

Think of the Power of Three as your indispensable roadmap to communication success.

We’ve all experienced the trauma of sitting down to write a speech or an article, stacks of research material at the ready, only to go blank. What do we say? How do we even start?

With the Power of Three, those questions evaporate as you employ the ‘Context, Action, Vision’ formula to tell your story, while meeting the informational needs of your audience. 

But first, you need to be clear about your objective, and how you’ll achieve it. Answer the following questions, and you’ll be in good shape: 

  • What do I want to communicate?
  • Who comprises my audience?
  • What information does my audience require to produce the outcome I want?

There you go.

Astonishing power

The number three has astonishing power in communication, which is why so much marketing and advertising utilizes it – Guts. Glory. Ram.

Three is intuitive. Even from an early age, we organize, explain, and retain information most efficiently when it’s arranged in “threes.”

Indeed, children are more compelling (and often sharper) communicators than adults because they think and speak in threes. Free of the complexities that mark adult lives, they haven’t “matured” to the point where they fear simplicity – they embrace it. Too many adults, on the other hand, are concerned about impressing their audiences with convoluted “high-level” insights, at the expense of understanding. 

A lesson from Suzanne

Many years ago, while visiting with my brother’s family, my then eight-year-old niece Suzanne returned home with a story that struck me for its clarity.  

“I went to the park with my friend today,” said the irrepressible Suzanne. “We played on the swings, and had a great time. We’re going back tomorrow.” 

In reporting her activity, Suzanne had instinctively used the Power of Three. Through Context (“I went to the park with my friend today.”), Action (“We played on the swings, and had a great time.”) and Vision (“We’re going back tomorrow.”), she successfully organized and articulated her story. 

The system works for everyone. Let’s examine the categories within the Power of Three to understand how each plays a vital role in the formulation of a straightforward yet compelling narrative, whatever the form of delivery.


It becomes truer every year – never have we known more, and understood less. We don’t require more data. We need more comprehension. Context helps provide it. Your readers and listeners won’t fully understand and appreciate your initiative until they know why they should care. 

Presentations, for example, often go off the rails right out of the gate because the speaker never lets listeners know what’s in it for them. They need to be told. And we need to tell them.


It’s the heart of the Power of Three. You can disseminate considerable material here, as long as it’s well-organized. Your readers and listeners need to know where you are in the telling of your story, and where you’re going.

An effective way of keeping them on track is to number your points. You could state: “Our initiative is important for three reasons –one, it will create employment; two, it will save the taxpayers money; and three, it will benefit the environment.”

Then you can expand upon each. A caveat – this technique shouldn’t be used as a weapon to enumerate a laundry list of points. Limit them to the power number – three. 


Everyone wants to know what’s going to happen tomorrow. 

If you can provide a reasoned perspective on where your country, industry, or organization is heading, you can differentiate yourself from those timid souls who disclose only what we already know. By abdicating vision, you can sap the energy right out of the Power of Three. 

It’s key that your conclusion includes that call to action. What do you want your audience members to do?  Buy your product? Contact their Member of Parliament? Unless you tell them, they won’t know. 

Great leaders articulate inspiring vision. But the boldest expressions of vision mean little without the support and credibility supplied by Context and Action.

The Power of Three provides you with a blueprint for telling your story with impact. Life is complicated. Communication need not be. 

Jim Gray is a Senior Communications Advisor in Oakville, Ontario.

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