3 November 2013

The Three Secrets of Communication

A few days ago I have been lucky enough to discover a video of a lecture Carmine Gallo gave to some students at the Stanford University. Carmine Gallo is the communication coach for the world’s most admired brands and author of the best-selling book The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. In this lecture he pointed out three secrets all inspiring messages share. Whether you are an entrepreneur, an employee, a student or even a professor, I do recommend you to watch this video, there is so much you can learn from it. However, for those who are too busy I summarised his ideas here.

According to Carmine Gallo, there is always a story to tell and everyone has the ability to tell a better story to inspire people. He says that a message is inspiring if it is:
  • Understandable
  • Memorable
  • Emotional
The good thing is there are specific techniques you can start using today to make your message understandable, memorable and emotional.


There are many techniques you can use to make your message understandable. The one Carmine Gallo shares with the Stanford students is: Creating Twitter-friendly headlines.
You all know that the longest tweet you can share is 140 characters. Creating Twitter-friendly headlines means that you should be able to explain what you do in 140 characters or less. If you cannot describe what you do in a sentence, think about it until you can.
Why should you create Twitter-friendly headlines? Because “the brain craves meaning before details”. The brain wants to see the big picture first. Therefore, before going into details you need to make it easy for people to understand what your purpose is. Many companies have created a mantraa one-sentence visiontelling the world what they do:
  • Nike: “Authentic athletic performance”
  • Target: “Democratize design”
  • Mary Kay: “Enriching women’s lives”
If you ask Larry Page and Sergey Brin what Google does, all they’ll tell you is “Google provides access to the world’s information in one click”. That’s it!
Ask yourself: “How can I explain my idea in 140 characters or less?” I asked myself this question and the answer I came up with is “Echo Presentations help people tell their stories trough a presentation that rock.”


After you have created your one-sentence vision, you need to make sure this is memorable. Again there is more than one way to make your message memorable, but I particularly like one technique Gallo explained. This is something he considers “one of the most powerful techniques in communication”: the Rule of Three. The Rule of Three means that in short-term memory we are only able to process about 3 pieces of information, not more. So next time you make a presentation, don't overload your audience with 10 points, just give them 3 reasons why they should care about your idea or your work.
It is interesting to see how the Rule of Three is embedded in our society, even if we do not pay attention to it. Carmine Gallo gives some examples:
  • Nike: “Just do it” 
  • Obama: “Yes we can”
  • The colours of most flags are three
  • The three musketeers
  • Many companies have three letters in their logos (DHL, IBM, SAP and many more)
This is the way our mind works. Our mind likes to see groups of three.


Making a message understandable and memorable is not enough. Great communicators make it emotional too. John MedinaProfessor of Bioengineering at the University of Washingtonsays that “the brain does not pay attention to boring things”.
Let’s say in a few days you have to give a presentation to your boss, customer or professor. I am sure you don't want to make a boring presentation. One way to avoid this is to make it emotional. How do you make a presentation emotional? Well, tell stories! Tell stories about your product, tell personal stories or stories about your customers. A case study is a story. When you tell stories you are making an emotional connection with people. Great communicators tell stories. And when you tell stories, think visually. Carmine Gallo explains what the Picture Superiority Effect is. When you deliver information verbally, people remember 10% of it. If you add a picture, people remember up to 65% of what you say.
To my astonishment he reveals a sad figure: the average PowerPoint slide has 40 words. This is way too much. People cannot read and listen to you at the same time. If you want people to listen to you, you need to include as fewer text as possible. Seth Godina great public speakersays that you should never use more than 6 words on a slide, no matter how difficult your concept is. Thinking visually takes work. It is hard to do but it is worth it.

Next time you'll make a presentation, make sure you articulate your idea in a way that's understandable, memorable and emotional. If you do that, you will win people over.