A Magic Number for Presenters – Speech Key Points

WRITTEN January 14, 2016 Author: John Epstein

Think about the last presentation you attended (virtual or in-person). Do you have a good mental image of it? Now ask yourself how many of the speech key points you actually remember from that presentation.

In 20+ years of instructing all kinds of presentation skills classes, I have asked this “key points” question to hundreds of participants. Their answers have ranged from “zero” (a little sad) to “five” on the high end. Zero was a much more common response than five. In all those years of asking participants this question, only a handful were able to say they remember five.

The most frequent response?
Three speech key points.

Social Security and telephone numbers are presented in three groups (3-2-4 and 3-3-4, respectively) because it is much easier to remember three groups than nine or ten sequential digits. This is significant because when we present information to people, we must have an impact on our listeners.

Keep it Simple.

When planning your presentation, keep this question in mind: What is the purpose? What do you want them to do? Then, ask yourself what are the three key points that support that? If you are planning to use material that doesn’t support that purpose, don’t. It is not worth including.


Purpose (what you want the audience to do):
Develop new organizational training initiatives to improve customer service and sales.

Main points:
  • Organization has a skills gap in these areas: ____, which wastes time and money.
  • Training sharpens skills and increases productivity, loyalty, morale, etc.
  • A better trained workforce provides better customer service and presents a favorable image to the public.
Call to Action:
Provide training in these areas: ______ to improve customer service and sales.

Once you have the core message or purpose for your audience, and you have organized your presentation into (at most) three key points, you are ready to present. This preparation will make your talk more memorable and your audience will be more likely to take action.

This information is referenced in our Presentation Skills curriculum. If you’re looking for ways to improve your communication skills, register for one of our public classes. Click here for more information.

Meet blog author and Improving Communications
Instructor John Epstein.
Click here to learn more.
John Epstein

Other Resources:

Structuring a Presentation

Presentation Design Guide

Presentation Outline Template

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