Win with just three points

Robert C. Harris

Sixteen years ago, Gary LaBranche, CAE, addressed the Tallahassee Society of Association Executives. He was the CEO at Association Forum of Chicagoland. Now he is president and CEO of the National Investor Relations Institute.

The TSAE audience knew the topic was to be, “Association Trends, Changes and Certainties.” As he picked up the microphone, he said, “Today I’m going to present just three points.”

He explained audiences understand and remember when you offer just three points or concepts. His advice on communication structure resonated.

Multitude of Ideas

Contemporary audiences are overloaded with information. They are easily distracted. Most don’t take any notes. It is hard for anybody to remember or communicate more than three points.

When you gather people there is sometimes pressure to cover as much as possible. For instance, a speech filled with too many ideas, a board meeting loaded with varied topics, or a strategic plan that looks like a wishlist.

Strategic Plans

The three-point concept can apply to strategic planning. In a Florida association I recall a board member saying, “Bob, we’ve already set three goals, I’m afraid if we set any more our board members won’t remember what’s in the plan.”

A Texas association board created their strategic plan. As with any plan, it could have had numerous goals described in a dozen or more pages.

This board took a different approach. They set only three goals: 1) great laws, 2) great lawyers, and 3) great association. Short enough to print on a postcard. The association’s efforts are framed by the three goals.

Mission Statements

Apply the three-point system to mission statements. A Kentucky association executive told me the board could not remember the mission. So, he paraphrased what members could understand, “We promote, preserve and protect the industry.”

A shorter mission statement (only two points) is used by a chamber of commerce in Kentucky, “champion for business, advocate for community.”

Many statements ramble, inserting values and goals, for example: “We protect our members, promote integrity, provide education and advocate on behalf of the community we represent.”

Keep the mission short, easy to recite and understand. Leave the goals in the strategic plan.

Leadership Messages

At the Santa Cruz County Association of REALTORS®, the 2021 president advised the board of directors that three principles would drive their work this year: 1) leadership, 2) contribution, and 3) diversity. His installation speech and president’s message described the importance of each.

At the Northern Virginia Association of REALTORS®, this year’s president asked the leadership team to remember three standards as they perform their work: 1) keep an open mind, 2) always be improving and 3) be curious. A good footer on every meeting agenda.

Use the three-point structure to improve comprehension and recall.

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