Develop Your Formula for Epic

Imagine you are giving a speech on your topic and you only have time to cover three main points – what are the most important key elements?

I am a lover of formulas. I have heard people pooh-pooh them a time or two over the years, but I really think having a formula – a well thought-out plan that delivers all of your ideas – can be helpful (See my book The Epic Keynote to learn more about formulas). Sure, it might not be perfect for everyone, but if you need a place to start, it’s a good one because:

  • People can remember a formula.
  • People can repeat a formula. And if your formula is good enough, a company may adopt it and make it part of their culture.

[Tweet “If your formula is good enough, a company may adopt it and make it part of their culture. @janeatkinson “]

I’m not exactly sure why a three-part formula is so effective, but I do know people can remember three things. It might be more that the stories you attach to the formula make it effective, but starting with three main ideas is helpful.

Let me give you an example:

You are a speaker who has gone through cancer and you want to share your formula for overcoming challenges. You might decide that Vision, Support and Taking Action are your points.

  • Vision (having a vision of yourself beating cancer)
  • Support (bringing positive people and healthcare experts onto your team)
  • Taking Action (eating right, researching your disease, etc.).

Now it’s your turn. What are the three most important key elements you want to cover in your speech?

List your key points – you might have one key word – but you can write a line that describes its meaning to keep it clear in your mind:

1. ________________________

2. ________________________

3. ________________________

This is your formula.

What is your formula?  Let us know below in the comments!

PS: Many of you witnessed some epic presentations last week in San Diego at the National Speakers Association conference. One of the best was Mike Rayburn’s hologram – stay tuned as we interview Mike on the path to that amazing presentation.


  • Great point Jane! A formula also makes it easier for the audience AND
    speaker to remember. Threes have a good rhythm—just ask a creative,
    dedicated and busy comedy writer.

    All the best to you and your inspiring work.

    • speakerlauncher

      So true Patricia, and being memorable is our job #1!

  • John McGee

    with regards to the 3 part formula working so well.

    Over time we have developed the “Three pattern” in our thinking. Story tellers of old brought about the list of three. There are “Three” little pigs, there is Goldilocks and the “Three” Bears, the “Three” Wishes, and in many tales there are “Three” Brothers, or “Three” Sisters (Two were bad One was good) In the Fisherman and the Jinny there are “Three” attempts to free the Jinny (Genie). There were three elements in many stories “Water, Earth, Air” which living things need to grow. It is a way of “establishing” an idea into the mind. According to Bruno Bettelheim in Uses of Enchantment “The Three Feathers” The number three “often seems to refer to… as the three aspects of the mind: id, ego, and superego.” This is only part, I’m sure.
    But look at the pattern for our phone numbers “area code, prefix, and suffix” 3-3-4, making it easy to remember. Comedians give three parts to their jokes, the setup, the story, and the punch line.

    I have another book on the mind and it’s functions, but not in front of me, that also talks about this number three and it’s importance.

    But that’s my take on it for now.



    • speakerlauncher

      Thanks John, it definitely makes sense!