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It Bears Repeating: Establish Trust With the Power of Strategic Repetition

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In the world of humans, everything revolves around trust. This is doubly true for the world of business. There are many persuasive techniques, either written or spoken, that you can utilize to establish familiarity and trust. One of my favorites is strategic repetition.

A research study conducted by the University of California Santa Barbara, claims that repetition creates the “illusion of truth” which imbues repeated messages with familiarity. Eventually, this familiarity leads to trust and more importantly, memorability.

Translation: The more we hear something, the more we believe it because our brain gets used to it.

A classic example of strategic repetition is Martin Luther King Jr’s iconic speech, “I Have a Dream.” Repeating this emotionally-charged line made it more memorable and ultimately helped secure its place in history.

Strategic repetition sharpens your persuasive abilities by increasing the chance of positive reception. As a result, you increase the efficiency of your message. When used properly, it can help you boost the quality of both strong and weak arguments. Amazing, isn’t it?

Check out the video:

How often is too often?

While low-to-moderate levels of repetition can create a good impression, persuasive argument pioneers John T. Cacioppo and Richard E. Petty claimed in 1989 that too much repetition has its adverse effects. Apart from sounding like a broken record, too much repetition can lead to stronger disagreements. Yikes.

How do we avoid this? It’s simple! Your repeated message needs to be nicely spread out throughout your presentation and said in slightly different ways.

Too much repetition within a short time frame will annoy your audience into disagreeing with you. Spacing out your core messages throughout your presentation will help woo your audience into gradual agreement.

Let’s dive a bit deeper and apply this to an example.

Strategic Repetition: From theory to practice without sounding like a broken record

To help structure your story, you can use a powerful three-part narrative structure which we have discussed in the past.

But, this structure also helps ensure that you’re pacing out your core messaging evenly throughout your presentation while repeating it in slightly different ways. In turn, this ensures that your story flows well together and that your core messages are well-remembered.

Here’s a quick refresher on the three-part narrative structure for presentations:

  • Part 1 - Set the Stage (establish a purpose) - 20% of the deck

  • Part 2 - Show the Journey (show your work) - 60% of the deck

  • Part 3 - Pay it Off (close the loop) - 20% of the deck

Now, let’s put our theory into practice!

Let’s say, for example, we were charged with creating a monthly report that we’d like to be presented in around 25-30 minutes. This means our deck must be around 13 slides long using the Two-Minute per Slide Rule.

As such, we'd structure our deliverable like this:

Part 1 - Set the Stage (establish a purpose) - 20% of the deck

  • Slide 1 - Title of the deck with a descriptive subtitle

  • Slide 2 - What audience members will see by the end of this deck

  • Slide 3 - Performance highlights « Core Messaging

Part 2 - Show the Journey (show your work) - 60% of the deck

  • Slides 4 to 10 - Expand on the Core Messaging established in Part 1

Part 3 - Pay it Off (close the loop) - 20% of the deck

  • Slide 11 - Recap implications of Core Messaging from Part 1

  • Slide 12 - Clearly state recommendations grounded in implications from the previous slide

  • Slide 13 - End slide with contact info/Thank You, etc.

Here we can see that in Part 1, we Set the Stage by establishing the purpose of the deliverable. This is roughly 20% of our slides and here is when we first introduce our core messages for the presentation.

As we move forward to Part 2, we Show the Journey in which we show our work, data, charts, and anything else that expands on our Core Messages established in Part 1. This is usually about 60% of our slides and it’s also the second time we’ll be repeating our Core Messages. Only this time, we’re spending more time expanding on each Core Message.

Finally, in Part 3, we Pay it Off by closing the loop and directly addressing the purpose we established in Part 1. Here we expand on our Core Messages by explaining what we need to do next. This is the remaining 20% of slides and the third time we repeat those Core Messages.

This three-part structure can be easily flexed and adapted to so many different client-facing and even internal-facing deliverables.

It also has several benefits due to the strategic repetition of Core Messaging. It repeats the core messages three times without being annoying.

This helps...

  • Increase clarity of message

  • Boost memorability

  • Drive understanding

  • Ultimately, build trust

The key to perfecting strategic repetition is nailing the balance of subtlety, frequency, and intensity of your Core Message. It’s considerably more effective than shoving the same message down your audience’s throats over and over again.

As a result, your deliverables become more memorable and easier to understand - which leads to trust and happy client relations.

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