Dateline Concord 1991: “Any lesson you want your students to remember needs to be repeated at least three times in different ways.” Linda Lang stands before a class of wanna-be DARE Officers as she introduces the Three Pitch Rule. Fast-forward to 2000 something. Ray Mello, a trainer of police prosecutors introduces one of Ray’s Rules, “Present anything you want the judge to remember at least three times. Fewer than three times and he or she will forget.” During firearms instructor class, Brad Parker, the curriculum development specialist, is presenting tips for teaching adult learners. “Ensure your officer students remember important parts of your class by telling they what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them. When people hear the information three times, they are more likely to retain the it.” By this point in my career, I figured out anything worth saying is worth saying three times.
Recently I asked my boss for information for a project he gave me to complete. He told me he would take care of it. Several weeks had passed so I asked again. He assured me he would take care of it, “tomorrow.” Several weeks later, I was asking again. After the third request, he gave me what I needed and acted surprised I had not asked him for it sooner. I had asked three times.
Several months ago I gave one of my officers a community relations program assignment. I told him he had four weeks to do the research and put together a rough outline of his proposed presentation. He left excited about the project. Three weeks later I asked him brief me on his progress. I got the deer in the headlights look from him. He had no recollection of our discussion but assured me if he needed to, he could finish one by the end of the week. I asked for an update at the end of the week. Though he remembered the assignment, he forgot some of the details. He did complete it the following week, after I asked the third time.
My wife and I were discussing some vacation plans. I had some questions. The look on her face told me I should have known the answer. She says she told me the answers to my questions several weeks ago while I was working on a home project and on the way to a ball game. She commented that it seems like I never remember anything unless she tells me three times. My wife is right; she does need to tell me three times!
This conversation made me wonder why trainers employ the three pitch rule, quote the three pitch rule and follow the three pitch rule during training yet fail to follow the rule in other areas of their careers and lives. I remember thinking after my second conversation with my direct report that I should only have to tell him once. Likewise I could not understand why the boss couldn’t remember what I asked for after the first time. Obviously my wife thinks when she tells me the departure time of the plane in January for our April vacation, I should remember it. The reality is people need to hear things three times to remember them, whether that person is a supervisor receiving information from an employee, an employee making requests of a supervisor, or a husband talking with his wife, the three pitch rule applies.
The key to using this strategy effectively requires some creativity to avoid hen pecking. Calling an employee into your office and telling him, “I want you to do this, I want you to do this, I want you to do this.” is not effective. How you implement this strategy requires you to identify your communication strengths and how your intended receiver best receives information. Using three different methods increase effectiveness.
Begin by simply telling the other person what you want or expect. You might suggest they take a few notes. Follow up within 24 hours with an email, letter or sticky note. Place a phone call or send a text message two or three days later to see if the other person has any questions and check on preliminary progress. Using this method allows you to pitch your message three times and reinforce the importance of the task or appointment. Each connection allows opportunities for additional information sharing, idea swapping, asking of questions and clarification of expectations improving the quality of the finished product and the employee’s abilities. Using different modes of communication, in person, in writing and by telephone, also improves communication by appealing to different communication styles of others. What they miss in one, they pick up in another. Making your pitch three times means three weeks from now, when you have your follow up meeting, you are more likely to have results.
During this message, the Three Pitch Rule was introduced by a series of three teaching stories about The Three Pitch Rule. In the middle of the article three examples of failure were provided to reinforce the message of the importance of the Three Pitch Rule. The middle of the essay also provided directions to apply the three pitch rule by using three means of communication for each pitch. Here in the conclusion I have mentioned the Three Pitch Rule three times and demonstrated how you can apply it to ensure important messages are received, understood and acted upon. Go forth and start pitching!