Do you repeat your main message enough for people to get it?

Conventional marketing wisdom says: repeat your main message three times so the audience gets it. The saying goes:

  • Tell them what you’re going to tell them.
  • Then tell them.
  • Then tell them what you told them.

In her insightful new book, Made You Look, cognitive neuroscientist Carmen Simon, Ph. D., decided to test this idea to find out whether it works for business content.

Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself

Dr. Simon finds that businesspeople are reluctant to repeat a message, for a number of reasons. Presenters fear redundancy will bore their audience. They worry that the audience will feel the presenter is correcting them. And presenters don’t want to share elements that are superfluous.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

This is tough for presenters to grasp, but “Keep in mind that only you know you’re repeating the same message,” says Dr. Simon.

To break through to your audience, how many message reps in 5 minutes?

Does repeating your message three times work? To find out, Dr. Simon tested a five-minute sales presentation with four groups:

  • Group A saw a presentation with no main message.
  • Group B saw a presentation with an agenda slide that included the main message.
  • Group C saw the main message repeated three times – as the conventional wisdom prescribes.
  • Group D saw the main message repeated four times.

The results? Group D, who saw the main message four times in five minutes, “showed a good balance between attention, working memory (which is a form of cognitive workload) and fatigue.”

Group C, who saw the main message three times, paid the least attention and experienced the highest level of cognitive workload. Repeating the message three times did not sustain their attention but it did make them work harder. “I am sorry to report that it does not work,” Dr. Simon concludes.

To break through to your audience, how many message reps in 20 minutes?

Another test measured a 20-minute presentation. Here’s what Dr. Simon found:

  1. “In a 20-minute presentation I tested, it took repeating the main message six times for an audience to remember a pattern we wanted them to remember.”
  2. A second group heard the main message repeated 12 times. As a result, they “had even more precise memories of the main message.”
  3. A third group saw the main message repeated 24 times in 20 minutes, yet “no one complained of too much repetition!”

When you repeat your main message, don’t worry that you’ve said it too often. You know how many times you repeated your main message, but your audience does not.

Chances are: you’re not repeating your main message enough for it to sink in with your audience.

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Repeat your message enough so it lands with your audience.

Repeat your main message often enough to break through to audiences

Since you put so much work into creating your message, make sure you repeat your main message enough times for the audience to receive it.

Here are blogs on how to create your Message Map and how to fashion your main message, known as the heart of your message).

Use repetition as a technique to help your message stick with your audience. Give yourself permission to test repetition in your presentations:

  • In your next 5-minute presentation, repeat your message at least 4 times.
  • In your next 20-minute presentation, repeat your message six to 12 times.

See what a difference your reps can make. I bet you’ll be delighted with the results.

Remember Dr. Simon’s key insight: you are the only one who knows how often your main message gets repeated.

Your audience isn’t counting your message reps

Your audience doesn’t know how many times you shared your main message. Your audience only knows whether you delivered the main message enough times to sink in.

This is one of many fascinating lessons on brain science for marketers from the book Made You Look.

Here’s a blog on Dr. Carmen Simon’s earlier book, Impossible to Ignore.