Why repetition is your friend when presenting - The Pickering Group

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Gif of Sean Connery as James Bond lighting a cigarette - with the text Bond. James Bond.

Why repetition is your friend when presenting


Pon de replay

We live in a world that celebrates novelty, a world in which repetition is seen as a bit of a faux pas. Who’d watch reruns when Netflix exists?  Who’d want to do the same thing every weekend? Unless it's watching reruns on Netflix, then maybe.  But repetition is useful in so many ways.  As a rhetorical device it can be an effective way to make our public speaking memorable. It’s also a key component of useful rehearsal, and it’s the basis of deliberately creating new positive habits. It’s even the reason we like pop songs – don’t bore us, get to the chorus. Repetition is useful in so many ways! Wait, we said that already.

Baby One More Time

This article from the Book of Life suggests that repetition is crucial for learning. The mind is a sieve, and most of what goes into it just drains through into the sink.  To make anything stick you have to keep pouring it in until there’s too much mucky residue in the sieve for the dish-brush to dislodge. And there you have it: a memory. The article says it much more elegantly, but essentially, you can’t expect to learn and assimilate information from a single encounter. You have to have repeat contact with an idea, or repeat a new behaviour you’d like to embody until it’s second nature, the hardened pasta gunk of habit.

Oops I Did It Again

When it comes to presenting, repetition has great advantages.  All the most memorable speeches come with a tagline: Yes We Can. I have a Dream. Build The Wall.   If you have a point you really want your audience to take away, get it shaped into a short phrase, and repeat it:  put it on a slide, say it during your presentation, call back to it at the end.  Make it an earworm and you’ll get it irrevocably stuck in everyone’s mind. One of our clients repeated the phrase ‘Would you like fries with that?’ in a motivational talk to remind his sales team to upsell smaller associated products with every major contract. It was an effective analogy, the repetition made it memorable, and now you want fries.

Think Twice

Another way to get the benefits of repetition in your speaking is to use literary devices. All of the following use repetition for impact.   

  1. Anaphora

It sounds like a makeup shop for snakes (which sounds awesome tbh) but it means using the same word(s) at the start of each phrase: I came, I saw, I conquered. Right here, right now. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Anaphora takes the audience on a journey. The end of each phrase, especially the last, is more impactful because of the repetition at the beginning.  It’s easy, it’s effective, and it’s happening right now.

  1. Alliteration

A series of words that begin with the same letter.  Live, Love, Laugh and Leverage the impact of repeating first letters. Even a simple device like alliteration takes advantage of repetition, because people perceive a pleasing pattern. Perfect.  

  1. Diacope

Repeating an important word, after adding some extra words in the middle for emphasis or elaboration. From sea to shining sea. Bond, James Bond. A hit, a very palpable hit! This one is more effective than you’d think, and you might be surprised, very pleasantly surprised, at how easy it is to slip into your speaking. 

Stuck On Repeat

At The Pickering Group, we believe it’s worth repeating: repetition is your friend. Here’s how it helps with effective rehearsal, for example.  We can help you find opportunities to add rhetorical devices into your public speaking, or just help you establish better habits as you develop your business presentation skills. Repetition is – say it with us – useful in so many ways!


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