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“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” ~~ John G. Diefenbaker

FRANK LEONARD -- Need a Speech? Remember the '3s'


As we continue the first week of the Federal election campaign ... these are timely words from Frank Leonard, to those candidates on the campaign trail.



My chum Murray Coell and I were invited to a construction industry banquet, and mingled prior to finding our seats near the stage. 

We both picked up the program and I asked if he was bringing greetings from the Provincial Government as a Cabinet Minister.  He said ‘yes’ and I said I thought my role was to bring greetings as the Mayor of Saanich.  Yet Murray replied “I thought you’re the guest speaker.” 

This was news to me and while the program showed a spot for a guest speaker, no one was named.
Frank Leonard - remember the 3's

As the night progressed, we both stood up and waved when introduced and then Murray was called up to bring greetings.  Next they started to read a very familiar biography of the guest speaker and my brain went into high gear. 

Then, amid lots of smiles, pauses and compliments to the hosts for their fine work for the industry and the economy, I opened some ‘mental files’ and spoke of three topics before setting down twenty minutes later.

I don’t recommend arriving at a banquet without knowing your role but as I was a veteran politician at this point, I was able to pull together a speech on the fly. It was not as ad-hoc as you might think, however.

I subscribe to the theory that an audience can only remember three things, and will get bored if they think a speech has more than three parts.  So, whether I was at an all-candidates meeting, a little league dinner or a rather formal occasion such as this banquet, my speeches would follow the ‘rule of 3s’: tell them what you’re going to say; say it; and tell them what you said.

Tell them what you’re going to say – the introduction always thanks the introducer and thanks the hosts for their invite and the work throughout the year. Then I let them know I’m going to talk about three topics and list them fairly briefly.

Say it – then I work through the three topics and make them relevant to the audience.  If you haven’t answered the ‘so what’ question then you are just passing time and haven’t made your point.

Tell them what you said – ‘in summary’ is a good way to let folks know that the end is near, but you must really mean it.  Sum up the three topics, why they matter and repeat some Thank You’s.  And, make sure the last sentence has the content, tone and body language that says you’re done and invites applause.

The vast majority of my speeches followed this pattern but there were times when more content is required. 

These were Inaugural Meetings, ‘state of the city’ and annual meetings of an organization I was leading.  Yet I still found the discipline of the ‘3’s’ useful. 

I’d break it down to sections of what we’ve done, what we are doing and where we should go.  Then I’d break each section into three categories – such as public safety, infrastructure and finances.  Then I’d limit myself to three topics within each category.  Mix in lots of thank you's and kudos to others and hopefully your audience stayed awake and even remembered some of your ‘3s.’

Whether you are a rookie or a veteran – speaking from script, notes or memory – on the way up or on the way out – I’d strongly recommend this rule of ‘3s.’


Frank Leonard served roles as a Councillor and Mayor of Saanich -- and Chair of the Police Board from 1986 to 2014. He chaired the Municipal Finance Authority of BC, was President of the UBCM, and while in business, served as a Director of the BC Chamber of Commerce, and President of the Victoria Chamber of Commerce.

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