How to Structure a Speech: 3 Templates From Dale Carnegie

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Public Speaking for Success" by Dale Carnegie. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

Like this article? Sign up for a free trial here.

What are the various ways a speech can be organized? How does Dale Carnegie recommend you end a talk, regardless of its structure?

Once you have a topic and some excellent ideas around it, you need to organize your ideas in a way that will reach your audience effectively. In Public Speaking for Success, Dale Carnegie provides three templates and shares some general guidelines that apply to any speech structure.

Continue reading to learn how to structure a speech with classic advice from Carnegie.

How to Structure a Speech

Once you’ve decided to pursue the benefits of public speaking and not let fear hold you back, you’ll need to start preparing a speech. The best speeches, Carnegie asserts, are extensively prepared ahead of time. Taking the time to thoroughly develop your speech will ensure that you’ll give it with ease, enthusiasm, and poise. First, choose a topic, develop your ideas, and aim your ideas toward a main objective. Then, it’s time to start setting out the structure of your speech.

Carnegie provides practical advice on how to structure a speech. He says that your speech needs a clear opening, a focused trajectory or throughline, and a stirring conclusion. While there are no hard-and-fast rules for nailing down the nitty-gritty specifics within this framework, Carnegie offers the following three templates to adapt to your needs.

Template #1

  1. Start with your premises.
  2. Present your argument.
  3. Call for action. 

Template #2

  1. Draw attention to a problem.
  2. Present your solution to it.
  3. Call for action.

Template #3

  1. Captivate the audience.
  2. Establish your credibility.
  3. Give your argument.
  4. Call for action.

(Shortform note: Expanding on Carnegie’s structural points above, Chris Anderson offers a variety of specific techniques in TED Talks. These include presenting your premises dramatically, using fascinating imagery right off the bat to captivate attention, discrediting alternative perspectives to make your solutions look better, and making your call to action specific and easy to perform.)

Whichever template you start from, Carnegie also advises that you favor keeping your speech succinct and focused. Pick two or three key points to make about your topic, and then refine them until they vividly and persuasively communicate your argument. (Shortform note: Another way to keep your speech focused is to develop a clear throughline—a central point or takeaway about your topic. In TED Talks, Anderson argues that you should be able to express your throughline in a single sentence and that a good throughline carries an element of surprise.)

Last, Carnegie suggests dictating your speech to explore different ways of arranging the ideas. Speak aloud into a voice recorder as if you’re giving the speech, and you’ll begin to notice better ways of fitting the ideas together. Transcribe your dictations for editing in a word processor, and repeat this process until you’re sure of your structure.

(Shortform note: For centuries, writers and speakers have spoken their ideas aloud, to themselves and others, to better explore and organize the connections between what they want to say. Doing so helps you see your ideas more objectively, and it forces you to make explicit the connections between them—whereas keeping them in your head can obscure a lack of clarity or connectedness. Speaking aloud can also help you overcome (speech) writer’s block, as it’s often easier to explain your ideas out loud than to put words to the blank page.)

How to Structure a Speech: 3 Templates From Dale Carnegie

———End of Preview———

Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Dale Carnegie's "Public Speaking for Success" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Public Speaking for Success summary:

  • Why public speaking is one of the most important skills to have
  • How to overcome the fear of public speaking and adopt poise
  • How to research, write, and deliver a memorable speech

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.