Message Map: How to Plan Your Perfect Speech

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Talk Like TED" by Carmine Gallo. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is a message map? What is its purpose and how do you use it?

A message map is a framework for creating a compelling and persuasive message or argument for your target audience. It also serves as an organizational tool to help you conceptualize a message that is cohesive and articulate.

Here is how to create a message message map for a talk or a presentation.

How to Create a Message Map for a Presentation

Effective planning involves working out exactly how you want your presentation to unfold—for example, the points you want to make and the supporting evidence you want to use. Your talk is much more likely to run smoothly if you have a clear idea of what you want to say, rather than having to make your points up as you go along. 

You could use a message map as a planning tool. A message map is a one-page summary of everything you want to include in your talk. Creating a message map involves three steps:

Step 1: At the top of a sheet of paper, draw an oval. In the oval, write a short “headline” that summarizes the main point of your talk—the message that you most want your audience to remember. Be as concise as possible (Gallo advises keeping the headline below 140 characters). For instance, a short and simple headline might be “Buying Our Product Will Improve Your Life.”

Step 2: Next, draw three arrows pointing down from the oval. At the end of each arrow, write a sub-point that will support your overall argument. For example, if your overall argument is that buying your product will benefit customers, write three reasons why this is the case. Don’t include any more than three sub-points—this would break the Rule of Three discussed in Chapter 7. 

Step 3: Below each sub-point, write all of the supporting material you’re going to include when discussing it. For example, are you going to tell a story that proves your sub-point is valid? Are you going to include a humorous anecdote in this section of the speech or incorporate a shocking moment? 

Remember, you’re trying to keep your plan to one page, so don’t feel the need to write stories or anecdotes out in full. Summarize them in just a few key words that will remind you what you want to say.

After completing the three steps, your message map should look something like this:

Message Map: How to Plan Your Perfect Speech

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Carmine Gallo's "Talk Like TED" at Shortform .

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  • The 9 key principles to good public speaking
  • How to apply the public speaking strategies of popular TED talks
  • How storytelling enhances your appeal to audiences

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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