Why Dale Carnegie’s Presentation Structure “Tell them X 3″ is no longer useful or valid.

The concept of “tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them and then tell them what you have just  told them” seems to have first appeared in D. Carnegie’s book “How to win friends & influence people which was first published in 1936 and was then reprinted in 1981. It must be admitted that it was, in it’s moment, a leading work on communication. However due to changes in communication styles, knowledge & techniques it lacks relevancy in today’s world.

There are many reasons why this sentence is no longer applicable in today’s world among which are the following (in no particular order of importance).

It is perceived as “simplistic” in that it appears to consider the audience as people who need to be told over and over again for them to understand something.

Some people actually believe that repetition is useful for training and it is a tried and true educational method. The problem occurs when there is meaningLESS repetition vs meaningFULL repetition. The traditional language learning technique of “listen & repeat” has been shown to be of limited efficacy in learning because of its meaningLESS rote memory style while other techniques require meaningFULL practice. It is vital that meaningFULL practice occurs over a period of time, not just in a 20, 40- or 60 minute presentation.

In a study conducted by Manchester University School of Education in 1984/85 with university undergraduates & children, it was discovered that merely telling someone information required 22 repetitions before learning occurred. Obviously, less repetitions were required when other meaningFULL techniques / tasks were applied.

Our own research in Brownlee & Associates over the past 25 years has clearly shown that one of the key elements that causes attendees in a presentation to totally disconnect is the meaningLESS repetition of information. The general consensus is that the presenter who uses this technique is obviously try to manipulate the audience which creates resentment and disconnection from both the topic & the person.

As we say in England, too much meaningless repetition is “Flogging a dead horse” or, in other words – Nagging!

Some people actually consider this phrase as being a way to “Structure” a presentation. This indicates either a lack of understanding about what the word “structure” means or that they do not understand that Dale Carnegie is just giving a series of vague instructions for the presenter!

-A presentation structure has to have a starting point, a middle and an end. All of which are joined by a logical skeleton (or structure). Often presenters put a “structure” or “Agenda” slide as the first one in the presentation and then keep referring back to it as the presentation progresses: so the audience “knows where it is and where they are going” – basically it is doing the same thing that Carnegie proposed only in a different form! Implicit in this is that the audience are idiots who do not have the intelligence to know what they have just heard and do not remember what is coming next. In order to remove this element, why not put a title at the top of each slide telling the audience the name of the area /topic being dealt with?

NOTE: There are only TWO types of presentations: to inform or to convince!
Every presentation is essentially either one or the other. We have never found any other underlying purpose of a presentation. If you want to add emotional elements such as; Motivate the audience, etc., this is easily be included in either type.

Presentation structures:
Known to Unknown:
-All of our effective communication goes from the known to the unknown so the first element in any presentation MUST be information already known to the audience but presented in a very brief manner.

– The second element to deal with in a presentation to “Convince” is an analysis of the problem and various options to resolve it.

– This must be followed by the third element which is a specific proposal. The proposal part should take up to 80% of the presentation time.

In addition there are two other elements that must be considered:
1. Presentations generally go from general to specific.
2. From simple to complex.

These points help to ensure that your presentation is logical & coherent FOR THE Audience; it has a beginning which they can understand and relate to; a middle which provides the required data, information  and reasons for making the required decision; and an end which includes the steps to be taken and when. And, even more importantly, shows respect for the audience on a psychological level.

Communication has changed over the last 50 years, but many trainers have not: they still keep on teaching the same old rubbish because it is “Safe” and does not require any effort.

If you are a trainer who really wants to teach your learners quality presentation skills, STOP teaching them material from the 1930’s.

© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Span, 2012.
Email: Brownleeassociates (at) gmail.com
Bilingual web page (Spanish & English) http://www.brownlee-associates.com


About ianbrownlee

Ian Brownlee, the founder of Brownlee & Associates has been actively involved in the field of interpersonal & transcultural communication since 1977. He has worked in universities and companies in the following countries: Laos, Thailand, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, France, Italy, England, The United States of America & Spain, as a teacher, university lecturer, trainer, researcher & consultant. In addition, his experience in living in these countries, and studying the language & communication and interaction styles of each has aided him in reaching a real understanding of intercultural and transcultural differences and how to resolve them. Ian Brownlee has various masters degrees from British Universities: One in Linguistics & Teaching English Overseas from Manchester University, one in Training & Development with a specialization in the area of Communication and Adult learning awarded by the University of Sheffield. He has also gained professional qualifications in Psychotherapy & Hypnotherapy from various professional organizations. During his university career he has also studied elements of Sociology, Organizational psychology, Educational psychology, Psycholinguistics and Kinesics. He is a licensed Practitioner, Master Practitioner, and Master Trainer in NLP. as well as being a trainer in Ericksonian Hypnosis. He is a member of a wide range of professional organizations involved in Training, Applied Psychology, Hypnotherapy & Ericksonian Hypnosis, Psychotherapy, Interpersonal Communication & Cross-cultural Communication. He is also recognized by the Program on Negotiation, Harvard University, as a Negotiation Skills Trainer & Mediator and has been a collaborator on various projects with the program, and as such is in great demand as a negotiation consultant for some of the largest multinationals operating worldwide. His wide experience gained in multinational organizations in positions such as Director of Training, Communications Consultant and Negotiator / Mediator has helped many people to learn and apply new methods of negotiating skills and advanced communication techniques both in their private and professional lives. He has published various articles & books related to the field of interpersonal communication and he is the author of all the courses taught by Brownlee & Associates. He has lived and worked in Spain since 1985, initially as a trainer / Special Assistant in a multinational pharmaceutical company and then as the Training Manager for a multinational company involved in Clinical Analysis & Nuclear Medicine. Brownlee & Associates was formed in 1991 and currently has a small, highly-trained staff. While based in Madrid, courses are given world-wide either in English or Spanish. Brownlee & Associates currently work with leading international companies in the areas of pharmaceuticals , Information systems, luxury products, food & beverages, etc.
This entry was posted in Advanced Communication, General Communication, Leadership, The Art & Science of Presenting in Public, Training & Development and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Why Dale Carnegie’s Presentation Structure “Tell them X 3″ is no longer useful or valid.

  1. Manuel says:

    Ian simply excellent article to remain me you always were rights with your advises in the course. Manuel Espejo. Lab Lilly

  2. Romeo says:

    This is my first time pay a quick visit at here and i am actually pleassant to read everthing at one place.

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