Dale Carnegie’s Magic Formula

This simple yet effective Play is best for telling personal stories to hook and convince your target audience by sharing a life incident and related struggle.
Masooma Memon
March 7, 2022

When to use

Use Dale Carnegie’s Magic Formula for telling stories for various purposes including building a personal brand, sharing your founder’s story, delivering a presentation, and making an investor pitch.

You can also use it in your cover letter, coaching, and public speaking to drive home a memorable message. 

What you’ll need

Chart paper/A4 sheet and anything that helps you brainstorm. 

The Steps

1. Brainstorm first

Put your thinking cap on and rewind all important incidents in your life. In particular, look for a life-changing event that motivated a change in your mindset or behavior – something that moved things.

Best of all: pull out a chart paper and think on the paper. Writing down possible trigger events and struggles will help you recall better and create better links for a smooth-flowing story. 

PromptAsk yourself: What led to this change?

Or, if you’re using Dale Carnegie’s Magic Formula to sell a product or service, muse over the following: what was the trigger event that led you to create it?

2. Write down your ‘Incident’

Once you’ve identified the trigger event, start penning it down.

TipBe patient. Writing about yourself isn’t going to be easy. You’ll either have a lot to share or feel like there’s nothing to talk about.

Aim for keeping the incident-based introduction short. Ideally, 2-3 lines are enough to set the scene and hook your audience’s attention. 

3. Lay out details of the ‘Action’

Now, talk about your struggles. You’ll have to be extra cautious about building a smooth connection between the ‘Incident’ and ‘Action.’

PromptUse this template to help your thought process around building a smooth bridge between the ‘Incident’ and ‘Action’: X happened which led me to do X.

For example, Warby Parker’s story. The story’s first line uses the template shared above: “Every idea starts with a problem. Ours was simple: Glasses are too expensive.”

4. Make your struggle believable

This Play works because it gains your audience’s trust by sharing a part of your life.

Where statistics and facts are good ways to convince others, sharing a personal story is better. Why? Because it introduces the human element.

TipDon’t be afraid of sharing the raw details of your struggle. The effectiveness of Dale Carnegie’s Magic Formula lies in being vulnerable to win your audience’s trust.

It also works because either your audience starts seeing yourself in your story or they want to support you in your struggles.

If you’re selling a product or service, highlight your struggle, then shift the context by sharing how your audience’s current struggle is similar to what you’ve struggled with.

For example, because I was a non-native speaker, I couldn’t get my message across. I felt unheard, undervalued, and under-appreciated. Most of all, I was losing hope – hope of getting my ideas across to the world.

So how can you spice up your story? Follow these three tips:

4.1. Share concrete details

Be specific about your struggle – what is it that you did, in chronological order, that led you from the incident to the result. 

TipDon’t make it extremely detailed. Get specific, share vivid incidents but handpick details to feature so you don’t lose your audience’s attention.

Watch how Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s CEO tells their story - sharing lots of concrete details.

4.2. Use descriptive language

Was it a bright day when you decided to design your website? Or was it dark outside and the power was out so you had to work by the candle?

Either way, describe things so you can tease your readers’ senses (sight, smell, sound, motion) and get them to imagine your struggle.

For example, I put on a garlic-stained apron.

4.3. Personalize with names, real people, and places

This makes things more real, more believable. 

Here’s how: 

❌ I poured myself a glass of fizzy drink

✅ I poured myself a glass of chilled Coca-Cola

For example, this newsletter issue’s opening lines that read:

4.4 Wrap up with the ‘Benefit’

Finally, tie how the ‘Action’ you took led to the ‘Benefit.’

TipBack the ‘Benefit’ with a customer testimonial too. Say, you’ve launched a product line to a close group of friends and are making it public now – sharing another’s praise for your product here will help you make a stronger, more persuasive case for yourself.

In short

Dale Carnegie’s Magic Formula is easy to use. The only thing that takes time is identifying the ‘Incident’ and polishing the story with the right details.

 And, to recap, here’s the formula’s barebones structure:

  • The 'Incident' is a relevant, personal experience that led to something
  • The 'Action' is a specific action (or series of steps) you took after the trigger event or incident
  • The 'Benefit' is the advantage of taking the action
Masooma Memon

Masooma Memon is a freelance writer for B2B SaaS and ecommerce brands writing actionable content for clients like CoSchedule, Vimeo, and Databox. She's also an avid reader and shares content writing and marketing tips in her weekly newsletter, The Content Workshop.

Don't miss out on the latest community engagement tips.
Thank you! Look out for new plays in your inbox!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Related articles