[On]Point to Ponder: “If You Build It, They Will Come.”

This 3-part blog post series digs into the “Speaker-Audience-Message” of that triangle as it relates to persuasive speaking. You are reading part 3. In today’s post, we end with “M for Message.”



Freytag’s Pyramid is an excellent tool for crafting a pitch deck, sales deck, keynote or TED talk. But what is it?

Generated by 19th century novelist Gustav Freytag at the height of the American Civil War, Freytag’s pyramid emerged in 1863. This “how to tell a story” tool was widely used centuries earlier in Shakespeare’s 5 act plays, it just hadn’t been put to paper yet. Simply put, we’re looking at dramatic structure.

Why does this matter? Because your talk needs this. You need dramatic structure lest you flatline and leave your audience bored and glued to their phones.

This pyramid works especially well with pitch decks and sales presentations. It has become a staple of On Point coaching methodology:

Freytag’s Pyramid: The Structure of A Story


The photo below is called “Freytag in Action.”  It’s the end of a work session I did with a client after we dug deep into his Message. This part of the process happens “pre-slide deck.”  In this case, we were figuring out which slides ought to go at which points of the story, how many there should be, and what the takeaway is for the audience.

At every turn, we were considering – how would our audience feel, think, react? Message Mastery can’t be obtained without hard work on the message.

Freytag in Action


Well-crafted speeches, like beautifully composed symphonies, must have a solid message as the foundation. Here are a few tips for developing your next speech (message).

The “S-A-M” tips of Message Development:
(As in posts 1 and 2, let’s use the simple “S-A-M” format here, too.)

1.Separate yourself from the small parts. Start with big-picture organizingJust like in the above photo, sit 30,000 feet above, and give your talk the “flow” it needs from the getgo. Have a beginning, middle, and end. But with a little drama, don’t come off dull.

2.Agenda slides are a huge help in pitch or sales decks. 1) Tell people what you’re going to tell them (intro), 2) Tell them (body), 3) tell them what you told them (summary). You can provide short internal summaries between sections or ideas. Set expectations for your audience and you’ll keep them on board.

3. Make – and then Build – Powerful Slides. Don’t overcrowd slides. Take out text you don’t need. If you know the slide content – get rid of the words that say it on the screen, and say it yourself! Put in a few choice words (not that kind) that cue your audience. This is important – if you have more than 1 idea on a slide, build the slide. Why? When you build a slide one piece one idea at a time, you keep control of what the audience sees, and what they hear. Because if you’re speaking masterfully, you’re only speaking about what’s on the slide. Then when you click and another idea emerges? You talk about that. Building slides helps you build command of the room, command of the slides, command of the talk. “If you build it, they will come.”

In sum, a great speech has a lot in common with a great symphony. The words on the page to a speaker are the notes on the page to a composer. Once the right “notes” are chosen to compose the right piece, the speaker/composer works on how to deliver the message (loud, soft, fast, slow, etc). With carefully selected ideas and well-developed slides, you’re on your way to Message Mastery.

Cindy Skalicky is an expert public speaking coach, brand consultant and the owner of On Point Communications, LLC. She coaches speakers on storytelling techniques, speech writing, delivery, and overall content development. Master the Message.  Learn more at www.onpoint-communications.com or contact Cindy at: info@onpoint-communications.com

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You are a wonderful presenter Cindy! I have taken so much from your presentation at the conference. I noticed when you speak, you at times lowered your volume in a way where we still heard you, but it PULLED the audience in, as if you were confiding in us.

Your vocal variety was lovely, (as well as your content, of course!). The advice to gather your stories from your past and weave them into your presentations is spot on.

Julie Roberts, Linked In profile writer|Coach

Cindy, you were immensely helpful in narrowing down the story part of our pitch. With your guidance, we were able to make a very complicated technical problem relatable to a mixed audience. We still can’t believe the first questions was, “it sounds too good to be true.” That is so much better than the feared, “I do understand what your product does.” Thank you for your professional help and support. RVC knew what they were doing bringing you in as a pitch coach.”

Samuel Thomas Elliott|Co-Founder, Tejon Technologies

“Cindy, BRAVO! The Colloquium was a splendid success. Thank you for your hard work. I’m very proud of how it turned out. Very truly yours, Bob Schaffer”

Principal, Liberty Common Schools

Cindy was selected to present at the Career Thought Leader Conference in Denver. I attended her session and was impressed with her presentation and content marketing expertise. I have been a trainer for over 20 years and her presentation added specific impactful strategies that I will include in my next training. Cindy has a natural engaging style that is persuasive and professional. I would highly recommend working with her if you are looking to increase your business presentations.

Beth Kennedy, Executive Coach

“As a professional speaker, I know the value of getting feedback before giving an important speech. As I prepared my TEDx talk, Cindy was the perfect person to give me outside perspective. She did a beautiful job taking the many ideas I had floating around in my head and helping me select what to use, how to organize them, and how to tie it all together.

I love the way she coached, not trying to make her words my own, but instead, considering what I was trying to achieve and helping me stay true to my voice. If you have to stand and deliver a great talk, working with Cindy can help you ensure you’re at your best!”

Tanis Roeder, Elevate Your Communication