[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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“Last year, I reached out to Cindy to help me with a sales deck I use frequently. I learned how to personalize my presentation in an authentic and informative way, making it more interesting to deliver and for my audience to observe!  Cindy was professional, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable and her suggestions were spot on.  If you want to enhance your communication skills, gain confidence in speaking, and improve overall delivery, I definitely recommend working with On Point!”

Nicole Steed, Global Account Manager | Helms Briscoe

“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, Your coaching was fantastic. You are so good at this. I have done a lot of this too, but I am in awe of your approach, the simplicity of your suggestions and your general professionalism. Thank you.”

Susan Strong, Director at SAGE Boulder

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, I’m in your Career Thought Leaders Conference session right now and you’re absolutely delivering on what you promised when we first met! I’m so excited to keep making progress in developing my brand story.”

Mashaal Ahmed|DC Career Coach