When designing a presentation, most speakers focus a lot of attention on developing a compelling story and details to support it. But don’t forget to spend time on the title. The title of your speech or presentation is where the magic begins. It is the first idea an audience hears and relates to, and it can make or break your presentation. It sets audience expectations and becomes a contract with your listeners that can draw them in or leave them cold.
Here are a seven strategies professional speakers use to craft compelling titles.
1) It is All About Your Audience!
Never just create a title that YOU like. Consider who the audience is and create a title that will be relevant and meaningful for THEM. For example, your speech might be on an economic topic, but if you are presenting to a highly conservative government or financial audience, you need a title they can relate to: ‘Implications of the Recession on Financial Institutions.”
The same economic topic delivered to an audience of graduate students might have a title like, “Where Will You Be Banking Ten Years From Now?” Engineers would prefer a very different type of title as would business executives. Thinking like your listeners is the key to an effective title.
2) Put the Audience in Your Headline
Depending on your topic and audience, you might be able to reference the audience in your title: “Small Business Owner’s Guide to Cash Flow” or ‘ “Innovation Strategies for Engineers.”
3) Make It a Headline
We all like short and relevant headlines. Another option for titles is to design your title as if it were a newspaper headline. Would anyone want to read a news article based on your headline? Is it interesting, catchy and relevant? If you are speaking to a group about sports, a headline like, “Can Physics Teach Us Better Football Skills?” might be an intriguing topic headline.
4) Ask a Question
Very often professional speakers will make the title of their speech a question, and of course, the presentation attempts to answer it: “Why is the Sky Blue?” or “Can Financial Institutions Recover“? are short, to-the-point and hopefully interesting to the target audience.
5) Using Numbers Or Lists
We all love lists: “The Top Ten Mistakes Presenters Make” or “Five Business Strategies for Growth.” But if you use a list in your title, keep in mind the audience is not just concerned with the list you are presenting, they are interested in what the title list can do for them. So focus on the end goal: “Five Business Strategies That Will Make you More Productive.”
6) Using Opposites for Contrast
Titles that set up a contrast between two things can be intriguing. Tolstoy probably had the best contrast title with his “War and Peace,” and business speakers can follow his example: “Big Sales, Little Profits“ sets up a contrasting title, and so does, “The Best of Sales, the Worst of Selling.” The key is to think of opposite ideas that would be of interest to your listeners.
7) Creating a “How To” Title
If your purpose is to inform, then a “How To” title might be just what the audience needs. But keep in mind that audiences have probably heard many, many “How To” speeches, so be sure to keep it fresh and interesting.
The best advice for creating your title is wait until you have written the entire presentation, then go back and design your title. Based on thinking about the body of your speech, you might find inspiration for your title. But ultimately, a title needs to resonate with the audience, so always keep their needs in mind as you create your magic.