Harold Crick wakes up, gets out of bed, and proceeds to his bathroom. He picks up his toothbrush and begins to vigorously clean his teeth for what seems like hours.

I remember the time I attempted to watch Will Ferrell in Stranger than Fiction. I remember the first 7 minutes of the movie because the opening scenes did not enthrall me in the slightest. The introduction of any content is the creator’s opportunity to set the stage for the events to come and to snag the attention of the audience. In a presentation, the title serves as your first impression to listeners. And if your presentation titles are boring to your audiences, you will know. A Journal of Vision study revealed the predisposition of our brains to put together a fairly accurate picture of the emotional state of a crowd with a cursory glance. Although Ferrell couldn’t see me sleeping during his love affair with toothpaste, you will get front row seats to your audience’s reactions. A thoughtfully-crafted presentation title allows presenters to start off their speech on the right foot.

How to Create a Title

Oftentimes, people mistake topics for titles. They are different, yet closely-related entities. A topic is a general category of content or subject matter. A presenter could take a topic and write hundreds of presentation titles based off of it. A title, on the other hand, is more specific and targeted to a subset of information.

For example, a presentation topic might be “growing a vegetable garden.” From there, a presenter could create a deck with any of the following titles, and more:

The Best Tools for Growing Your Vegetable Garden

A Busy Professional’s Guide to Promoting Plant Growth

7 Recipes to Make Using the Vegetables of Your Labor

The specificity of the titles separate them from the vagueness of the topic. With the distinction between topics and titles top of mind, here are a few best practices for creating your presentation titles:

1. Shorten the length of presentation titles.
2. Provide an accurate description of the rest of your presentation content.
3. Use language that is relevant to your target audience.

Types of Presentation Titles

While many variations on common titles for works exist, the tried and true structures are used over and over again.

Types of Presentation Titles

The Question

Ask a probing question through your presentation title. Encourage your audience to think through an issue you will discuss prior to beginning your speech. This is effective when coupled with an interactive segment at the start of your presentation. Andrew McAfee used The Question format for the title of his recent TED Talk, “What will future jobs look like?” Through the use of this particular title, McAfee forces listeners to adopt a forward-thinking mindset – priming their minds for an exercise in imagination of possible future outcomes.

The Promise

Next week, I will be joining a LinkedIn webinar with the title, “Solving for ROI on LinkedIn.” The title encompasses every vital aspect of The Promise presentation title format. Not only is it specific and targeted to marketers like myself, but it also let’s me know exactly what I can expect to learn from the event.

The Transformation

With this presentation title, you hint at a future outcome or a possible change. Maybe you use it to convey growth from Q1 to Q2. Maybe you use it to illustrate a vision of what could be with your product or service. An example of

The Reveal

A presenter could also go with a more cryptic title that creates suspense for their audience members. Learn from a couple of history’s greatest orators, Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. One of Roosevelt’s most famous speeches is titled “Duties of American Citizenship.” When you read this title, you know the general topic but are left to guess the duties Roosevelt is teasing.  Kennedy’s speech title, “The Decision to Go to the Moon,” employs the same techniques.

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