5 original tips for creating outstanding speech titles

Greatest Show On Earth ImageThe title of your presentation has the power to make or break your speech before you have even begun.

Your audience will judge your forthcoming presentation based on its title.

In the conference programme, it may be the factor that makes them choose you over the other talk that is on at the same time.

Displayed on the screen before you start speaking, your audience will read it and decide whether to tune in or turn off for the rest of your presentation

When announced by the MC, your audience will either await your first words with baited breath, or look forward to your final words with unbridled joy.

It is therefore incredibly important that you get your title right; to grab the attention of your audience, engage their minds and set a positive expectation for your speech.

Personally, I’m not really into stating the obvious, so here’s my top five, slightly less obvious, things to consider when creating a title for your speech.

1. Highlight what’s in it for me

Be sure to highlight the benefits to your audience of listening to your speech.

If you were to try and sell me the pen you have been writing with today, you wouldn’t grab my attention, or convince me to buy, simply by telling me about its features.

Instead, you would highlight to me the benefits that owning the pen could bring into my life. It’s the same with your presentation title.

Instead of the title: An analysis of the ways in which an egg can be boiled.

Think: Discover the easiest and fastest ways to boil an egg!

2. Attract attention with unusual language

Our brains are accustomed to the ‘norm’. Our senses deal with things that are ‘normal’ quickly and subconsciously without really thinking about them. To make your speech title stand out from the crowd, use unusual language that makes the reader stop, think twice and process on a more conscious level.

Instead of: An analysis of the ways in which an egg can be boiled.

Think: Hubble, bubble, boil and trouble: the very best and worst ways to boil an egg.

3. Don’t instantly alienate half of your audience

If you are speaking to persuade your audience of your point of view, it’s always tempting to simply title your speech: “XX reasons why you should XX”. However, this isn’t always the best idea as it quickly alienates the half of the audience that already agrees with your point of view, and perhaps even some of your audience who don’t want to be convinced.

If your title can encourage everyone to attend, then you can persuade them of your opinion by delivering a constructive argument in your presentation.

It’s very difficult to persuade someone if they aren’t there!

Instead of: 10 reasons eating a boiled egg daily will boost your health.

Think: A discussion of the benefits of a boiled egg every day.

4. Be original

When the conference organiser asks you for your title, it’s so easy to look at what everyone else is doing and adopt a title that follows the same format.

How will your speech stand out above the rest if it looks exactly the same? Different is intriguing, so instead of simply fitting in, review the titles of the other speeches and break the rules a little!

The result will be a larger audience keen to hear something new and innovative!

Instead of: An analysis of the ways in which an egg can be boiled.

Think: Boiled eggs. If you thought you knew everything there was to know, you’re wrong.

5. Be curiously relevant

I’m sure you’ve been told before that your speech title should generate curiosity within your audience, but this tip is a warning: don’t go too far!

Curiosity-generating titles are great, but if they are taken too far they become completely incomprehensible to your audience.

Once you have written your title, do a quick sense check to ensure that someone who knows nothing about your talk apart from the title can still grasp what area or topic you will be talking about!

Instead of: Hard or soft – which do you prefer?!

Think: How do you like your eggs in the morning? The art of boiling.

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Rich Watts is the UK Business Speaker of the Year and a past JCI National Public Speaking champion. He setup and now runs Rich Public Speaking providing presentation skills and public speaking training.

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