Titles & Tribulations: How to Create a Good Presentation Title

Have you ever spent a lot of time thinking about what kind of title to give to your speech? I certainly have. I was the in fact the originator the best title award at Akabane Toastmasters when it was originally founded more than 7 years ago. My hope was that people would put a lot more thought into creating titles. After all the first impression for any speech starts with the title.
 
A great title can grab attention. A great title can spark curiosity. And a great title should also be memorable. On the other hand, a bad title can cause some people to tune out. A bad title could confuse people. However, please note a good title will not save a bad speech, but a bad title could hurt the beginning of another wise great speech.
 
I was at speech contest a little while ago. Here were the titles: 

  • How to Survive an Accident
  • Fear is Your Friend
  • Time Machine
  • Too Late
  • Why Me
  • Dance

If all you knew was the title, which one would you like to hear? For me, “Fear is Your Friend” was probably the best title of the bunch.  Why is that?  What is in a good speech title? I would say a good title does the following three things:
 
1) Sparks Curiosity
2) Is Memorable
4) Relates to Your Key Message
 
As you can see crafting a title doesn`t have to be that difficult. Just stick to these principles and you should be fine. But, what do they mean specifically?
 
1)Sparks Curiosity: 
The title creates a feeling that you want to learn more. A simple title like “Ouch!” makes you wonder what happened to cause the pain. A title like “Get Good Storytelling with Bodytelling” makes you wonder what Bodytelling is and how it is related to storytelling.
 
2)Is Memorable:
You can easily recall the title. Involves a whole bag of trick. You probably want to make it short.  You may want to use some rhetorical technics. This could include using a series of similar sounds, using numbers, etc.  You may want include words that can create imagines and emotion. As an example, “Eye in the Sky” is a much more memorable title than “Spy Satellites.”
 
3)Relates to Your Key Message: 
A title doesn`t need to directly go out and say what your message. It can just be a hint as to what it is about. For example, your message is “Be a Hero.” You could be direct. “Be a Hero” You could be a little more indirect. “Saving the Day” You could ask a question. “Who`s a Hero?” There are variety of ways you could go.
 
Now, let`s look at a few titles and see how they meet these criteria.
 
Again, here is the list:

  • How to Survive an Accident
  • Fear is Your Friend
  • Time Machine
  • Too Late
  • Why Me
  • Dance

The last one on the list is “Dance.”  Having a one word title can sometimes work.
There are plenty of good one words book titles like “Blink,” “Originals,” “Sapiens.” However, unlike the previous three, “Dance” is a very common word. It may have a strong emotional image for the speaker. It may create a clear image for the speaker. But it felt flat for me. It did not feel memorable. There was just too little information to spark curiously. It also felt way too short to connect to the message.
 
Speech itself was using dance as metaphor for enjoying life. Since the speech also used the metaphor of the rain to point to bad time. Also, there is the fact that at the very beginning there was an episode of kid dancing in the rain. I felt that the speaker would have done better with “Dance in the Rain” or “Dancing in the Rain” (like the movie “Signing in the Rain” (雨に唄えば)). That would be not only easier to remember, spark curiosity, but would be better connected to key message.
 
Let`s look at another one, “Fear is Your Friend.” This is sparks curiously in spades. First of all, most people think fear is not your friend. Fear is your enemy. There is contradiction, that you want to know how it gets resolved.  Also, the title has a nice rhythm. Fear and friend have similar sounds. Finally, fear is your friend is the key message. It is the mindset that speaker wants us to adopt at the end of the speech.
 
So, the next time you are thinking about your speech, please give plenty of time to your speech title. The audience first impression of the speech is the title.  For any title consider if it will spark curiosity, if it is memorable, and if it relates to your main message. If so you have fewer tribulations with your title.
 
As I imagine many of you are working on presentation, please let me know your thoughts on any worry you have whether its titles, dealing with nervousness or whatever. Let`s continue the conversation.
 
What do you think would be a great title? Please let me know what you think. Also, If you want to get more articles like this in your mailbox please subscribe!