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Craft Titles That the Audience Would Crawl Over Glass to Hear

The title of your presentation is a hook. It sets up an expectation that the presentation will be worth the time and effort that the attendees have made to be there. Also, if competing presentations are offered at the same time, your compelling title will ensure that you have a full room. Therefore, you need to develop titles that an audience will find so compelling that they would sacrifice their last moment of free time to hear your presentation.

Examples of some of the best titles we have heard are as follows:

  • The Alfred Hitchcock Effect: How to Build Suspense into Every Presentation.

  • Difficult People: How to Manage Them Without Becoming One of Them.

  • The Internet Game Show: Maximizing the Internet's Potential in Your Organization.

  • Danger! There Be Dragons: Implementing a Competency Based Succession System in Your Organization.

  • What Color is Your Parachute?

  • "No" Is a Complete Sentence (for a seminar on sexual harassment).

All of these titles have four common characteristics. First, they are fresh and original. Even the order of the words is different from what we have come to expect. Second, they exude energy. The speed at which we read the title accelerates because we can't wait to see what it means. Third, they entice with bold promises and/or rewards that you will receive by attending the presentation. Fourth, they contain a hook that entices the potential participants to want to be there because the presentation promises to help the attendees develop a critical skill in order to accomplish more and/or to improve their lives in some significant way.

Try comparing the previous "live" titles with the following "lifeless" ones:

  • Internet Marketing for Beginners.

  • How to Borrow Money, Make More Money, and Manage It.

  • Time Management for Today's Manager.

  • Getting Comfortable Outside Your Comfort Zone.

  • Self-Directed Training: Is it Right for Your Organization?

All of the "lifeless" titles have the following characteristics: We have heard the same title or something very similar to it many times before. The title is perfectly predictable, not at all unusual or surprising. The title has little or no energy—even in reading the title, our eye movements slow down to a crawl because it is so boring, or we skim over it as quickly as possible to avoid being bored.

What is the difference between the enticing titles and ones that sound like the presentation will bore the socks off you? There has to be an element of surprise, novelty, originality, magic, excitement, or enticement. A great title does not guarantee a great presentation, but it does prove to the audience that the presenter went to considerable trouble to develop it, and that is a good first sign.

EXERCISE 2-2

Please write down three of the best and three of the worst titles that you have heard.


Here are several suggestions for creating dynamic titles: Take a common phrase and bring it to life with a twist by doing something unusual or unexpected. Think of the title as a "teaser"—something to arouse your audience's curiosity and make them want to hear the rest of the story. Make it short enough and unique enough to be remembered. Do not be afraid to ask for help. Ask friends and colleagues to brainstorm creative suggestions. Get feedback from other people regarding the title's uniqueness and memorability. Think of your title as a billboard—it has to have stopping power even when passing it by at freeway speeds.


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