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December 2003 - Choosing a Title for Your Talk

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John A. Kline, PhD jkline@klinespeak.com
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December 2003

Choosing a Title for Your Talk

A good title should capture the spirit of the talk and tantalize the potential audience. It should be relevant, provocative, and brief. Some titles of talks I give—“Dumbo and the Magic Feather,” “ Eight Day Clock in a Six Day Case,” “ Beans in a Jar of Peas”—capture the meaning of illustrations I use in the introduction of speeches. These memorable stories focus audience attention and help them remember the essence of the talk.

But don’t mislead your listeners. Don’t include words in the title merely to get attention if they have no relevance to the presentation itself. “The Eleventh Commandment” is a relevant title for a speech that addresses the fact that the commandment “Thou shall not get caught” has seemed to replace some of the other commandments. “A Pat on the Back, A Punch in the Mouth” is certainly a more provocative title than “How Positive and Negative Reinforcement Affects Our Children.” You Cannot Not Communicate” (a title I often use) is briefer and more proactive than “The Impossibility of Failing to Communicate.”

The preceding titles are all catchy and suitable for speeches or presentations to certain groups. But in the business and corporate world the direct approach usually works best. A briefing or training session on effective listening might simply be titled “Effective Listening.” For that matter “Listening Effectively”—a title of a book I wrote may be even better because the first word, listening grabs attention better that the word effective.

Good titles are descriptive but should also be inviting. Attention should be piqued so the audience wants to listen. Good titles gain listeners’ initial attention.

John Kline
Montgomery, Alabama

December 2003 - Choosing a Title for Your Talk
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