How to Create Effective Slide Titles

Do you know how to create “headline” titles?

Lisa B. Marshall
4-minute read

Have you ever titled a slide "Outline," "Conclusion," or "2009 Budget"? What I'm really asking is, do you tend to create generic slide titles that are more like general topic areas than key messages? If so, this article is for you. Today, I'll talk about how to create effective slide titles.

How to Create Effective Slide Titles

Whenever I review someone's slides I give them a homework list--tasks they need to review and change. In just about every case, the first task on the list is the same. Please review each slide title to ensure it communicates the main point of the slide in the form of a headline title or a takeaway message. I chose the phrase “headline title,” because you should think of them and write them like newspaper headlines.

Change Generic Topic Titles to Specific Takeaway Messages

The most common mistake is that the slides titles don’t convey the specific, main point of the slide. Instead they suggest a generic topic.

Obviously titles such as "Overview," "Introduction," or "Challenges" are just too generic.   But the problem is usually more subtle than that. A generic title might be something like, "Social Business" or even "A Shift Toward Social Business" when it should really be "Collaborative social organizations surpass barriers to growth." Or "Dell attributes $3M in revenue to Twitter posts" instead of “Signs of ROI” or worse, just “ROI.”

The idea is to ensure that your title conveys the main point or the message you are trying to communicate. Again, it's not "Budget," or even "Fourth Quarter Budget; it should be "Fourth Quarter budget cut by 25%."

Your title needs to convey the main point because the majority of business and technical presentations use a deductive organizational structure. That means you need to make your main point first and then explain the evidence that supports the point (not the other way around).

Use Titles To Reinforce Your Main Point


It’s critically important for efficient mental processing that your bottom line or key message is actually written on the slide.


I want to mention that it’s critically important for efficient mental processing that your bottom line or key message is actually written on the slide. Some people say to me, "Well, I’ll make the main point verbally. Does it still need to be on the slide?" And the answer is, “Yes. Absolutely!”

If your viewer is confused (or if they took a mind vacation when you presented an important detail), the good title helps them get back on track.  And if the listener did understand, then a good title reinforces the message and helps them to remember it.


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.