Presentations – Choosing the right headings

Presentations must convey understandable information on each slide, ideally without further explanation for a reader. A large part of the comprehensibility is due to the slide titles.  

The famous advertising expert David Ogilvy has studied the importance of headlines very intensively. He once noted that about eight out of ten readers read the title of a text and only two of them read the associated text afterwards.

For him, the heading was of particular importance. I think he also once said that if you have an hour to write an ad copy, you should spend fifty minutes on the headline. When we read a newspaper, we also make a choice based on the title as to whether the associated article might interest us.

What is it like with a PowerPoint presentation? Does the “head line” really matter, or aren’t the other slide contents and the speaker’s explanations more important? Keep in mind that modern slide design relies on short, bold messages. Contemporary presentations do without much space for explanatory texts. Therefore, it is all the more important to use the slide title as an additional source of information for your audience. The headings create a “storyline” that describe the story arc of your presentation.

Also, keep in mind that as a “hand-out,” your presentation may reach people who neither know you personally nor are extensively familiar with the content being presented. Also, by choosing the right headings, your audience will find their way back into the topics more quickly when they pick up the slides again in a few days or weeks after your presentation. A good “headline” lets the reader know what to expect.

Depending on the presentation topic and target group, there are different title forms:

Order title

A neutral and factual variant are the order titles. Order titles are used especially in scientific presentations. Typical headings here are for example “Introduction”, “Chapter 1,2.3 …”, Conclusion”.

Descriptive titles

In this title form, the message of the slide is underlined by a description. The reader receives a description of the slide content with the title. The titles here are, for example, “The result of the employee survey”, “Business development in the first quarter” or “The 5 factors of customer satisfaction”.

Action title

With an action title, you can arouse emotions or make provocative content even more pointed. In this variant, bold headings are used for the slides. Formulations could be: “Why 80% of sales staff are not worth their money”, “Sell or die”, “How to push the advertising turbo”.

No matter which title type you choose, you should definitely take enough time to create appropriate headlines.

Presentation coach and expert for multimedia presentations Matthias GartenDipl.-Wirtsch.-Informatiker Matthias Garten is the expert for multimedia presentations. He is an entrepreneur, speaker (TOP 100 Speaker), trainer (TOP 100 Excellence Trainer), multiple book author, presentation coach (presentation training), member of the GSA and Club 55, organizer of the Presentation Conference, Presentation Bootcamp and Presentation Rocket Days. In addition to PowerPoint and presentation training, he inspires and advises companies to present themselves even more effectively and thus stand out from competitors. He is the business owner of the presentation and PowerPoint agency smavicon Best Business Presentations and with his team has created over 15,000 presentations for over 150 industries since 1993.