Your best speech title
What’s the best speech title you ever came up with?
Whilst you’re thinking about it I’ll carry on.
My best title was… “The Tyranny of the Or”
“The Tyranny of the Or” is a concept discussed in the book “Built to Last” published by the Stanford Business School.
In the Authors words…
“The tyranny of the or moves people to believe that things must be one way or another… but never both.
You can be either conservative or bold, work for purpose or profit, be a low-cost producer or offer a high quality product… but never both.”
I took that idea and applied it to the lives of everyday folk, pointing out how we limit our potential and pigeon hole ourselves.
“As toddlers we’re shy or precocious, independent or clingy…..
Yes, I can see a few mummy’s boys out there.
At school we’re lots of things, sporty or academic, dunce or swot,
doing well….. or could do better.”
I gave that speech at the Association of Speakers Clubs National Finals in 2008 and even now, people quote the title back to me.
Seems that titles are powerful things, so let’s delve a little deeper.
The secret of a good speech title
According to Laura Rozakis author of “The Idiot’s Guide to Public Speaking” speech titles have two purposes:
“They suggest the general content of the speech while simultaneously grabbing the audience’s attention.
Think of the title as an advertisement. If successful, the title should make the listener want to hear more.”
So there you have it, follow the lead of the advertisers, make your titles punchy, catchy, and memorable.
Who knows, perhaps your next speech title will be:
“Lip smacking, thirst quenching, ace tasting, motivating, good buzzing, cool walking, high talking, fast living, ever giving…..PEPSI!”
OK try the Renault advert:
“Rain? Kiss my glass.”
Ooooh, now that is naughty, but it’s a title you won’t forget.
Write your title last
Because titles come at the beginning, people assume that you have to write them first, but you don’t.
When you write your speech ideas will come in thick and fast and those ideas will include speech titles.
Keep a record of the titles you come up with and take a fresh look at them once you’ve finished writing your speech.
“Write the title last, after you have finished the entire speech.
Creating a title that is both intriguing and suitable will be easier after you have written the rest of the speech.”
Laura Rozakis, Ph.D.
There’s no rush to decide on a title.
It’s not needed until your speech is finished, so write it last.
To create closure… finish on your speech title
When you deliver your final line, the audience has to know that it’s your final line and they will start clapping… hopefully.
If they don’t know it’s your final line, they won’t clap and you will be forced to say… “Thank you” the audience will then clap and you will be taken away by the “Speech ending” police and shot.
“The conclusion must give your audience a feeling that your presentation is complete.
People have a psychological need for closure.
They want a presentation to have a beginning, a middle and an end – especially an end.
They don’t want to be left hanging. Your conclusion must address this need.”
A sure fire way to let the audience know that you are delivering your final line, is to finish on your Speech title.
I gave a speech whose purpose was to persuade people to go on a skiing holiday.
The title was “An Alpine Aria.”
During the speech I said…
“You’ll make lots of pals skiing and they’re all slightly odd.
I used to ski with a guy called Marko.
During the summer he worked at Glyndebourne opera house, and when he skied he sang an alpine aria to the whole mountain.”
I finished with…
“And so madam chairman, ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to join me.
To see those mountains, to ski those slopes, and to sing your own, alpine aria.”
Do you see how it puts a full stop at the end of the speech?
It gives a marvellous sense of closure and cues the audience to start their standing ovation… if only.
Ideas for great speech titles
It can be difficult to come up with a good speech title, so here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Adapt a book title – “The Unbearable Darkness of Seeing”
- A film (movie) title – “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”
- Use a pun – “Product Pricing: Now Makes Cents!”
- Ask a question – “Now I’ve got a Computer, What Do I Do with it?”
- Be surprising – “Say Yes to Stress”
- Be a little naughty – “Discipline without Bondage”
- Adapt a saying – “Sedimentary My Dear Watson”
Hope that those help, but if they don’t, there is one method of finding a speech title that never fails….
Your title is in your speech
The truth is, your title is often hidden in your speech.
A phrase, a sentence a little flash of rhetoric.
“Lincoln, in his first inaugural address said:
“The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched… by the better angels of our nature.”
The phrase “mystic chords of memory” would have made an eloquent title of that speech if custom didn’t dictate that it be simply labelled “Inaugural Address.”
So write your speech in full then read it through and find that magic phrase that sums up your speech and then you can go with “Inaugural Address” or you can use your own “Mystic Chords of Memory”.
A trick for your blog post titles
Blog post titles are a little trickier than speech titles because not only are you writing for people, you’re writing for the Search Engine bots and in particular Mr Googlebot.
That means that your title has to be a great advert and contain your keywords… seems like an impossible task.
So here’s my solution:
When you first publish your post go with that punchy eye-catching headline.
Once the interest drops off and the comments stop coming in, change the title to one that contains your keywords.
Works for me, hope it works for you.
Time to have your say
So what’s the best title you’ve come up with?
What gems have you crafted over the years?
Please feel free to leave a comment, ask a question or pass on tips of your own.
My thanks and gratitude to the following from whose books I have learnt much and quoted often.
Laura Rozakis, Ph.D. “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Public Speaking”
Malcolm Kushner “Public Speaking for Dummies”
Thomas Montalbo “The Power of Eloquence”
Stanford Business School “Built to last”
And thanks to the following whose graphics add something that words never could.
UggBoy via Flickr for the Meaning of Life graphic.
J from the UK via Flickr for the Mariah Carey graphic.