Presenting and Teaching

Presenting Tip #3: Always Have a Headline

18 Sep 2018  

There is a simple way to improve your business presentations: Always have a headline that states the main point at the top of every page.

Three Benefits

A good headline does three important things. First, it helps your audience figure out the point of the page. There is nothing worse than coming across a page full of numbers in a presentation. Who has time to make sense of it? We are all busy, and emails are piling up by the minute.

Second, a good headline improves your delivery. A clear headline naturally draws the reader’s eye and establishes the point. It’s a way of getting off to a good start. Instead of talking about the data, you will begin with the key point. This is always a solid approach.

Third, tight headlines make it easy for the presentation to be both read and presented. If  people have questions, they can go back through the document and, by looking at the headline, see the point and the data. In a business setting, presentations have to work both ways; headlines are one of the key elements that makes this possible.

Good Headlines

Headlines should be brief. Structurally, it is best to have a one or two-line headline. If you go beyond this, it starts to look like a jumble. Simply state the main point in a concise fashion.

If you find that you can’t limit the headline to just one point, then you might need to split the page into two distinct thoughts; it could be that you are making different points and each one is worthy of attention.

A good headline should be a complete thought. A headline like “Sales by Region” doesn’t add a lot of value. This is just the title of the chart. A headline like that doesn’t answer the key question: Why is this information important? A better headline might be, “The west region is a growing part of our business,” or “Sales have grown in every market over the past year,” or “Three regions make up 80 percent of our revenues.” These statements all highlight an important point, and make it clear what the audience should look for in the data.

Headlines should flow logically from one to the next. If one headline is, “The west region is our fastest growing region,” then the next headline might be “The west is growing due to expanded store distribution.” The third might be, “The distribution growth is largely due to our new west region shelving initiative.”

In a well-built presentation, the headlines tell a story. One point will lead to the next, and the story will lead to the recommendation. Along the way, you will address obvious questions and concerns.

If you jump around and forgo a clear, sequential order, you will confuse your audience. If you say, “The west region is our fastest growing area,” and then, “The upgrade strategy is driving margin growth,” and then, “Development costs have fallen in recent years,” you are just going to frustrate your audience. Where exactly is all this heading?

A page of data without a headline does more harm than good. A visual element without a headline is also a problem. A picture of a tree says very little. What is the point?

Effective headlines, however, make the point clearly and guarantee that your presentations will work. A good rule: Put a headline on every page.

You can order a copy of How to Wash a Chicken – Mastering the Business Presentation here. You can learn more about the book here. You can watch videos about presenting tips here. Learn about the curious name here. I will be doing a webinar on presentation skills on September 27 from 12 – 1 CST. Here is the sign-up link.

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