Why You Should Never, Ever Crowdsource Your Presentation Title

By Laura Bergells on
  • Intro to X
  • X 101
  • X for Beginners

Ugh.

What presentation titles could possibly be more overused? If you’re going to a presentation with one of these titles, you can be almost certain that the presentation is going to be every bit as boring and cliched as its headline. These kinds of titles are a red flag that show a lack of creativity and imagination on the part of the presenter.

In his hilarious + helpful book Confessions of a Public Speaker, Scott Berkun states very clearly that taking a strong position in your title is utterly essential. In his chapter titled “Eating the Mike”, Mr.Berkum states that with a weak position, your talk may become…

“Here is everything I know I could cram into the time I have, but since I have no idea if you care, or what I would say if I had less time to talk, you get a half-baked, hard to follow, hard to present, pile of trash.”

No kidding!Presentation Title Do
I’ve had to fight these “Naming the Presentation” battles over the past decade. I’ll come up with a wonderfully effective and entertaining title, and the conference organizer will bill it as “X for Beginners”.

I hate it when my name and face gets positioned next to that turd of a title. I sometimes fantasize about clearing things up with the audience:

“I know you think the title of this session is “Introduction to Social Media for Conference Planners 101”, but that’s a misprint. That was just a description of the TOPIC and AUDIENCE PROFILE that I discussed with the organizers so that I could build a relevant presentation for you. The actual TITLE of my presentation is “The Top 5 Most Horrifying Mistakes Conference Organizers Make and How to Fix Them Fast.”

Yeah, I don’t say anything like that.

What I do instead: Happily, I learned an important lesson from Mr. Berkun’s book. I’ve been enjoying frank conversations with event planners about the importance of the title of the talk. I’ve made it clear that the topic, difficulty level, and audience profile may not have anything to do with the title we choose for the presentation. (They might, but they might not.)

For the moment, this approach seems to be working. Fancy that! Conference planners seem delighted to hear that the person they’ve hired is thinking about the audience, presentation content, marketing viability and title.

It seems that they’re a smart bunch that values professionalism and creativity.

What doesn’t work? Lately, I’ve actually seen speakers try to crowdsource their presentation titles on Twitter! How much of a bad idea is it to tweet:

“I’m giving a 101 presentation to a group of widget manufacturers. What should I call it?”

Honestly. Think about it. How the heck should someone who hasn’t seen the content know what to name the presentation?

I suspect that presenters who crowdsource their titles have constructed a presentation so generic and half-baked that it could actually be named…

…anything.

How about:

“Here’s some crap I know a little bit more about that you…”

Make no mistake: Cliched titles and crowdsourced titles are huge red flags that the presentation is a stinker. Don’t crowdsource a title. Don’t go to a presentation with a crowdsourced or cliched title.

Instead, take great care to construct your presentation content carefully — and name your presentation effectively. If you don’t know how, read Mr.Berkun’s book. It’s a very entertaining read — but imparts helpful and practical advice along the way.