In almost every customized workshop I do, writing headlines for slides is the single idea that people say will help them the most and the one they can start implementing immediately. In this article I want to share a template to guide writing a headline for a slide that presents the result of some analysis you have done.
I believe that writing a headline for each slide in your presentation is critical. A headline summarizes the single point you want the audience to remember from that slide. It is much better than the typical slide title that is often just the topic, but no indication of what you want the audience to know about that topic.
Because many of my workshops are for professionals who deal with financial, operational, marketing, or other data, many of the slides I see involve presenting the result of the analysis of data. To help these professionals make sure each slide has a meaningful headline, I created a template to guide the creation of the headline.
The template is as follows:
Option A: <Analyzed item/area/data> <Verb> <Conclusion>
Option B: <Conclusion> <Verb> <Analyzed item/area/data>
Let’s look at the two key components of the template.
The first key component is stating what area, item, data, issue, etc. you were analyzing. This part is important because you have to make sure that the audience has the context for understanding the importance of the conclusion.
The second key part states the conclusion or result of your analysis. I believe it is important to state the conclusion up front at the top of the slide so the audience knows where you are going as you explain the details of the analysis when you discuss the rest of the slide. Research published in the book “Brain Rules” by John Medina shows that stating a conclusion before the supporting data is easier for the audience to understand than the usual sequence of sharing all the data before the conclusion.
Arrange the key parts in the order that makes sense, including a verb between the two if necessary. The verb is usually a simple connecting verb such as “shows” or a form of the verb “to be”.
Here are three examples from slide makeovers I have done for client workshops:
Most risk scenarios show significant loss vs. base scenario
Average transaction amount is consistent across regions
Michigan, Florida, and Maryland are top states for fraud losses
The first two examples use Option A of the template and the third example uses Option B. This isn’t the only way to state a headline for slides that share the result of analysis, but this headline template gives you a simple formula to follow that ensures you include the two key components your audience needs to know.
Dave Paradi has over twenty years of experience delivering customized training workshops to help business professionals improve their presentations. He has written nine books and over 100 articles on the topic of effective presentations and his ideas have appeared in publications around the world. His focus is on helping corporate professionals visually communicate the messages in their data so they don’t overwhelm and confuse executives. Dave is one of less than ten people in North America recognized by Microsoft with the Most Valuable Professional Award for his contributions to the Excel and PowerPoint communities. He regularly presents highly rated sessions at national and regional conferences of financial professionals.