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May 01, 2012

Training Tip 24: Using Title Slides Effectively

Every slide show needs a title slide, right?  The title slide is the right place to give your audience basic information like the name of your presentation, the name of the sponsoring organization, the date, and your name.

When should you display the title slide?  Nearly always, presenters assume it should be the first slide.  That's probably a safe choice, but when you want a little extra oomph in your presentation, consider using a trick from James Bond movies and TV shows like Jennifer Garner's late, lamented show Alias.  Not that the technique is particularly new.  In fact, the Iliad (vintage 8th Century BC)  starts "in medias res" (in the middle of things).  

Showing your title slide only AFTER you have grabbed the audience's attention is a great way to get things off with a bang. For example, for a presentation about the role of the Inspector General in handling ethics issues, I began not with a title slide, but with a sequence of slides about various scandals in the federal government.  I had one slide illustrating each scandal, and then another slide illustrating the IG response.  The subliminal message was: the Inspector General was the "solution" in each case.  The message was conveyed more effectively because I did not have to say it.  The selection and sequencing of the slides communicated the message more effectively than I could say it.

On another occasion I was giving a presentation to a group of criminal investigators.  There is a custom among some members of law enforcement of "professional courtesy."  One police officer may overlook a minor offense committed by another police officer.  Showing a badge is a way of asking for professional courtesy.  See, for example, Stroud v. Department of Treasury (upholding punishment of policy officer who showed badge during traffic stop, with hope of obtaining professional courtesy).

This issue should be addressed in ethics training for this audience, but it is tricky.  At least a few in the audience are likely to be at least somewhat sympathetic to an officer requesting professional courtesy, and it's possible some have engaged in the practice themselves.  Instructors who condemn the practice in an unconvincing way run the risk of looking like an unrealistic Goody Two Shoes and losing credibility. 

My first three slides were:

  1. The mug shot of Senator Larry Craig, arrested for solicitation in an airport.
  2. An excerpt from the arrest report indicating that Craig had shown his Senate ID to the arresting officer and, in an apparent attempt to intimidate him, asked "What do you think about that?"
  3. A picture of the front page of the Senate's Public Letter of Admonition to Craig for misuse of credentials.

Having gotten the audience's attention in a major way, then and only then did I move to the title slide.  When I subsequently used a slide about the Stroud case, I immediately followed it with a reprise of the Craig mug shot.  Not a single audience member spoke up in favor of "professional courtesy."

Why does beginning in medias res work?  Audiences tend to remember best the first part of the presentation and the last part.  Why waste the audience's prime attention on a boring title slide?  Start off with something important, something you want them to remember, something that will support a key point you intend to make later, like the Craig/Stroud connection.

Will beginning this way confuse your audiences?  Only the ones who have never seen a James Bond movie, an episode of Alias, nor any of the many similar T.V. shows. 

Starting your presentation in medias res is an example of a theme we will be exploring further in future columns: Making your shows more appealing to a generation of people who have grown up watching television and surfing the Internet.

Provide your suggestions and examples in the Comments section below. Biographical information about our Training Tips columnist is available.

Posted by J. Lawson in Technology for Trainers, Training Tips | Permalink


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