The Title

The speech title is far more important than most writers at first believe. The title not only indicates the subject, but attracts attention when listed in advance publicity; sometimes it can even prompt press coverage. Then, announced by the MC at the meeting, the title sets the mood for the audience. They are ever hopeful that the next speech they hear will be far better than the last one. We may be speaking more, but audiences are enjoying it less.

The last time I made a speech, the program chairman asked me to talk about sex in the classroom (about which I am highly qualified). But my wife doesn't think so, so I told her I was going to talk about the problems with too much air travel. Well, the sex speech got a pretty good reception. And the next day, the wife of a member of the audience met my wife in the supermarket and said, "I heard Bill made a very good speech last night. He must be an expert on the subject." And my wife said, "Oh, no. He's only tried it twice. The first time, he lost his bag, and the second time he got sick to his stomach."

Even if the speech is on a serious topic—politics, the economy, business, education, nuclear energy—it's still possible to consider a humor twist that will increase interest and attendance.

For example, there's nothing more deadly than sales training speeches, but consider the reaction to these titles:

• "Yogi Berra Was Right—It Ain't Over 'til It's Over"

• "Where Have You Gone Alex Bell, or What D'ya Mean My Three Minutes Are Up?"

• "Caterpillars and Other Special People"

• "What They Never Dared Tell You About PR"

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