August 10, 2012

Are you misleading your audience with your titles?



I got an e-mail from Skype a while back with the subject line "5 great ways to use Skype." This sounded promising, so I opened it. Inside the e-mail I found details on how to contact support, how to remember my login and how to add contacts. The only information on actually using Skype was the information about video calls.

This was a housekeeping e-mail, not an educational one, and there were certainly not 5 ways to use Skype included.

A misleading or inaccurate subject line -- or for speakers, a misleading presentation title -- can do some damage. With the Skype e-mail, I mostly felt that my time was wasted, and it made me more inclined to delete future e-mails without opening.

But how about a subject line or title that sets up an expectation and then doesn't deliver -- to your audience?

Last week I signed up for a webinar. A couple of days later, an e-mail with the subject line, "Getting to know you," arrived in my inbox.

As someone who helps speakers create more engaging, memorable and effective presentations, the one thing I come back to over and over again with my clients is "Get to know your audience."

So imagine my delight when I got this e-mail and thought the speaker was going to get to know the participants on the webinar. Maybe a questionnaire to fill out to determine our concerns and challenges with his topic? Nice! A pleasant change from the usual.

But when I opened the message, I discovered it wasn't about him getting to know me, it was about me getting to know him. That is, there was a link to a video about the presenter. I had opened the e-mail with the impression that the e-mail was going to be about me, and instead it was all about the speaker. This disappointing turn of events almost caused me to bail on the webinar I had already signed up for. My first thought was that this self-centered speaker couldn't possibly give me something of value, especially after tricking me into opening his e-mail.

Like it or not, your title can lead to a snap judgement on who you are and whether or not you will deliver. And if your title contrasts with your actual content in an unpleasant or disappointing way, you may not regain your audience.

In this blog post, I wrote about how to make your presentation instantly successful by crafting a title that is accurate and meaningful to the audience. In that instance, I had a client who had gotten quite a few negative evaluations after her conference seminar.

When I analyzed her evaluations, I noticed that many of the negative comments were from audience members who had come expecting a different seminar. My client's title had not accurately described what she was going to present, so people were sitting in the room, waiting for something that never came.

Think carefully about how you craft your titles and subject lines. Yes, we want to create sizzle and drama and a compelling reason for them to open the message or sign up for the session.

But we also want to be honest, accurate and truthful. It may be the reader's first chance to demonstrate trust toward you. Blow their trust and you might not get it back again.

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