6. Using Action Titles


Many presentations suffer from poor slide titles that do not help the audience at all. Action titles solve this problem very quickly and are a must for all sit-down presentations.

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  1. Lesson Goal (00:00)

    The goal of this lesson is to learn how to write action titles for your PowerPoint slides.

  2. Understanding Action Titles (00:06)

    Many PowerPoint slides have uninformative titles like “Revenue growth”. Given the limited space on a PowerPoint slide, it’s better to use slide titles to deliver conclusions and insights from the slide. Slide titles that do this are called action titles.

    Action titles have two advantages. First, they guide readers through the presentation. Combining all the action titles should create a consistent and interesting storyline. They also help the reader understand the point you are making on a slide if they cannot figure it out themselves. Second, action titles help you present the content, by telling you the message to present if you forget it briefly.

  3. Incorporating Action Titles in PowerPoint (01:24)

    PowerPoint often creates title placeholders for slides with a large font size. As action titles tend to be long, you’ll probably need to reduce the font size in this placeholder. You can do this by going to Slide Master view and changing the title placeholder for the master slide. A font size of about 22 should be reasonable when using action titles.

  4. Writing Action Titles (02:18)

    Your action titles should be the answers to the issues and questions raised in your MECE issue tree. Each issue should have one or more slides, and the action titles of these slides should form an answer to these issues. Where possible, these action titles should include quantitative, or numeric, data. These slide titles help a reader easily find the relevant insights in your presentation.


Believe it or not, writing correct slide titles can be a problem for analysts. Often we'll see slide headings that are too broad and generic, like revenue growth or market share. The informative value of these titles is zero. Slide space is a valuable commodity, and we don't want to waste any of it. As a result, I'm a big proponent of action titles. Action titles do not merely give you information about what's on the rest of the slide but they provide the insight from the slide itself. So instead of revenue growth on this slide, we would write revenue has grown over the past five years, particularly in Asia and South America.

Action titles have two big advantages. First, they guide the reader through the presentation. All action titles combined should lead to a consistent and interesting storyline. They also act as an aid to the reader if the reader is struggling to grasp the insight from your slide. The reader can simply read the action title to understand the point you are trying to make. Second, action titles help you, the analyst, to present the content. Whenever you stumble in your presentation, or lose your train of thought and don't know what to say next, you can always fall back on the action title. Consider it a get out of jail free card when you momentarily lose your train of thought when giving a presentation. As I mentioned earlier, screen area is a valuable commodity. And PowerPoint by default tends to create title placeholders with very big font sizes.

Action titles tend to be longer and as a result, for sit-down presentations, I normally reduce the font size to around 22 and I widen the title placeholder as well. Remember, you don't need to do this in every slide. We'll just go to View, Slide Master, and change the title placeholder in here. So on the master slide, I'll widen the placeholder, and reduce the default text size to 22.

When I jump back into my presentation, all new slides that I create from now on will have this new title placeholder layout.

So the next question is what do I put in my action titles? This is actually very simple. You put in the answers to the issues from your issue tree. Let's look at our me-see issue tree and the intrinsic value bucket where we'll find early stage pipeline drugs. We've identified seven issues related to the early stage pipeline drug that need to be addressed in our presentation.

And our action titles will basically be our responses to these seven issues. If we need more than one slide to cover a single issue, this is not a problem. Just make sure that the action titles flow consistently from one slide to the next. For the seven issues under the early stage pipeline drug, I've created action titles for each one. Note that in almost all cases, I try to respond with quantitative answers for each issue.

Whenever the issue can be responded to with quantitative data, this is always my first port of call. In the next lesson, I'll show you how to create some compelling data-driven charts to go with our action titles.

PowerPoint Essentials
Creating Business Presentations


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