How to Write Slide Action Titles Like McKinsey (With Examples)

Updated: Sep 20, 2023
How to Write Slide Action Titles Like McKinsey (With Examples)

When it comes to conveying impactful messages in a business context, PowerPoint slides are often the go-to medium. While the content of your slides is undoubtedly important, one often overlooked element that can elevate your presentation to new heights is the effective use of action titles. 

As former McKinsey and BCG consultants, we have witnessed firsthand the power of action titles in conveying a clear message, elevating a slide from ‘blah’ to ‘great’, and tying a presentation into a persuasive, cohesive story. 

In this blog post, we will explore what action titles are, why they are crucial for successful presentations, and provide you with practical tips on crafting compelling action titles.

What is an action title?

An action title is the most important point of the slide, formulated as a short, simple sentence. It should ideally be the main takeaway or ‘so what’ of the slide, and – if done right – allows the audience to only read the title to understand the primary message of the slide.

It's called an ‘action’ title because it actively tells the audience what the key takeaway is. In contrast, conventional slide titles simply summarize the content of a slide. For example, look at the two slides in the figure below. The slide on the left is a conventional title that correctly summarizes what is on the slide but doesn’t add any insight. The slide on the right is an action title, which immediately tells the audience what the main message of the slide is.

Action title vs conventional slide title (example)

Why are action titles important?

Spending so much time on the title of a slide may seem like a nice-to-have last-minute task, but in reality action titles are one of the most important skills that management consultants are taught and lay the groundwork for creating top-tier presentations.


Action titles are important for several reasons:

  1. Clear communication: An action title allows the audience to immediately understand what the slide is about and why it’s important. This makes it easier for them to digest the full slide, and in turn makes it easier for you to get your main messages across.
  2. Cohesive storyline: Action titles help tie the whole presentation together in a cohesive story. They form the backbone and roadmap of your presentation and help both you and your audience follow the core logic and arguments, and ultimately better understand the suggested recommendations or next steps that you may present.
  3. Forcing function: Finally, action titles serve the crucial role as a forcing function to trim and improve your slides. If you are having trouble formulating a good action title or placing the slide in a series of slides, it more often than not means the slide is either not clear enough or is not necessary. 
    A classic example is when you feel there are too many good points for it all to fit into one title. The wrong way to handle this is to shrink the title font size. The right way is to either divide that one slide into several slides with their own key takeaways, or to delete the data and information on the slide that is not contributing to the key takeaway.

See the same three slides below with conventional titles and action titles to get a sense of the power of action titles.

How to write an action title

Crafting action titles may seem like an art form, but it is a skill that can be mastered with practice. Here are some steps to guide you in creating compelling action titles:

If you have already created your slide(s):

  1. Identify the core message
    Before attempting to write an action title, clearly define the main message of your slide or section. What is the key takeaway you want your audience to remember? The one thing they should know when reading this slide?
  2. Formulate the title
    Think about that core message. How would you say that if you had to do a voice-over? Write that voice-over down as the action title.
  3. Refine the title
    Now refine the title you just wrote. Make sure it is understandable as a stand-alone sentence, and that the words you use are active and convey an insight. See the end of this article for examples and best practices on action titles.
  4. Trim the content
    Finally, look at the content of the slide. Does it support that one main message? If there is any content on the slide that does not directly contribute to the core message, either delete it or cut-and-paste it into a new slide. Reformat the remaining content so the slide is once again complete. See more on the anatomy of a slide here.

If you are starting on a new presentation:

Best practice when crafting action titles is to write them as the first step of creating a presentation. By writing them as the first step you are ensuring your presentation is cohesive and clear from the beginning, and you often avoid a lot of unnecessary work with creating slides you end up not using.

  1. Pick an overarching framework for your storyline   
    Your entire deck should narrate an engaging story. Many consulting decks follow the SCQA framework: Situation > Complication > Question > Answer Other successful frameworks might be Past → Present → Future or Problem → Solution → Evidence. See more on storylines and the vertical and horizontal flow of presentations here
  2. Draft slide titles    
    Divide each A4 page into four sections, each representing a slide. Craft a concise action title of less than 15 words for each slide which becomes the slide's title. This can also be done as a text document or similar. The goal is to be able to read the titles and from that alone understand the gist of the deck.
  3. Outline supporting data for each slide    
    Would a graph or a table be helpful? Or perhaps a few bullet points in large font? Sketch out your first best guess of what type of data (numbers, text, images etc.) that you think is needed to support the slide title and that is plausible to get. This is likely to change during your project, but it provides you with a solid starting point to understand which data and analyses you should prioritize.
  4. Create a draft presentation
    Create the blank slides in PowerPoint with just the titles and potentially a sticker or text box describing the supporting data and content of the slide. Tweak the slide titles as you put them into PowerPoint following the best practices outlined below.
  5. Read through your entire storyline
    Once you’ve outlined your entire presentation, zoom out again and read only the slide titles. Does the story make sense and create a compelling case? Are there are slides that feel ‘off’ compared to the story? Slides that feel redundant? Anywhere there are holes in the story or logical jumps? Add empty slides with just titles to fill the holes, and move any slides that don’t feel strictly necessary to the back of the presentation or a separate document. The goal is a cohesive, clear presentation in as few slides as possible.
Drafting slides on paper

See more tips and tricks for accelerating your presentation creation here.

Although it can seem like a last thing, nice-to-have thing to have action titles this is actually one of the core parts of creating top-quality presentations and one of the easiest ‘hacks’ to taking your presentation up a notch.

Best practices for writing action titles

  • Be specific and concrete: Vague or generic action titles can dilute your message and fail to clearly get the main messages across. Instead, aim for specificity and concreteness, ideally including the most important quantitative takeaways. Your titles should provide a clear direction and measurable outcome, leaving no room for ambiguity.

    Generic: Supply chain processes can be optimized
    Specific: Optimize supply chain processes to reduce costs by 20%
  • Keep it concise: Action titles should be concise and to the point. Ideally, they should fit within one or max two lines, up to 15 words. Strive for brevity without sacrificing clarity and impact. NEVER have a title that is longer than two lines. 

    Too wordy: The analysis conducted shows that profits can potentially be increased by up to 15% by end of 2027
    Concise: Analysis shows potential for up to 15% increase in profits by 2027
  • Focus on takeaways not just summaries: Your audience is interested in conclusions, not processes or descriptions. Make sure your title reflects the takeaway. 

    Summary: We interviewed experts and key internal stakeholders to identify potential cost-reduction levers
    Conclusion: 8 potential high-impact cost reduction levers identified

    Caveat: There may be slides where you explicitly want to summarize a process. This is fine, just make sure the slide focuses only on the process, and the results are included in a separate slide.
  • Be insightful: …and in line with the point above, make sure your takeaway is actually insightful. Don’t write an action title that is so obviously true it provides no new information.

    Not insightful: Focus on sales will help increase revenues
    Insightful: Direct outreach is main driver of revenue growth – added focus here can increase revenues 10-15%
  • Use an active voice: Opt for words that invoke a sense of action and avoid passive statements or verbs. This makes your titles more engaging for your audience.

    Passive: The structure and timeline of the project is determined by the Steering Group
    Active: Steering Group determines project structure and timeline
  • Prioritize simplicity: The primary purpose of an action title is to communicate effectively. Focus on crafting titles that convey your message with precision and always err on the side of simple.

    Complex: Through implementation of efficiency levers, 7.4 M USD in costs per year can potentially be saved
    Simple: Implementation of efficiency levers can potentially save 7.4 M USD
  • And finally, consistency is key: Maintain consistency in your action titles throughout your presentation, both in terms of narrative style and font size. This creates a sense of cohesion and reinforces your main story.


Creating compelling action titles is a powerful technique that can significantly enhance the impact of your PowerPoint presentations. By capturing attention, fostering clear communication, and inspiring action, action titles have the potential to transform your presentation from ordinary to extraordinary.