Presenters invest considerable energy in the creation of presentations, the ideas that go into them, and the delivery of the information.

Then they print out black and white handouts on flimsy paper with badly designed themes and layouts.

Granted, the hope for any presentation is that the ideas stick with the audience and they always remember the things we say. But the handouts are the things they actually take home and might look at next week when you’ve flown back home (or, at least, don’t have their attention anymore).

So what are those handouts saying about you and your presentation when you’re not there? Memory fades pretty quickly, and a good handout will convey the same professionalism and communicative clarity that you did when you were giving the presentation.

Here are three tips for putting together great handouts for your next presentation:

1. Invest in good design: When you present, you can control impressions with your preparedness and professionalism. You can’t do this when they look at your handouts without you there. Make sure the design of the handout is every bit as professional as you are.

2. Print like you mean it: Even the most oblivious audience member will notice when your handout is printed on quality paper stock in vibrant full color. By contrast, thin, cheap paper communicates cheapness, not always a desirable quality.

3. Keep it Simple: The purpose of the handout isn’t the same as the purpose of your presentation. The presentation should be thorough and illuminating; the handout should summarize key points and drive follow-up and personal interaction. Place an emphasis on where audience members can go online for more info, or how to get in touch with you, after a brief summary of the highlights of your message and next steps.

Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of walking in empty-handed. A big portion of every audience will need some time to digest your presentation before acting at all; handouts are one part of a comprehensive follow-up strategy that will really help you drive action and engagement after the presentation is made. When we make the mistake of thinking that the presentation ends with the last slide, we miss out on major opportunities to get more out of the total effort than we otherwise would.

Question: What do your handouts say about you and your business?

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  • It is true that the quality of our handouts speak volumes of what we are all about. The little touches do matter. – It sounds like our handouts should be simple like our visual slides. They should not be a word for word reproduction of the presentation.

    What are your thoughts on the right time to give the audience the handouts? I have noticed that if they are given at the very beginning the audience will tend to read ahead and lose focus on the presentation.

  • Shecky

    You have a Flash message, in another language (possibly Portuguese), that keeps popping up and prompting the user to click on it.

    • leslie

      Shecky, Thank you for informing us about this issue. We are working to fix it immediately.

  • Good suggestions here – Thanks!

    Unless you're conducting a workshop, don't hand out those Handouts until the audience is leaving. Otherwise they are a distraction to your message and they'll never GET IT!


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