Why Use Handouts?

They allow you to provide more detailed information than you would put on a slide. They give your audience something to take away from your presentation, to review later. They are one more way for your listeners to be reminded of you and your key messages.

Handouts are especially useful if your presentation is highly technical or complex. They can further explain important information. For example, you may want to include in your handout supporting data that you chose not to include in your presentation, such as contact information, case studies, references, marketing literature, or other collateral materials.

Your handout also can serve as a summary of your key points. In any case, your handout can include more detailed information than you may have had time to cover in your presentation, or which — for your own good reasons — you've chosen not to include in your presentation.

Before or after?
In some instances, you may choose to distribute your handout before you present, if you want your audience to be able to take notes on the handout as you go through your slides. But the benefit in allowing note taking on the handouts is usually outweighed by loss of your audience's attention. So, in most cases, you're better off holding the handout until you're finished presenting. That removes the temptation for some people to read the handout while you're speaking, which is a distraction and thus counter-productive. If you're using a handout, tell your listeners, so they will know they needn't take copious notes and thus can focus their attention completely on you.

What to include in your handout.
Your slides are an instant guide to the added information you might include in your handout. Review the bullet points and graphics. Remember, when you were preparing your presentation, you were selecting the most essential information, offered concisely, that supported your messages. With your handout, you're free to expand on bullet points and graphics to allow a more complete explanation. Just don't go overboard. Although you're offering more information, you must still keep it well organized and to the point.

You needn't limit your handout to the topics covered in your presentation. It's okay to include related information that further supports or explains what is in your presentation.

Give your handout a professional look.
Pay attention to quality and design. After all, the handout is an element in the image you're trying to project.

Use simple, readable type. Organize and break out dense information into charts, graphs, and other illustrations, following the same design rules you did in preparing your slides. Use the same graphical elements you use on your slides, and the same colors and type. Make sure your colors print out clearly. Again, you should include in your handout version more information that you use in your presentation.

Make the handout appealing to the eye, with generous use of white space. Avoid clutter. Avoid putting so much information on a single page that your handout begins to look like a textbook. Consider using the Handout Master in PowerPoint to format and control the look of your handouts.

In short, think of your handout as another element of your presentation.

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