Have you ever wondered how to create the perfect presentation handout? You’ve been asked to give a speech, and you’re excited to give the best presentation possible. You put all kinds of preparation into putting together an amazing presentation and finding the perfect examples to prove your points. Your presentation is infused with memorable anecdotes, terrific insights, great visuals, and even a wry joke here or there. You’ve covered every possible angle – or have you?
Have you thought about what handouts you’ll be providing to your audience? If you haven’t, then you haven’t covered all the must-haves of a great presentation. Good speakers and lecturers usually give handouts to accompany their speeches. As a result, a great handout can make your presentation more memorable. It gives your audience the freedom to listen to your presentation instead of frantically taking notes. The handouts you provide also help them remember the key points and highlights from your presentation, making your talk even more valuable. People are grateful for good handouts and will remember you long after the talk ended. Finally, your handout can be used as an exceptional marketing piece. If it is good enough, your audience members will both keep it and share it with others.
The Successful Speaker’s Guide to the Perfect Presentation Handout
The First Rule of Slide Club is Never Handout Your Slides to Slide Club.
This has always been a hard and fast rule in my presentation classes, but I have to admit, in recent years, I’ve changed my tune slightly here. When I first started teaching presentation classes, PowerPoint was still in its infancy, and the slideshows that people were creating were really awful. Folks would just create a never-ending series of bullet points on a never-ending side-deck. Since most presentations covered way too much content, it was impossible for the audience to retain most of it. As a result, presenters started printing off their slides and distributing the printed slide deck to their audience as a handout. As a result, the presenter ends up with a bad presentation accompanied by a bad handout.
However, if you get creative with your slides, you can actually use a printout of your slide deck to make your presentation more interactive (more on this later). The main point here is, if you have a ton of content in your presentation, stuffing that content onto your slides and then just printing out your slides is a bad idea.
In the Fearless Presentations ® class, I cover a session on PowerPoint and other visual aids. In jest, I typically start out with a really data-heavy slide deck with 26 ways to improve your slides. It typically only takes a few slides before someone in class figures out that I’m violating almost every tip that I had previously covered in the class. At that point, there is usually a nice laugh, and I switch to a much better-designed slideshow that is more audience-centered. The funny thing is, though, that this session is toward the end of the second day of class. In the 20 years that I have taught the class, I can’t remember anyone ever asking me for the class slides. However, inevitably, before the class figures out that the bad PowerPoint presentation is a joke, someone in the class will often ask me if I will send them the slide deck.
Important Presentation Rule: If Your Audience is Asking You for a Copy of Your Slide Deck, Your Presentation Likely Stinks.
Three Easy Ways to Create the Perfect Presentation Handout
Use Slide Notes in PowerPoint
I have to admit, that this technique is just a small step above the “printing out your slide-deck” option. However, sometimes, time is short, and you want to make sure that your audience has a good takeaway. Instead of printing out your slide deck alone, go to the Slide Notes option in PowerPoint. For each of your slides, add in a summary of what you will say when you cover that slide.
One of the main reasons that I have always encouraged my class members to not print out their slides is that the slides, without the speaker, aren’t going to make a lot of sense. However, most people will jot a few notes down about what they want to say in the presentation. If you use the techniques that I cover here, you’ll likely create an outline with a few key items. You’ll likely also use stories, examples, analogies, anecdotes, quotes, statistics, and the like. We’ll if you already have that content created before you create your slide deck, you could just insert that content into the Slide Notes in PowerPoint. Viola! Instant presentation handouts.
Give Main Concepts with Space for Audience to Add Notes.
This technique is very handy if either (1) your are going to customize the presentation content on the fly for the audience, or (2) you are conducting a training session and you want to increase retention. As a speaker, I really love to customize my presentation content for the audience. Most often, though, unless I go spend some time with the client group before the presentation, I have to tailor my content as the seminar is going on. So, I will create a handout or a presentation workbook with my main content items, perhaps a few data points that I know that I will use, and then, I will add space in between each item for the participants to write in their own notes.
A friend of mine leads three-day training boot camps where he teaches social media marketing and website development skills to big groups. His handout is a three-ring binder full of printed pages with a series of rules or statements followed by a quarter page of blank space. I once asked him, since the content that he was delivering was so detailed, why didn’t he just type it up and include it in his manuals. He laughed and told me that he used to do that very thing. But the content in his industry was changing so quickly, that the moment that he printed a new manual, it would be outdated. So, now, he just prints the main concepts and allows his students to fill in the blanks with the most current content that he delivers from the stage. (He gets fantastic reviews, by the way.)
Personally, I love this technique. It keeps the audience involved. It also allows the audience members to write out the content that is most important to each of them at the time they attended the meeting. Since the content is written in their own words, when they review the handout later, it makes a lot more sense to them. (As a bonus, it takes very little time to create.)
Create a Handout that Contains Extra Content Not in Your Presentation
If you are conducting a presentation for your internal corporate audience (your coworkers, etc.), then either of the first options will likely do fine. However, if you are creating handouts for a training session, a breakout session, a seminar, or a speech where the audience is paying you a fee, you might want to kick your handouts up a notch. Basically, you want to include the content from your presentation in a written format, but you also want to add additional reinforcement of your ideas that you won’t actually cover in the presentation. This is the technique that we use in our seminars and workshops.
For instance, if you are going to use a story as a piece of evidence in your verbal presentation, use a different story in your handout. If you use an analogy in your presentation, use a quote in your handout. If you use audience participation in your presentation, use a unique photograph in your handout. Show the audience that as good as your presentation was, you had more content you could have delivered. If you do this, your audience will see you as a valued expert on the topic. By the way, it is okay to use some of the same content in the slideshow, your verbal delivery, and your handout. In fact, it is important to be consistent. However, you want your verbal presentation that covers some items that aren’t in your handout, and you want your handout that covers some items that you don’t speak about.
Think of this type of handout as being a textbook for your presentation. Yes, it takes longer to create, but you will find that the value to your audience far outweighs the additional effort.
At certain points in your delivery, you’ll likely want to say something like, “I’ve given you additional examples in your handout,” or “If you want the full step-by-step approach, you can download the handout from my website at [your URL].”
A Few Bonus Tips to Add Impact to Your Handouts
Add a list of references for further reading
Your audience members will want to pick your brain. They want to know where you went to school, what kind of work experience you have, and most of all, where they can read more about your topic.
There’s a ton of resources out there, so instead of having your audience sort through them, just lead them in the right direction with your recommended reading. If the book is hard to find, or only available online, remember to include the link to where it can be purchased.
Consider adding a worksheet or action sheet
Depending on the type of presentation or speech you’re giving, you will likely have a call to action at the end, where you will encourage people to change or act on something related to your talk.
If a worksheet helped you implement these changes before, include it for your audience. Even a notes section located in the back of your handout will be handy in case your audience wants to jot something down.
What did your last handout look like? What will you change for next time? Let us know if you end up implementing any of these tips.