Presentation Handouts – 10 Top Tips

There are few feelings worse than leaving the projection room in decent spirits, only to find a dishevelled copy of your handout lying dejectedly at the bottom of the nearest wastepaper basket. Ensure your pamphlets ooze excellence with these 10 great tips.

1.     Innovative Layout

Since the eye has a natural tendency to examine a page’s charts and illustrations before moving on to the wording itself, any images you use should be placed above the passages they correspond to; this will minimise the chances of the text at the top of the page going unread.

And, bearing in mind that the first paragraphs of a page tend to be absorbed far more readily than the last, it would be sensible to order your points in order of decreasing importance. [Also known as the Inverted Pyramid method -Editor]. These tactics, coupled with the use of carefully placed italics and large white spaces (to aid the viewer in locating specific information), will contribute to the creation of a sophisticated, easy-to-read handout that your audience will love.

2.    Visual Aesthetics

To ensure a long, happy and meaningful life for your papery acquaintances, fill their pages with large, lively lines of text and a stylish colour scheme. Then, add simplified tables/ figure charts and, since nobody in your audience is likely to dispose of something that looks both attractive and valuable, have each leaf sheeted with a layer of lamination – tinted to a colour of your choice, of course.

Failing that, print your material onto thick, good-quality paper so that it can be read over time and again; given that, where at all possible, your handout should not exceed fifteen pages, this last should not prove costly at all.

3.    Original Imagery

As clichéd as the old mantra may be, a picture really is worth a thousand words. So, what better way to grab the attention of a post-presentation audience than to include a series of original, thought-provoking images into your handout?

Such an image will not only prove extremely memorable, it will also leave your audience astounded by your sheer creativity.

4.    Cater to Absentees

Since your handout is likely to be copied and distributed to the people who couldn’t make it to your presentation, your notes should be constructed in such a way as to make sense to anybody, regardless of their knowledge of your subject matter or the content of your talk.

Begin your handout with a detailed introduction to the presentation before moving onto a brief outline of the topics that were covered – and remember that, as your handout may merely be flicked through rather than exhaustively studied, you should boil your points down to the essentials, omitting anything that isn’t completely relevant to the topic at hand.

5.    Feedback Slips

If you’re in the habit of distributing your handouts during the opening stages of your presentations, you’d do well to devote a small section of each page to your viewers’ notes and adding a tear-off feedback slip to the final sheet. This will act as a miniature survey consisting of a scoring scale for each aspect of your talk – delivery, content, intensity and so on. Do be sure, though, to insist that your audience submit their slips anonymously – this will ensure honesty and, in turn, maximum accuracy when it comes your self-analysis of the weaker sections of the presentation. You’ll then be in a good position to improve upon them next time round.

6.    Expanded Notes

Be mindful of the fact that the meaning of notes read without the context of your verbal discussion will very often be lost. Rather than just copying a series of nonsensical bullet points from your slides to the handout, therefore, you should write your notes under the assumption that much of your verbal elucidations will have been forgotten by the time your audience gets round to inspecting their pamphlets.

Don’t use jargon, abbreviations or broken sentences; instead, compose your notes as if you had never given a presentation in the first place. Then test your work for clarity by allowing a friend or non-professional acquaintance to read over the notes; if they still aren’t completely clear, you’ll likely need to expand upon them further.

7.    Corporate Values and Brand Identity

Remembering again that those who read your handout will not necessarily have attended your presentation in person, it is particularly important to ensure that the recipients of your pamphlet are given a strong sense of your corporate values or those of the organisation you represent. This doesn’t mean plastering your slogan onto every page of the handout, but rather finding original, stimulating and memorable ways of affirming your brand identity.

8.    Figurative Lingo

While the use of formal, literal language is all well and good when it comes to conveying statistical information in your handout, detailed concepts and ideas can be better expressed using similes, metaphors and analogies. These often prove invaluable in jerking readers from autopilot mode and allowing them to absorb and remember your points by virtue of symbolic association.

9.    Potential Queries

Never forget that some of your audience members may have attended your presentation on behalf of colleagues. If they’re not able to ask questions then, ultimately, your skills as a professional speaker may be brought into question.

Remembering that your responsibilities as an orator do not necessarily end with the presentation itself, you should open yourself completely to any questions or clarifications your extended audience may wish to raise. That means including a business card with the handout pack, displaying your contact details prominently on both the first and last pages, and inviting prospective clients to follow any social media accounts you may hold.

10.    Bonus Features

In this age of effortless, inexpensive multimedia, the idea that presentation handouts should be confined to the traditional booklet form just doesn’t hold water. And since most presenters persist in offering up orthodox handouts at the end of each discussion, you can win valuable brownie points by disseminating some tasty extras as your demonstration draws to a close.

From audio books covering your previous presentations to video discs full of background research, these added extras will prove an invaluable resource for your assembly – and do wonders for your reputation as a speaker who’s absolutely committed to the audience’s education.

George Dixon

What tips have you found can help to improve your handouts?  Please leave your thoughts in the comments box below.


Published On: 10th Oct 2011

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