H is for Handouts

In a working environment where soft copies are in, and hard copies passé (not to mention frowned upon for being a waste of paper) – what relevance can handouts continue to have?

That’s the topic we’d like to address in this post.

The first question that comes to mind is:

What can a handout achieve that a presentation can’t?

Very simply – detail, review, recap and recall.

While you will no doubt be doing this as you summarize your live presentation, a handout is a great thing to leave behind.

During your presentation, you will have focused on the key messages – those can be substantiated in greater detail in the handouts.

Too much information is, as you know, a no-no for your slides. You can ease your worry about not getting every relevant detail into your presentation – by including it in the handout.

Remember, during your presentation everyone will be focusing on what you say and show, and while the overall impact will no doubt be memorable – some essentials may escape even the most attentive listener.

What better way to reassure the audience that they needn’t take notes feverishly while you talk – than a handout.

They can read it at leisure, rewinding to what you said and reconnecting the dots as they revisit the territory you covered during your time with them.

The second question is:

What to include in a handout, and how?

Everything that requires a bit of elaboration. What you presented via bullet-points, charts and graphics was in a condensed form. You can expand on these in the handout, adding in references, case studies, relevant articles, and any other information (including contact information) that you think will be an invaluable supplement to your core presentation.

Remember not to get carried away, though! Bombarding your client with too much information is never a good idea, be it during or after the presentation.

Make it easy to read and understand by choosing a good strong layout, a readable font and appropriate colors (don’t print white text on a black background for example).

Don’t replicate spreadsheets and reams of fine print just because you can.

Organize the material with the same logic, clarity and focus of your main presentation and you will be good to go.

And finally, the third and perhaps most crucial question:

What’s the best time to pass out the handouts – before or after the presentation?

This is where you will have to take a call, based on your reading of the audience.

If you get the sense the people you are about to address would much rather focus on you and the audio-visual elements of your presentations, hold back on the handouts till you’re done.

If your handout is just a one-sheeter, more a check-list or a summary of what you are about to present, no harm done circulating it before.

If your handouts look more interesting (and accessible) than your presentation, chances are you’ve lost your audience before you’ve had a chance to grab them.

We feel an ideal strategy would be to tell your audience at the beginning of your presentation that you have prepared handouts for them to take-away once it’s over, thereby getting the best of both worlds.