All you need to know about Presentation Handouts

presentation handouts

What is a Presentation Handout?

A presentation handout or a handout is a piece of printed information which is handed over to the audience after a presentation, meeting, or a conference. It’s an integral part of the total experience of your audience. A well-thought handout may be your best tool towards ensuring your message is effectively communicated.

It allows your audience to focus more on what you said during the presentation, and serves as a tangible reminder of your content afterwards. 

Let’s assume you’ve been asked to give a speech, and you’re excited to give the best presentation possible. You put in all kinds of preparations– from creating an amazing presentation, probing for perfect examples, to infusing memorable anecdotes, terrific insights, great visuals and even a wry joke here or there. You’ve covered all the possible angles to make your presentation or speech impactful and effective– or have you?

An effective presentation is a combination of not only your PowerPoint Presentation, but also the other forms of communication- writing, reporting, handouts to persuade, convince, inform, and enlighten your audience.

As a brand or a speaker, you would want your message to have a long lasting impact over your audience for which you need concrete manifestations like handouts, as most of us focus on preparing what will happen during the presentation, not what happens afterwards.

You need to convince people of why you are doing something rather than explaining what you are doing.

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do.

Simon Sinek

Golden circle by Simon Sinek and its connection to presentation handouts
Source: Brian Tan

Benefits of providing a handout:

1. Helps you avoid information overload

It allows you to cut down the amount of information that you cover in your presentation and combines the most important aspects from it in a handy text form.

By adding the essential and worth-knowing content about your brand will help you make your speech more memorable. 

Chunky paragraphs make your audience apathetic towards reading your handout as the essence is lost.

2. Lays emphasis on your message

Your key message should permeate through all of your business materials- brochures, website, or handouts. You need to provide supporting data around that one message to lay emphasis on it. 

If there is one thing that should be crystal clear in your handout, it is your key message. As it sets you apart from your competition and describes your brand as a whole.

3. Acts as a concrete reminder

Chances are, your audience won’t remember the details of your presentation a year later. With a handout, they have all the important information you covered as well as a reminder of you and your brand. 

As it is a takeaway material, whenever the audience member looks at it, it’ll help them recall all what you spoke.

4. Allows you to add supporting data

Your handout can be supplemented with additional information along with the main elements from your presentation. This can even be visuals, graphics, or references, as it can really clarify and supplement your main argument and tie things together.

It is a good idea to provide your contact information and email. Depending on the type and purpose of the presentation, you can also provide your business address and telephone number.

5. Provides a synopsis of your speech

The information in your handout is short and to the point. Before expanding on individual and main points from your presentation, you need to focus on your target audience.

By doing this, you tailor the handout to their level, avoiding technical terms where they would get distracted from your point. It is very important to condense the core statements of your presentation into key points, rather than including a distracting stream of text. This way, you retain your audience’s full attention.

Pro Tip- To arouse your audience’s curiosity right at the beginning of your handout, you could include an upbeat quote, a proverb or a question.

6. Personal Branding

Personal branding is the practice of marketing people and their careers as brands. It is an ongoing process of developing and maintaining a reputation and impression of an individual, group, or organization.

Your personal brand is more than the brand statement you use as your elevator pitch or to market yourself in your digital, and online marketing communications.

Handouts allow you to define your personal brand. It is the combination of your personal attributes, values, drivers, strengths, passions, and contact details that differentiates your unique promise of value from your peers.

Considering the above points, it’s obvious, then, that a handout can be very useful for your audience, your presentation and yourself. Once you know what to do, they can be relatively straightforward to produce.

Ways on how you can make your handouts intriguing:

1. It is a reflection of your presentation

Imagine watching FRIENDS from any random episode where you seldom know the character sketch of a Chandler who is witty and full of one liners, or a Joey who is cute but a little slow, or a Monica who is obsessed with cleaning.

In such a situation, you are bound to feel unconnected because you haven’t watched the 1st season and the episode you are watching is nowhere a reflection of it.

In the same way, your handout is a summary of what you’ve spoken in your presentation, so it automatically becomes a reflection of it. The audience should be able to resonate your handout with your presentation that they’ve just attended.

Ideally, your handout should have the same title as your presentation and should follow the same structure, so that audience members can easily find the information they want.

2. Remember, it is not a copy of your presentation

Printing your entire presentation on the handouts is lazy and least effective. It is supposed to have key points from your entire speech.

You need not limit your handout only to the topics covered in your presentation. It’s okay to include related information that further supports your speech.

While 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.

3. Take proper time to prepare your handouts

As stated earlier, we focus and give time to prepare our presentation and what happens during that in order to not make a fool of ourselves upon the stage. And before your presentation it strikes you that you need to have handouts, so you make it hurriedly- giving it less importance.

Cobbling together a handout at the last moment is not only stressful, it can be counterproductive, as it undermines your professionalism and never goes unnoticed.

Remember, your handouts require the same amount of focus and time as your presentation. In fact it is something your audience will take along with them, so I’m sure you would want your handout to have all the essential information regarding your brand along with CTA. 

4. Professionalism is the key

Make your handouts look attractive and appealing to the eye. Here are certain ways to make it look professional:

  • Avoid cluttering of data.
  • Avoid putting a lot of data that your handout begins to look like a textbook.
  • Use a simple and readable font.
  • Use the same graphical elements and the same colours.
  • Don’t clutter up your handout with data without sacrificing the essential content.

The handout is a concrete reminder of your presentation. It may also get passed onto other people who were not at your presentation. So make sure it enhances the perception people have of you.

5. It should have more essential information

Presentations are supposed to have a lot of visual content; however, they are unlikely to make sense without the additional text. Going overboard with text in your presentation is not a good idea. They are mainly used for inspiring people to find out more about a topic or your brand. 

Add the extra information in the handout.

As said earlier, your handout is a takeaway your audience will take to review later or maybe pass it to someone else who didn’t attend your presentation. Therefore, it is very important to add essential and supporting data- contact information, case studies, references, marketing literature, or other collateral materials.

6. Add references (if any)

Sometimes it can be confusing to know when and how to cite sources during a speech, especially while using a visual-aid PowerPoint Presentation. 

If you’re citing research, references become an inevitable part of it.

But the question is where to add these references?

Well, it is better if you don’t clutter your slides with references. So the best option is you can add it in your handouts. This will not only make your presentation neat and organized but also make your handouts insightful. 

However, you need to inform your audience that you’ve cited sources for this XYZ research in your handout. Also, try providing information about related blogs, websites, and books (if any).

7. Make your handout a stand-alone

Your handout may be passed onto people who were not present at your presentation. Or an audience member may look at it a year from now when they’ve forgotten most of your speech.

Make sure your handout helps them recall it and something that will make sense to them. For people who weren’t present for your presentation, include a brief credibility-establishing information about you.

When is the best time to distribute your Handout, before or after?

Imagine that you’ve spent weeks preparing your presentation wherein you’ve got wonderful persuasive material as well as a concise handout summarizing and supporting your arguments.

The only one thing that you didn’t plan was when to distribute the handouts. Maybe at the beginning? At the end? In the middle? Or does the timing even matter?

Rule of thumb: Distribute your handouts at the end.

It’s generally to your advantage to distribute handouts at the end of your presentation.

Benefits of distributing your Handouts before your presentation:

  • You make it clear that the handout is meant to be taken away. There’s no guarantee that your handout doesn’t end up in the recycling bin, but your aim is to give it a chance to survive as long as possible, carrying your message with it.
  • If you plan to hand it out at the end, it can be sued as a summary document (as opposed to making it a less useful transcript of your presentation)
  • Your audience will not be distracted reading it during your presentation, when you need their eyes and attention with you
  • The surprises, suspense, and case studies won’t be disclosed (which might otherwise be hinted at or spoiled by the handout)
  • It is symbolic of giving a gift to the audience to thank them for their attention
  • There will be less rustling of papers to distract both you and your audience.

However, there are a number of caveats wherein you will have to distribute it before your presentation:

  • When your speech is highly technical and detail-oriented, it is better to put those words in the hands of the audience
  • When your content is far too dense, you can’t expect your audience to absorb such voluminous data. So to handle this: you can provide them the material and draw their attention.
  • Also, in case of coaches and trainees you will have to handout workbooks for your presentations at the start, as the audience may need to read along, do exercises, etc. in the workbook itself.

Clear and Concise: How to structure a Handout

The motto “less is more” applies very effectively to handouts. In concrete terms, this means: do without whole sentences and make sure you use key points, abbreviations, arrows and symbols. Ideally, your handout should not consist of more than two A4 pages.

In addition to important information from your presentation, a handout needs to include the following:

  • Basic information, probably in the upper left corner of the handout, such as the location of the presentation, title, name of the speaker (optional)
  • The date, probably in the upper right corner
  • Heading– preferably the title of your presentation and it should be centered
  • A clear structure, based on the individual headings of the presentation
  • An aesthetic page layout with a standard font type and colour– preferably same as your presentation.

The structure of your handout should follow the structure of your presentation. It is best to limit your points to those which support your main argument. Keep the sub-items on the handout as simple as possible and don’t go into too much detail.

To make your handout visually appealing, work on your fonts and colours. In addition to using clear, standard fonts, try to keep the font size in the headers and footers uniform and smaller than in the main part.

Pro Tip- Create an area for your audience to make their own notes on your handout. Either make the right margin wider or leave a few lines of space under your last point.

Here’s an example,

Structure of a presentation handout
Source- PresentationLoad

The don’ts

  • Overboarding of information will make your handout look very cluttered leading them to lose interest
  • Distributing your handouts at the start of your presentation will lead to distraction amid the audience
  • It shouldn’t be complex to understand when read by someone who wasn’t present at the time of your presentation
  • Do not copy paste your entire presentation as it is. You need to include additional information (along with the one in your presentation)

How to make a Presentation Handout?

The easiest and the simplest way to make your handouts is via Microsoft Word. You can follow these simple steps in order to create one:

  • Click on the ‘Create handout’ option and transfer your presentation to Microsoft Word
  • After that, choose which presentation slides should appear on your handout
  • You can easily adjust your text, graphics, content and decide whether you want to include a note margin, a header, or a footer
  •  In addition to the option of printing the handout, you can also save it directly in Word as a Word or PDF document – a simple way to make the handout digitally which is available to your audience.

Voilà! Here you go.

For more help, check this video out,

Types of Handouts:

1. Gapped Handouts

As the name suggests, this handout consists of gaps that the audience is required to fill in. It may also include complex graphics or charts or tables of statistics which the members are expected to complete and they can only do that if they heard you well.

You can also outline the main points and leave gaps for key words to be inserted.

For example, 

a) P_ _ _ _ _ t_ _ _ _n/ _ a _ _ _ _t_ (Presentation Handouts)

b) _a_ _ed/ H_ _ _o_ _ _  (Gapped Handouts)

2. Skeletal Handouts

It provides a bare outline of the presentation structure with some key statements and main references. This can be useful to aid members to make notes and follow a structure.

It is a great tool to maintain the audience engagement and focus throughout your presentation.

3. Worksheets

A worksheet is a sheet of paper on which problems are worked out or solved and answers are recorded.

This is mainly used in the classroom scenario in order to encourage students to remember what they learnt. It can motivate them to work without any assistance.

4. Information Sheets

It is also called a short information document. This sheet provides you a brief summary of a subject and its aims.

It may be necessary to draft more than one information sheet if you need to cater to the participants with different needs.

It is mainly used in the areas of education, for example, information on courses provided by an institution.


Template for information presentation handout

Also check- How to give motivational speech to students.

Examples of Handouts:

A handout is a useful tool for helping your audience learn important concepts from a meeting, presentation or other business event. When making a handout, it’s important to summarize the key points instead of just printing out the notes you used during the presentation. Include material that goes beyond the information you covered to help your audience better understand the concepts. Here are some examples:

Templates for presentation handouts
Source: Envatotuts+

In the above example, they have summarized the main concepts, given information about their brand and pointed out the reasons why you should choose them.

However, one thing that they didn’t focus on is leaving space to add notes. This is important because it allows the audience member to pen down the essentials points in their own words. It fosters the way people learn and understand information. 

The above example is used when you have to lay down the program of an event. Now in such a scenario, you will need to hand it over to the audience beforehand.

So when you look at it, it is filled with a lot of text with no infographics or visuals. Therefore, the audience somewhere might lose interest looking at a handout only filled with text.

Check these examples out for inspiration:

Templates for presentation handouts
Templates for presentation handouts
Templates for presentation handouts

Final Thoughts

A well-prepared handout can be an effective tool to support your presentation, acting as a guide and memory aid for both you and your audience. Used properly, they can increase the interest and attention of your audience, and allow you to give a clear and professional presentation.

Do not forget to add a CTA (Call to action) in your handout, encouraging them to change or act on something in relation with your talk.

Your handout is going to remain with your audience, so make sure you provide all the necessary information in less words. Basically, a summary of your presentation in minimum words.

Let us know if you end up implementing any of these tips in the comments below.

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