Should You Give Handouts At Presentations?

You get a huge pile of paper handouts and browse through them. Suddenly you realise that the presentation has ended and you didn’t actually pay attention to what the presenter was saying. Is this familiar?

Should you give handouts during a presentation or not – this is a very important question.

Yes and no. It depends, of course on the nature of the presentation. If you are going to make a technical, scientific or factual presentation with much details handouts help the reader assimilate facts. However, if you are making a presentation with much emotional appeal handouts could be counterproductive as there is a risk that the audience members are immersed in the handout and not paying enough attention to the presenter. National and organizational culture plays a great role in the success of the presentation. Brits, Americans or Italians for example appreciate interactive presentations with emotional appeal but the Finns and the Japanese feel comfortable with restrained fact based presentations where they can take notes. There are great variations also among professions. People in marketing and in the creative professions wouldn’t always like to sit quietly and scribble notes but accountants or lawyers might be more inclined to take notes.

You can distribute handouts before, during or after your presentation. There are advantages and disadvantages to all three so you must consider what you hope to accomplish with the information provided in the handouts.

If there is material in your presentation that cannot be visually displayed on the screen but that is important to follow while you speak, distribute the handouts before you begin speaking. If possible, have them ready for each person to take as they enter the room. This will allow them to read the information before you begin speaking. People who are reading are not listening with attention. There is another advantage in distributing handouts before the presentation. It allows listeners to make notes directly on the handouts. Remember that taking notes is the choice method of learning for many people. Distributing handouts during your presentation is challenging. Pass them out quickly and make sure they are relevant to the point you are discussing. No matter how quickly they are distributed, the audience will be distracted and you might lose some of their attention. This is the least favorable time to distribute materials, but occasionally it is the only appropriate time to do so. Remember that you will have to recapture your audience’s attention and get yourself back on track.

If you decide to distribute the printed materials after your presentation, let your audience know during your presentation. Tell them what information is covered in the handouts, which will encourage them to listen instead of taking unnecessary notes.

Here are some basic guidelines for creating effective handouts that help the audience instead of distracting or misleading them.

Pay careful attention to the appearance of the handouts.

  • Print them on clean white paper.
  • Use a readable, ordinary font like Times or Courier. Don’t vary fonts but make the text as uniform as possible.
  • Don’t cram too much into each page, and don’t leave gaping blank spots.
  • Make the handout clear and easy to navigate.
  • The handout order should be the same as the presentation order. Don’t make audience members flip back and forth between pages.
  • Double-sided handouts are highly recommended (they save paper and there’s less to carry).
  • Always staple multipage handouts, preferably only once, in the upper left corner.
  • Include page numbers.

Printed handouts are most effective if they contain the following elements.

  • Title section

At the top of page 1 you should have the following information, title of presentation, your name, your contact information e.g., e-mail address. You can also include the presentation location and date.

  • Body

Structure the body using headings or if your presentation is primarily data-driven, you can simply allow readers to follow along using the numbers.

  • Tables

Keep their design simple. Simple statistics may be best presented in a table, but often a graphic is better for this purpose. All tables should have clear and informative captions.

  • Figures

Figures include charts and graphics. If you have graphics, make sure they’re clearly visible on the handout. Like tables, figures should also have informative captions.

  • References

List only the references mentioned in the presentation (orally or on the handout). These are usually no more than five or ten for a presentation.

Microsoft PowerPoint or similar presentation software such as Apple Keynote have built in options for creating handouts from the slides that you are going to use during your presentation.

PowerPoint handouts

By default, PowerPoint offers choices to include 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 9 slide thumbnails per Handout page – some layouts, such as the one for 3 thumbnails also provide some space next to the thumbnail for notes to be written/printed. If you put too many slide thumbnails on one page some text or figures might be very difficult to read.

Other options than printed handouts

Printing Handouts is not always the only solution – especially if you need to email it to someone. In such a case, one can output Handouts to a Portable Document Format (PDF) file.

In conclusion you have to consider carefully what you aim to achieve by giving out the handouts. Then follow the guidelines given above to produce and distribute clear handouts, which help the audience absorb your message rather than distract them.

Enjoy your presentations!

Make Your Presentations Impactful

Presentations are required in school, work, church, when you are negotiating, when you are selling, when you are preaching, when you are explaining an idea or invention, or when you are running for public office. Presentations are meant to highlight your speech, talk, sales pitch, sermon, or report. This means that your talk and presentation should go hand-in-hand.

A presentation is considered impactful when…

It draws the audience’s attention and make them focus on what you are communicating;
It explains your talk more clearly; and
When it enhances your talk and adds more flavor to it.

Again, the presentation should highlight and not take away from your talk. Your main objective is to communicate your point clearly. You want your audience to understand your message and not be distracted from it.

Impactful presentations begin during the pre-presentation phase. This is the time when you do all your research and preparation. Below is a step-by-step guide to this initial phase.

1. Have your talking points ready before you even start planning about your presentation.

2. Highlight the key points of your talk. This will be the foundation of your presentation.

3. Do your research about your audience.
a. What do they know about the topic you are talking about?
b. What do they want to know?
c. What is their profiling? (age, gender, race, other relevant information)
d. What is the culture/values of the group? (If it is homogenous, what is the group culture? If it is
heterogeneous what is the shared culture or values?)
e. How big is your audience? How many people are going to be there?

4. Do your research about the place where you are going to do your presentation.
a. How big is the stage or where you are going to stand and make your presentation?
b. What is the room arrangement? (classroom type, u-shape, etc.)
c. How wide is the space where you can walk back and forth?
d. How far is the screen from the audience?

5. From your research on your audience and the venue, you can now tailor-fit the kind of presentation that
will be most effective. Here are some tips:
a. Younger audience prefers a more dynamic presentation. They want more flashes and movements.
b. An older audience prefers a more traditional presentation.
c. If your audience is a mixture of different ages, incorporate different styles in your presentation.
d. Women want more drama while men want more action.

6. Integrate your talking points and your presentation together by filling in the gaps in your talk.

7. Depending on the length of your talk, make sure that you have some presentation at the start, in the middle, and in the end. Some types of presentations that you can use are: visual props (I will give you an example on this in a while); power-point; flip charts; movie/film clips; and role play.

I remember years ago when my Filipina friend did a class presentation for one of her subjects in College. She was just new in this country at that time and she wanted to leave a good image for Filipinas. On the day of her presentation, she walked over to the professor’s desk with a fishbowl with water in tow. She gently placed the bowl on the table. All eyes were on her, of course. Then she dipped her hand in her pocket and took out a figure. She then looked at the audience intently and said… Imagine this is you falling into the water… and then she dropped the figure into the fishbowl. That surely got the attention of everyone. She graduated not only top of her class but top of her school.

I was invited to share my testimony at a women’s conference of over 1,000 attendees a few years ago. I was given a limited time to talk. Considering the size of the audience and the very short time I had, I wanted to make a real good impression. I wanted to catch their attention so bad that they won’t even blink their eyes. The focal point of my testimony was “healing brokenness”.

So there I was, walking slowly from the back stage to the stage itself. My head was bowed down. I heard total silence… I could almost hear a pin drop. I was carrying a pot with me and was hiding it from the audience. I then stopped walking, looked at the audience, brought out the pot, and threw it hard on the stage. Dead silence! I then picked up the broken pieces of the pot slowly, walked towards the podium, and said… This was me… shattered and broken… I couldn’t have put myself together on my own… but God did. And I went on and on.

I watched Steve Munsey preach on TV one time about Daniel and the lion’s den and he had actual voices of roaring lions and several life size videos of lions. It looked so real!

Another time I did a women’s conference in the Philippines and we started off with one of our girls walking on the aisle with mask on her face while the narrator (in back stage) was reading different stories of women, as if she was the one going through each pain. Both the narrator and the girl acting were very good. It was so dramatic and it surely pumped everybody up for my talk.

I suggest a combination of different types of presentations if you have the luxury of time. And if you are using power point, it would be great to use a remote control or have somebody else operate it for you. The last thing you should do is be the one operating it and acting like you’re just reading from the screen. Your power point presentation should only show highlights of your talk and not your entire talk. Don’t let your audience read your thoughts, otherwise what is the purpose of you even standing up there?

Power points can distract the audience from looking at you which is why you should use it only to highlight some points. If your entire presentation is dependent on your power point, then talk first and establish some good rapport with your audience. Warm them up. And in between clicking the next slide, say something humorous or inject some other type of presentation.

One secret I can share with you about making impactful presentations is to get out of the box. Don’t be scared to try something new. You can sing, dance, do a monologue, recite a poem, or do a stand-up comedy. Remember, the stage is yours at that particular moment. Seize the opportunity.

Sales Presenting – Whiteboards Are Not Just For UPS Anymore

Get Your Message Across

Need to give a dynamic, informal highly effective sales presentation? Look no further. The answer lies in the little-used whiteboard on the wall.

You know the basics of whiteboard sketching, but when it comes to doing it in front of a client, you run for cover! If you think whiteboards are only for professional artists, educators and talented folks at UPS and FED EX, you’ll be shocked to find that you too can look like a pro with a marker.

Fortunately, learning how to impress clients at a whiteboard is no longer difficult or time consuming. A new webinar series on business presenting is helping non-experts navigate their way around a whiteboard. (Even if you can’t draw a straight line, had to sweep the art-class to get a passing grade and don’t think you could make an impact with a marker to save your life.)

Thomas Sechehaye, founder of Presentation StoryBoarding, is a self-taught whiteboard master. He advises 5-simple steps for non-artists to get comfortable using whiteboards in sales presentations:

1. Kick out your inner critic
No one ever woke up in the morning thinking: “I’ll go make a fool of myself today in front of an important client.” This is just negative self-talk having a field day. Kick out your inner criticisms to make room for experimenting with new techniques, and learning new skills.

2. Get step-by-step help
Working at a whiteboard, and doing it well, is easy to achieve with step-by-step help. Take a webinar. Join an online class in visual language for business whiteboards.

Look for classes, webinars and events that speak a simple, non-expert language. Once you see the shortcuts, you’ll realize something quite amazing. It’s a lot easier to look like a pro when you have a paint-by-numbers roadmap to rely on.

3. Simplify your whiteboard story and pictures
Avoid the trap of making your sketches super complicated. This is another trick of the inner critic (see #1) and you must constantly be on the lookout.

The best business sketches are the simplest one. Instead of asking, “how can I show more detail?” ask a more important question: “how can I simplify my story and pictures?”

4. Practice!
Just like actors, athletes, dancers and musicians, to get really good, you must practice. Practice like crazy. Get comfortable with the tools. Get comfortable with the delivery. And most importantly, practice until you don’t have to think consciously about it.

Once you’ve established a muscle-memory for working with a marker, you can focus on critical elements of your presentation. These include focus on interaction, flow and calling to action.

5. Be Authentic
Don’t try to draw and write like someone else. For instance, if your boss is a wizard at the whiteboard, don’t try to do everything exactly the way he does. Instead, find your own personal style.

The key to being genuine and authentic is to work with a presentation coach. An expert coach can quickly help you spot how to use your core strengths in business presenting.

Examples of core strengths are as diverse as humor, enthusiasm, storytelling, and visual creativity. Instead of trying to be all things, find your genuine strength so you can use this effectively during business presentations.

Sales presenters are facing more pressure than ever to win new deals, get undecided prospects off the fence, and sell more of what they are offering.

Sechehaye is offering new training webinars devoted to business presenting with whiteboards. These events help non-artists get comfortable with sketching and writing key ideas to win attention and drive bottom line results.

In the new professional training webinars, attendees learn how to adapt stories to this unique medium, translate ideas into pictures, and inspire clients to take action.