Handouts

January 5, 2010

Some people like to provide copies of their slides to everyone before they start, my advice is not to hand them out.

You want people to pay attention to what you are saying.  If you give them copies of the slides beforehand, they will scan through them and know what you are going to be saying before you say it.  This is a sure fire way of letting the audience get ahead of you.  (See section K – Keeping the audience listening, for more details)

The only time I would allow handouts to go out before a presentation is when I know people will otherwise want to take notes and I am confident that the visual aids that I am using will not give away the main thrust of my presentation.  Even then, it is better to provide a copy of your own notes at the end of the presentation.

Slides are often misused as speaker notes and/or handouts but all three of these things, slides,speaker notes and handouts are different and should be handled differently.

  • Slides – are your visual aids which when added to the spoken word create strong memorable mental images.
  • Speaker notes – are to remind you what to tell your audience but do not contain everything you say
  • Handouts – are for afterwards and should be self contained documentation of what you said and the ideas you conveyed

Trying to use one document for all three different purposes will result in a terrible compromise.

When you are presenting and there is some detailed artwork or plans that you would like people to look at,  again my advice is scan them in to the computer and show them as slides.  Split the artwork on to multiple slides so that the specific areas of interest are visible on each slide.  If they are too detailed or too large to be scanned in, then leave them until the end of the presentation and display them on a separate table.

Giving something out, in the middle of a presentation, to be passed round the table for everyone to look at, is definitely not recommended.  While they are looking at it they will not be listening to you, they will also not be listening while they are waiting for it to reach them, and while they are looking at the expressions on the other people’s faces when they are looking at it.  There is no point in trying to carry on a presentation while something of interest is circulating round a room.

Don’t be lazy and give out copies of your slides as handouts, put in the extra effort and create a purpose designed document.

Presentation Training and Coaching is available from the author of this blog. Please visit my presentation training  website.

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