Issue #161 June 10, 2008

PowerPoint Tip: When to give handouts

Many times you will give a handout with your presentation. It is often a copy of your slides, but it can contain other documents as well. I recently posted an article on my web site that talks about some best practices for creating handouts. The full article is at Today I want to deal with one of the most contentious questions I get when it comes to the topic of handouts. When do you give out the handout – before or after you speak? Some will argue that you always give it out after you speak. They say that if you give it out before, people can read ahead and know what you are going to say. If everything you are going to say is on your slides, this is true. But you know that my philosophy is that your slides should be visuals that guide a conversation with the audience, not a transcript of everything you are going to say. So my approach is to give a handout before I speak. I have three reasons for doing this. First, it gives your audience somewhere to take notes that are relevant to them. Every audience member will take something slightly different from your presentation. They need somewhere to jot down those ideas while you are speaking or they will forget by the time you are done. Second, if they know they have a copy of your slides and other relevant material, they can pay more attention to what you are saying. They don’t need to be concerned with trying to madly write down what is on your slides. Too often people get very frustrated at the end of a presentation where they have spent considerable energy writing down key points from the slides only to be told that they can pick up a handout on the way out. The third reason I suggest you give a handout before you speak is that it serves as your backup in case your technology fails. Perhaps I should say “when” your technology fails. Because it is not a matter of “if” it will fail, only a matter of “when”. If you haven’t had a projector die or laptop fry during a presentation, just wait, it will happen to you like it has happened to many of us already. Your handout allows you to keep delivering the message that the audience came to hear. If you haven’t been using handouts as well as you’d like to, you will want to check out two of my “how-to” videos. One is on formatting handouts so they look great and one is on printing handouts including tricks like using hidden slides to add detail to your handout. You can get each video for only $1.99 at .