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Creating Quality Handouts
by Speaking Tips | December 29, 2003
Too many presenters treat handouts like an afterthought or simply forget about them altogether in the expectation that they will just get trashed anyway. When handouts are poorly designed, they will very likely be discarded. By contrast, quality handouts are used and ensure that your presentation is remembered favorably.
Our minds processes new information at different speeds depending on the medium. In general, we think at much faster speeds than we process written information. Similarly, we read at faster speeds than we process spoken information.
You may ask why bother to speak at all when people can read so much faster? The answer is that presenters convey much more than words when they speak and more readily connect emotionally with an audience than via writing. Text supports and expands ideas with details and applications. Graphics (charts, tables, diagrams, maps) complement both your presentations and handouts because they format information for rapid assimilation.
Handouts enable presenters to
Handouts enable the audience to
Experts tell us that people generally forget almost 90% of everything that is said to them within 24 hours. Handouts help your audience to both recall and apply the details that tend to fade away with time.
As we've already mentioned, your handout should be an integral part of your presentation. Consequently, you should plan your handout as you plan your presentation. Keep your main ideas, metaphors and summary information in the presentation and add details, complexity, explanations and applications in the handout. A good handout should:
Make sure your handouts are both visually pleasing and practical. Design to support the purpose of your presentation and the audience. The following design features make for handouts which will both please the eye and make information stand out quickly.
Handout formats generally fall into one of two categories: Reiterative and Interactive. You should choose the type which best supports the objectives of your presentation. A reiterative handout restates your material and includes items such as a presentation outline, fact and data sheets, case studies, articles and white papers, charts, copy of visuals used, bibliography. An interactive handout encourages assimilation of your material via hands-on activcities and includes items such as worksheets, checklists, pathfinders and guides, decision trees, flow charts, diagrams and tables, action plans.
Pass out the handouts as the audience arrives. This will help the audience comprehend how your presentation will benefit them, give them a preview of your topic and agenda and encourage them to begin to think about the issues and points you will raise. Again, quality handouts create good impressions. Getting them into your audience's hands early will help overcame any participant skepticism and begin to establish trust.
If you catch yourself saying I don't want to distribute my handout in advance of my presentation because the audience will be reading ahead of what I am saying, go back to the drawing board. Something is wrong with the design of your presentation or handouts. A good handout makes the audience want to pay attention to the speaker.
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