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Presentation handouts, believe it or not, have a big impact on the effectiveness of classroom and virtual trainings. They’re an important part of the overall experience for learners, and they add longevity to course material after it’s all said and done. Whether it’s fill-in-the-blank worksheets, lists, or simply the agenda—handouts offer a terrific place for your learners to put ideas from your presentation into action.
But what makes the best type of handout? Should participants receive them before or after the presentation? How much is too much information to include on a course handout? The Bob Pike Group training team has the insight into answering these questions so that you can optimize pre- and post-course handouts for your next presentation.
Simply put, don’t wait until the last moment. Handouts are well-thought-out tools that enhance the training experience. Many of us are concerned about the actual presentation/webinar and may realize an hour before the start that learners will expect handouts! Hurriedly putting something together haphazardly is not ideal. Prepare the outline of your presentation, then create your handouts right after. Not only does this put together a neat, cohesive learning experience—it offers you plenty of time to carefully create the best handouts to accompany your material. Course handouts are the cherry on top, providing a delightful and engaging learning experience for both the trainer and learners.
There isn’t a clear rule of thumb here, because all presentations are different. It’s generally to your advantage to distribute handouts at the end, as learners won’t be distracted reading it while you are speaking. Saving handouts for the end also makes it clear that they are meant to be taken away, as they include valuable information learners may need to access afterwards. The advantage of distributing handouts at the beginning of your presentation is that it does offer a great place for learners to follow along while jotting notes. Other ideal times to offer handouts at the start of the course is if there is a lot of highly-technical information that may be hard to verbally convey, if the handouts are filled with interactive in-class exercises, or when a course is a half-day or more long.
When you get creative with creating your slides, you can actually use the printout of your slide deck to make your presentation more interactive especially when offering it at the start of the course. But if there is a lot of content and you feel the need to stuff it onto your slides, then printing them out is not ideal. What you do not want is for learners to quickly grab up your slide show deck printout and not engage with the content. Nor do you want to simply read off your slides during the session. If you chose to print out your slides, add in ample space for learners to jot down notes that you verbally convey. With content written in their own words, they’ll better discern the content most important to each of them.
Add additional reinforcement or examples of your ideas that you won't actually cover in the presentation into the handout. Show the audience that as great as your presentation was, you have more bonus content they can take away with them. By doing this, they’ll see you as an expert on the topic while being armed with valuable material to drive the point home.
Digital, custom-made leave-behinds are trending. The benefits of digital handouts (offered through a URL, link, or online pdf) are great. They get a more engaging response and you can easily track their reach while keeping the content consistently updated. However, lots of learners do like to take home paper printouts. Offer a mix of both digital and paper handouts to accommodate your entire audience’s needs.
Pay attention to quality and design. Use simple, readable fonts and break out dense information into charts, graphs, or infographics. Use the same graphical elements as you use on your slides, and the same colors and fonts. Make sure the colors print out clearly.
Make the handout appealing to the eye, with generous use of white space. Avoid putting so much information on a single page that your handout begins to look like a textbook.
It might take a bit of extra work, but creating presentation handouts can bring plenty of benefits! Give your learners something they can read and review long after your presentation. Handouts can increase the impact you leave on learners, so they can easily act on the course content in real life.