Takeaways NOT Throwaways: Handouts without a Shelf Life

Blog Post Hero


What do Hormel’s canned Spam and good training handouts have in common? They both have an indefinite shelf life. Because of its longevity, Spam is every trainer’s good example of what a handout should be—something that gets put on the shelf, and not in the “circular file” before the participants have even exited the training room.

As you are creating materials for your session, be cognizant of your audience and keep in mind the following tips to increase the shelf life of your materials after your session:


Participants expect handouts. In fact, a lot of people will equate the quality of the class by the handout.

Use color! People love color and images. If your budget is tight, only print the cover in color and use colored paper here and there throughout your workbook to draw attention to certain pages or sections. If your budget is really tight, at minimum use color cardstock for your cover page.

Bind your handout. Whether it is a coil, comb, wire, tape or saddle stitch, a handout that is bound is difficult to get rid of and has a longer shelf life.

Include job aids and behavioral checklists for your content. Use checklists, provide templates, flowcharts or any other valuable tool that can be re-purposed and referenced later.

Make the handout interactive. Fill-in-the-blanks, note pages, and activities that are completed during the session all get the learner into the handout which gets them in their takeaway so they know where things are later. If you are using your Powerpoint as a handout, print it with three slides per page with notes, lines AND have blanks in the slides for them to fill in.

Label each page of your handout and include the date and page numbers. I can’t tell you how often handouts have no page number or title making it difficult to get everyone on the same “page.”

Chunk It. Create a handout with three sections, if appropriate.

The Need to Know – all the content you commit to cover.

The Nice to Know – content that is complete that you may or may not cover

depending on time.

The Where to Go – after they are out of class, they are able to get more

information about the topic.

Foster curiosity. Create pages that jump off the page and allow the participant to wonder what is coming.

Learning objectives. List them out at the beginning and then stick to them. Be sure to use verbs that are measurable! Verbs like understand, learn, know and cover are not measurable. Instead try verbs like define, compare, identify and examine.


Under-promise and over-deliver and, while you may not have your own fan club like Spam, your training and its handouts will provide your participants with resources indefinitely.


Have additional ideas for making resources useful? Send your creative training tips to ctteditor@bobpikegroup.com. This tip originally appeared in Bob Pike’s Creative Training Techniques newsletter. Used with permission.