PowerPoint Tips: Are PowerPoint Handouts a Waste?

Should you give out handouts? If so, what kind and when?

I’ve read a lot of answers to these questions, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that there is no one answer that fits all situations.

It’s clear to me that you shouldn’t provide just a print out of the slides. If you’re using the Tell ‘n’ ShowSM Method, you won’t have a lot of what you say on the slides, so images of the slides won’t help people much later. An exception would be a handout with lots of space for people to take notes next to each slide. Then, they can write down what you’re saying.

Let’s discuss several situations and see what might work best in each situation. I invite your comments on this topic.

In-house business presentation

You’re giving an in-house presentation to get approval for a proposal or report on a project. Let’s take a couple of scenarios:

Your presentation doesn’t have any technical data: I don’t see the need for a handout in this situation, but if you want to use one, give it out after the presentation, making sure that your talking points are included–not just the slides.
Your presentation has technical data that your audience needs to read for the presentation to be a success: Create handouts that contain just the data your audience needs to look at up close. Give them out when they first need to see them.
While some people recommend giving out handouts at the beginning of the presentation, my experience, both as a presenter and as a member of the audience, is that this usually is disastrous. Why? Because people read the handouts while you’re speaking and don’t listen to you. Some people say that if the audience is motivated enough to listen, they will. Maybe that was true once, but in this multitasking age, few people have the attention control to not read the handouts.

Others say that if the audience isn’t listening to you, you aren’t interesting enough. I think that’s a high expectation for you, as a presenter, in an every day business setting.

Sales presentation

If possible, I would try to give your potential customers the handout after the presentation. Again, an exception would be if you need to present detailed data or specifications. However, if they ask for the handout in advance, you can’t very well say no, so I would just ask for their attention. A sales presentation should definitely be engaging enough to maintain your audience’s attention. You could provide two handouts–one with just the data for during the presentation and another as a leave-behind.


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This excerpt is shared with permission from ellenfinkelstein.com.

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One thought on “PowerPoint Tips: Are PowerPoint Handouts a Waste?

  1. I think in today’s world, paper copies of presentations are a waste. First off, the world is going paperless all around us so it is better to distribute the presentation from your computer to their computer. Second and more importantly, you, as the presenter, want the contact information of the people that are a little more than interested in your presentation material. That way, you have a reason to follow up with them and establish a deeper relationship.

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