speech share (2) presentation
decide celebrity indispensable
boost enhance engagement
expand standard enthusiasm
wane curiosity demonstrate
packed seminar hard copy
bored overview take notes
penny ceremony subject (3)
client potential beforehand
offer slide (2) authoritative
lazy diminish indifferent
format obvious track you down
outline various perspective
bio point out bear in mind
prior brochure pass out (2)
ensure reference bullet points
ensure expertise in advance
goal (2) follow up ahead of time
sign in distribute pick up (3)
contain response registration
resent notice (2) pay attention
pushy outweigh order form




The Value of Handouts in Presentations

At some point in your career (if you haven’t done so already) you will have to give a speech or presentation.

You must then decide: should I give handouts? And if so, what will they look like? When do I share them?

For a ceremonial speech, such as at a graduation or one given by a celebrity, handouts are not necessary.

However, in every other speaking engagement, a handout is a standard practice, if not indispensible. At many events, the sponsor actually requires speakers to present handouts or upload their talks on their company website.

Why You MUST Have Handouts

So why do you need handouts?

For one, they enhance learning. This is the most obvious reason.

Handouts also increase the audience’s interest and curiosity about your subject. Without handouts, their enthusiasm may wane. They might even feel a bit bored by your talk.

Another reason is to boost attendee satisfaction. Even with a useful, fascinating, information-packed seminar that demonstrates your expertise, people feel they get more value when they walk away with some hard copy reference materials — even if they cost just pennies to reproduce.

The Biggest Reason

But the most important reason (at least from a business perspective) is that everyone (i.e. potential clients or friends of potential clients) will have a hard copy of who you are, what you offer — and how to contact you.

In this way, as a prospect is going to work the next morning, he or she will think, “That was an interesting talk … That speaker sounded like a professional … He can really help us … I should contact him.”

And they’ll have your phone number right in their hands.

Without a handout, responses to your talk will be greatly diminished: most people are too busy, indifferent, forgetful or just plain lazy to track you down if they don’t have your contact information right in front of them.

And they can share your handout with their colleagues at work.

Which Format Is Best?

Handouts can take one or more of various formats. It could be a printout of the PowerPoint slides, brochures, text of a speech, an outline, a report or article on the subject, one related to the presentation topic, or expands on one of the subtopics mentioned.

Every handout though should contain your company name, address, phone, email, and website, and a brief bio.

If the handout includes the full text of your talk, you could tell the audience prior to the start that you have hard copies of this presentation, so they don’t have to take notes.

Bear in mind that handouts containing long texts of a speech, articles, or reports should be passed out after your talk, not before.

That’s because if the audience has the material beforehand, they will focus more on it instead of you.

On the other hand, handouts that are outlines, visuals only, or slides with just a few bullet points on each can be distributed in advance, so attendees can have an overview of your program and write notes on them.

Best Way to Distribute Your Handouts

Because you cannot tell ahead of time who in the audience will want to follow up with you, your goal is to get everyone, or at least as many people as possible to pick up and take home your handout material.

There are several ways to distribute handouts at your talk.

The most common is to leave the materials on a table, either in the back of the room or at the registration table where people sign in for the meeting or your session.

But this is not effective: most people will walk right by the table without picking up the material. Many won’t even notice the table or stack of handouts.

Even if you point out the table and say that reprints are available, many won’t take one. And it makes you seem less authoritative, and more of a promoter.

Another technique is to put a copy of your handout on each seat in the room about a half hour before the start of your presentation. Most people will pick it up and look at it. Up to about one-half will take it with them when they leave, and half or more will leave it on the chair.

Disadvantages to handouts?

As already mentioned, people may want to look at the handout, and not pay attention to your presentation.

Also, some people resent this approach, seeing it as being too pushy and too salesy, especially if your handout material includes an order form for your products or a brochure about your company and your services.

Overall however, the benefits of handouts at any event far outweigh the drawbacks, especially if they can eventually lead to more business for you.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *


1. All speeches and presentations require handouts. True or false? When are they not necessary?

2. What are the two academic reasons to provide handouts to participants?

3. Name the two business reasons. Why is this very important?

4. All handouts must follow an industrial standard. Is this right or wrong? Are there a variety of handout formats?

5. Should you pass out transcripts of your talk before the presentation itself? Why shouldn’t you do this?

6. Are there any disadvantages to giving handouts?

7. What are the ways of distributing handouts?


A. Every talk, presentation and seminar that I have attended involved handouts. Yes or no?

B. Describe these handouts. What did they feature?

C. Have you contacted a supplier, vendor or consultant based on a handout?

D. Have you given talks or presentations? Did you give out handouts?

E. Does your company have a handout rack with handouts from previous presentations?

F. Will handouts be completely replaced by online handouts and web pages, downloads and videos?

Comments are closed.