Friday, June 23, 2006

What is the purpose of a handout?

In my mind, a handout is a recall aid for the audience. You want them to be able to recall and use what you have said after you are done presenting. I see some handouts where I wonder what the presenter was thinking. A recent example illustrates this. The presenter showed a PowerPoint slide with a key quote that set the context for that section of the presentation. But the quote wasn't on the handout, so people spent time writing the quote down instead of listening to what the presenter was saying about why this idea was important. People can't write and listen at the same time, so if your handout doesn't help them listen by giving them comfort that they key ideas are there for later recall, I think the handout has not done its job. It's also why I always give the handout before I start, so people can focus on understanding the points and figuring out how they apply instead of busily writing down notes. Next time you present, carefully consider what handout you will be giving and how it helps your audience.


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