Should you use handouts?

Have more than you show, speak less than you know.
— Shakespeare

Do you ever consider whether handouts add anything to your presentation?

A handout is a summary of your presentation the audience walks away with. It helps frame the audience’s memories of the presentation. When Persuading for Results, handouts can enhance your professional image. They can also help your audience spend more time listening and less time writing.

Imagine you have been asked to persuade the executive committee to allocate surplus funds to your business unit. Your research reveals four other managers will be presenting to the same group. This is a great opportunity to prepare a visual presentation and make a superior impact.

Prepare your presentation and handout at the same time and you will save time and create a closely integrated package. A good way to plan is to draw a line down the centre of your page and plan your presentation and handouts simultaneously.

When Persuading for Results, everything in the handout should influence the audience to take the action you recommend.

Your handouts reflect your presentation, and it also reflects on you. An audience, persuaded by your polished and dynamic presentation, might walk away with a different impression if your handouts are unhelpful, boring, inaccurate or disorganised. They might also pass the handout on to colleagues, multiplying the impact of the handouts.

The key to deciding what to include in your handouts is to think about the specific message you want the audience to take away. Do not bombard them with facts and figures that do not relate directly to your ultimate goal: the action you recommend.

Here are some handy hints:


  • Give the audience time to leaf through your handouts before you start.
  • If you are running a group workshop, consider whether to make your handouts interactive so the audience has to fill in information as they listen.
  • Make sure you have enough copies.
  • If the handouts are supporting information, tell the audience you will hand them out at the end. Do not give them something to read that distracts them from what you have to say or pre-empts your presentation.
  • If handouts are to be distributed during your presentation, organise helpers to do this quickly.
  • Do not let handouts be a distraction before you finish.


  • Sort through all your information and only include what is relevant. If you end up with a lot of material, sort it so people can see what is directly related to the topic and what is additional information.
  • Be concise – as a general rule, handouts should be no more than ten pages long.
  • Use good quality paper and printing. Paper heavier than the standard 80gsm creates a subtle impression of quality. Try 100gsm and feel the difference.
  • Number or colour-code the pages so that you can direct the audience to the relevant page quickly.
  • Make your handouts attractive and easy to read – a clear typestyle, distinct divisions between content and headings, plenty of space, and a graphic or two for clarity and interest.
  • Ensure sufficient space to write. Narrow margins will frustrate enthusiastic audience members, and give lazy people permission to be passive.
  • Provide folders with your company name and their company name for the audience to store their notes in. Months later, you want them to be able to remember your name.

When creating handouts always ensure they are professional, high-impact handouts that will enhance your persuasive power and your reputation.