PowerPoint Tip: Presentation Handouts: Yes or No, What Kind, and When?

There are different answers to this question but there is none that is suitable to all situations.

I recommend that you not provide just a print out of the slides. If you’re using slides properly, as a visual aide, you won’t most of what you say on the slides, so images of the slides won’t help people much. An exception would be a handout with space for people to take notes next to each slide. Then, they can write down your points.

Let’s discuss several situations and see what might work best in each one.

In-house business presentation

If you are presenting a proposal or reporting on a project to seek approval inside your organization, there might be these scenarios:

• You are giving a presentation that has no technical data: A handout is not needed in this situation but if you want to use one, distribute it after the presentation and make sure that your talking points are included-not just the slides.

• You are giving a presentation that has technical data that your audience needs to read for a successful presentation. Create handouts that contain just the data your audience needs to look at up close. Distribute them when they first need to see them.

While many people recommend giving out handouts at the start 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 are talking and don’t listen to you. Some people say that if the audience is motivated enough to listen, they will. Maybe that has been true in the past, but in this multitasking age, few people have the attention control to not read the handouts.

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

Sales presentation

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

Training presentation

Training presentations have a whole different set of considerations. If you want your audience to take notes, slides with space for taking notes can be helpful. But be careful; as a reader of this blog wrote me, it “ruins the anticipation of learning, causes distraction (flipping ahead) and can defeat the purpose of attending (to some extent).” If you give out all the information up front, people will feel that they don’t need to stay. After all, they have the notes. It’s like a college course that is based solely on the textbook; student will cut class.

In the academic arena, a great deal of research has been done on how to increase learning by students. For example, a 2009 study at Western Michigan University looked at handout out a combination of visuals (such as slides), a detailed outline, and blanks for students to take notes. This system resulted in better short-term recall than when the students took notes on their own paper or didn’t take notes at all. (Research has also shown that students miss a lot of important points when they take notes on their own.)

I always warn people against transferring academic research to the business arena, especially if your goal isn’t to get your trainees to do well on a test. If you’re training customer service reps to provide better service, short-term recall is not your main goal. You want people to think, right? And then transfer what they learned into action.

Interestingly, when tests involve analysis and synthesis of ideas, having the instructor’s notes does not result in higher grades. In my opinion, most situations, business training fits into this situation.

Conference or seminar presentation

Presentations that you deliver at a conference or seminar (sometimes called “ballroom presentations”) are a different. Sometimes, people expect it to be entertaining. Often, the content is not very technical. In these situations, I recommend not to provide handouts during the presentation. People will definitely skim them while you’re talking. They’re more likely to walk out if what they read doesn’t sound interesting. (Your presentation will probably be a lot more interesting than the handout!)

There’s a trend for providing handouts only electronically, because it saves paper, and therefore, trees.

Indicator of a Good PPT Presentation

A presenter would need the skills of presentation to be outstanding. Many of us have been trained about the presentation skills since in high school and college. That aims one, to make you get accustomed to doing good presentation that is interesting to audiences. Presentation skill is also one of the most important skills in the workplace. You can influence customers to buy company’s product and negotiate with business partners to go through the win-win relationship with good presentation. To some people, the talent is just there naturally. You do not to practice in front of the mirror, observe your talented friend, or read the guides from books. To the rest, you will need more effort. Presentation skills involve the ability to speak in loud and clear voice, the ability to organize ideas so that they turn out smoothly and systematically, the ability to organize words and sentences so that they are easy to be understood, the ability to give and use examples appropriately, using the right and interesting body languages, and engage the audiences in the whole presentation.

How do you know then, whether a presentation is successful or not? Well, If you see your audiences’ eyes stay focused on you and the projector or whiteboard during the presentation, then your presentation is good. Also, if audiences are curious to ask questions or participate in the discussion, then you can feel optimistic about the presentation. Other clues are if no audience uses their mobile phone, looks sleepy, chats with his/her colleagues, and walk in/out the presentation rooms over time during the presentation. Obtaining audiences’ attention is not an easy thing. You would need some preparations such as: the content of presentation including the points to deliver, body language, and your attitude, the dress or suits to wear, how to build interaction with audiences, the choice of words and sentences, the visual aids to make your message more interesting, and so on. During the presentation session, you should reminding yourself to stay connected with your audience by relating the topic you are talking about with their daily lives, grab their attention by tell a compelling story or material so that they are eager to listen to the next material, keep understanding the material you have talked about. There should be synchronization among the sentences and points you speak out.

If possible, write some specific goals before you go through the presentation. For example, if you are doing presentation to obtain a contract with business partner, then obtaining the contract can be your stated goal. If you are doing a presentation in front of audiences to get new sales, then you can state your goal as to sell 50 units of products That way, you can have clear indicator whether your presentation is successful or not. Some other tips for you are to be confidence with your presentation, know who you are talking to, engage in the presentation and show empathy so that you do not sound like giving lecturer, make the material sounds simple so that audiences can easily get the points and clues, and anticipate any reaction from audiences.

Focus on the Present – How to Get and Stay Mentally Focused on Now

How can you stay in the present (mentally) – or get to the present? Here are 5 strategies:

  1. Breathe. The idea is that you breathe in. Then you breathe out. This helps you to get centered – and somewhere I read that the space between breathing in and breathing out – that’s the present. So actually, right now, breathe. In. Out. In. Out. It’s amazing that we need to be reminded.
  2. Stand up straight or sit up straight (if you are physically able to do so). Just pull your head up, straighten your spine, pull in your stomach, and of course, breathe. It’s interesting how making sure we are doing all of these behaviors just pulls us to the present. Apparently there is no chance of multi-minding when we are focused – just for a moment – on standing up straight, pulling our head up and our stomachs in – and, oh, yeah…breathing. Those four tasks take all our concentration and are sometimes enough to break us out of whatever past tense, future tense, or too tense thinking we were in just before.
  3. Say, “One thing, right now.” It’s a calming phrase. It helps you to get centered again. “One thing, right now.” “One thing, right now.” “One thing, right now.” Say it over and over as needed. Let people around you know that if/when you get into a “state,” they might help you by saying, “One thing, right now.”
  4. If you have an object that helps you focus on the present – then use that. It might be something physical, it might be a picture, it might be a quote. It’s whatever will calm your mind enough to focus on now – just now.
  5. Make marmalade. This recommendation comes from D.H. Lawrence’s suggestion: “I got the blues thinking of the future, so I left off and made some marmalade. It’s amazing how it cheers one up to shred oranges and scrub the floor.” The idea, of course, is to take up an activity where you need to be focused. Making marmalade, doing repair, engaging in some kind of intricate work….all of these activities require your focus and that you be present. Figure out what your marmalade activity is.

I promised that these were simple – and they are. Yet, we often don’t apply simple solutions. Give one or more of these a try when you need to bring yourself back to NOW – and see if you aren’t more focused and much more peaceful, too.