How to Create Effective Innovative Presentation Handouts

By Ray Anthony, Barbara Boyd

Innovative presentations should focus on a crisp overview, key points, main messages, and critical information, which means they aren’t always the most effective format for communicating dense information or large quantities of data.

Handouts, or leave behinds, allow you to provide detailed information that you can’t effectively put on a slide, such as complicated flowcharts, diagrams, tables, or illustrations that would otherwise show poorly on a monitor or projection screen. Handouts also let your audience review and digest the information you presented and compare it to other proposals they’re considering.

Innovative presentations deserve to have matching, well-designed, and valuable handouts that complement and enhance your spoken presentation. Although not every presentation needs handouts, it’s often a good idea to give the audience a one-to-two page executive summary of all your important points to motivate your audience to accept your call to action.

Prepare your handouts in plenty of time and don’t scrimp on quality.

Usually financial, technical, engineering, scientific-related, or other complex presentations benefit most from handouts that contain more comprehensive, in-depth information, especially if you’re giving a working presentation that requires discussion and feedback either during or after the meeting in order to make an informed decision.

Sales presentations that have product specification sheets, contractual information, and detailed brochures along with DVDs, flash drives, or links to videos can help a potential buyer make a decision.

If you’re in doubt as to whether handouts are necessary, consider the following advantages:

  • Your presentation can be lean in terms of detailed data you can appropriately place in your handout. No need to dump data on your audience and rush through your talk.

  • People appreciate an attractive, useful handout that makes a presentation memorable.

  • Knowing that specific information is available in handouts, the audience can focus their full attention on you instead of on taking notes.

  • Handouts provide a source for repeated reference and decision making.

  • You don’t have to sweat forgetting some details in your talk because your handout will cover it.

  • Attractive, imaginatively-designed handouts enhance your professionalism and credibility.

Make your handouts consistent with the graphic design, level of creativity, story line, information style, and branding or theme of your oral presentation.