Lots of speakers provide handouts.  It’s a good idea.  It gives the listener a take-away and future reminder of the content — at a minimum they’re faced with the decision of whether to throw the handout away or not.  That is more follow-up than a listener who only walks in and walks out.  Certainly we hope for more, but it’s a start.The problem with handouts is when they don’t facilitate better listening, retention, or follow-up.  Handouts that I receive (or observe) frequently have little or nothing to do with the presentation content, or worse still, have a conflicting message.  When the handouts are so large they can’t be covered completely (as in a long class or when a corporate notebook or sales flyer is provided in a limited-time engagement), then it should be made clear when the speaker is in sync with the content.  A simple “You’ll find this information on page 12” (followed by enough time for the audience to get to page 12) gives folks peace of mind and the indication that they needn’t scramble for a pen to take notes or try to remember this explicitly (folks will remember that which impresses or impacts them anyway).  Conversely, if there is an important point you wish the audience to retain which is NOT in the handouts, then a warning to such is warranted: “This is not in your notes — I suggest you jot down in the margin on page 12 the URL that our colleague has just suggested.“And handouts, like speaking, generally fall under the LIM (Less-is-more) principle.  Printing PowerPoint Notes pages in l landscape DOES NOT qualify as adequate handouts (especially if the PowerPoint is a brain dump itself).  Rather, give them ONE PAGE that outlines the key point(s) and any follow-up reference that is absolutely necessary (or a web site where all the information can be obtained).

Give folks what they need, and make it easy for them to follow.

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