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Presentation Handouts [The ultimate guide to design & content]

Are you looking to learn about presentation handouts in detail? This is the best article you can read on the subject matter. So, you’ve reached the right place.

Presentation handouts are often considered an “afterthought” when preparing for a presentation, but they are a powerful tool for engaging & educating the audience. Whether you’re giving a business presentation, teaching a class, or speaking at a conference, handouts help reinforce key points and ensure that the audience retains most of the information. Isn’t that the ultimate goal for the presenter?

In this article, we will explore what exactly is a presentation handout, where they’re used, how to create your own handouts & most importantly…when should you distribute them.

But, before you trust our information & expertise, you have the right to know…

Who are we? & Why are we writing an article on presentation handouts?

Ink Narrates is a presentation design agency specializing in creating impactful and high-stakes presentations for executives, professionals, and founders. To help our clients make the most of their presentations, we always recommend the effective use of handouts. With that in mind, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide for anyone looking to learn the ABCs of presentation handouts.

I’ll tell you the truth. Making handouts isn’t really a piece of cake. So, let’s break the complex subject into small parts for better learning.

What exactly are handouts in presentations?

In my opinion, this quote does the best job of explaining,

“The handout is the bridge between the presentation and the audience’s long-term memory.” — Jerry Weissman (Author of Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your Story)

I must admit, the quote served as the motivation for writing this article.

Presentation handouts are materials that are distributed to the audience during or after a presentation. They can be in the form of a printed document, flyer, brochure, infographic, or PDF.

For example, a teacher giving a lesson on a certain topic might provide handouts with exercises or puzzles related to the topic, as well as a list of key terms and definitions. This would allow the students to engage with the material in a more interactive way, and also have reference material to use after the presentation is over.

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How are handouts used in business presentations?

For those of you who’ve heard the term presentation handouts for the first time. Here are some examples where presentation handouts are commonly used in business presentations,

  • Sales presentations: To provide detailed information on products or services, pricing, and other relevant details that can help close a sale.

  • Conferences and trade shows: To provide attendees with a summary of the key points discussed during a panel discussion or keynote speech.

  • Board meetings and company-wide presentations: To provide detailed financial reports, performance metrics, and other important data to shareholders or employees.

  • Annual general meetings: To provide shareholders with detailed information about the company’s performance, plans for the future, and other important information.

  • Training and development sessions: To provide attendees with a summary of the key points discussed during the training, as well as additional resources for further learning.

  • Business proposals and pitch decks: To provide potential investors or clients with detailed information about the company, its products, and its vision for the future.

  • Product launch events: To provide detailed information about the new product, its features, benefits, and target audience.

  • Employee orientation and onboarding: To provide new employees with detailed information about the company’s culture, policies, and procedures.

  • Project progress reports: To provide team members and stakeholders with detailed information about the progress of a project, including timelines, milestones, and key achievements.

It’s not an exhaustive list, there are many more events depending on the company and the industry. But, I hope you got a general idea.

How to make your own handouts? (The DIY tips)

So, you’re crafting your own handouts? How brave of you! I know you’re not a designer by trade so let’s make it simple & divide the process into two parts,

  • How to write content for your handouts

  • How to design your handouts

Even though I can’t teach you designing & content writing through an article, I can definitely share some useful tips in detail. So, you can refer to this article while making your own presentation handouts.

How to write content for your handouts

1. Use the “upside-down” approach

Use an “upside-down” approach when you start planning for the content. This means to start thinking about the ultimate goal of your handout & what you would like your audience to do with the information they have received. By starting with this end goal in mind, you can ensure that your handouts are focused on achieving it.

For example, if your goal is to generate leads/sales, you may want to include a clear call-to-action (CTA) in your handouts, such as contact information or a discount code.

If your goal is to educate your audience, you may want to include additional resources or a summary of the key points discussed in your presentation. By imagining your CTA first, you can ensure that your handouts are tailored to achieve your desired outcome.

2. Decide on your message structure

Creating a presentation handout is a complex and challenging task. Hence, before beginning to write the content, it is essential to establish a clear structure for your message. Having a well-defined message structure in place ensures that the information is presented in a logical and easy-to-understand manner.

Without a message structure, the content writing process can become disorganized and scattered, leading to a lack of focus, direction & loads of burnout!

You’re not the only one to suffer though! It may cause confusion for the audience and make it difficult for them to understand and retain the information presented.

3. Imagine the visual design

It is essential to think about the visual design in conjunction with the content. By considering the design elements while writing the content, you can ensure that the two elements are seamlessly integrated and work together. This coordination between design and content is crucial as it can greatly enhance the overall impact of your presentation handout.

4. Write impactful content

It is crucial to ensure that the content is easily understandable for the intended audience. One way to achieve this is by avoiding the use of jargon and technical terms, as these are often confusing or off-putting for those who are not familiar with the subject matter. Instead, it’s important to use clear and concise language that is easily accessible to all members of the audience.

Also, keep in mind that handouts are a supplement to the presentation, not a replacement for it. So, it should be to the point key takeaways and additional resources for further learning.

How to design your handouts

1. Keep it consistent

Ensure that the presentation handouts align with and reflect your brand. Consistent branding across all of your company’s materials helps to establish a professional image and create a sense of cohesion and recognition among your audience.

Incorporating your company’s logo and color scheme into the handouts is a simple yet effective way to establish branding. You can do this by using your company’s official font, color palette, and imagery. Apart from that, use a consistent format throughout the handout, so it looks and feels like it’s part of your company’s materials.

2. Mind the white spaces

Utilize whitespace effectively. Whitespace, also known as negative space, refers to the areas of a design that are left blank or unoccupied by text or graphics. Utilizing whitespace can be beneficial in a number of ways.

Firstly, using whitespace in your handouts helps to make the content more visually appealing and easy to read. By allowing for negative space between text and graphics, you can create a clean, uncluttered design that is easy on the eyes. This is especially important when dealing with a lot of text or detailed information, it breaks up the content and makes it more manageable for the audience to digest.

Furthermore, whitespace helps to draw attention to the most important elements of your handout. By strategically placing whitespace around key takeaways or graphics, you can make these elements stand out and draw the audience’s attention.

3. Use bullet points

Bullet points help break up long blocks of text and make the content more visually appealing and easy to read. Instead of listing everything in a long-form text, bullet points allow you to present the information in a concise and structured manner.

It also helps to emphasize the key takeaways and make them stand out, which is especially useful for audiences who are pressed for time or easily overwhelmed by a large amount of information.

4. High-quality images

High-quality images in presentation handouts are an essential aspect of visual storytelling & greatly enhance the effectiveness of your message.

Images are a powerful tool that can help convey complex ideas and information in an easy way. They are used to illustrate key concepts, provide visual examples, and engage the audience in the story you are telling. By using high-quality images that are visually appealing and relevant to the presentation, you can create a more engaging and memorable experience for your audience.

5. Use a clear hierarchy

Visual hierarchy is important for designing presentation handouts. It refers to the arrangement of elements on a page in order of importance and is used to guide the viewer’s eye and direct their attention to the most important information, making it easy to understand, navigate, and remember.

For example, good typography can help you achieve hierarchy, making it easier for the audience to understand and follow the information presented.

6. Leverage icons & illustrations

Icons are simple and easily recognizable symbols that can be used to quickly convey a specific idea or concept. They can be used to break up text and create visual interest on the page. Illustrations, on the other hand, can be used to provide a more detailed and in-depth visual representation of a concept or idea.

The use of icons and illustrations helps to create a sense of fun and excitement for the audience, making the presentation handouts more memorable and enjoyable to read. Additionally, the use of icons and illustrations makes the handouts more accessible and inclusive.

What’s the best time to distribute handouts in a presentation?

The best time to distribute handouts in a presentation can vary depending on the context and the specific goals of the presentation. However, here are a few general guidelines you can follow

  • Distribute handouts at the beginning of the presentation: This allows the audience to have the handouts in front of them as you present, which can help them to follow along and take notes more easily.

  • Distribute handouts after a key point: If you have a key point in your presentation that you want the audience to pay extra attention to, you can distribute the handouts after you’ve covered that point. This can help to reinforce the key information and make it more memorable for the audience.

  • Distribute handouts after the presentation: If you want the audience to be able to refer back to the handouts later, it might be best to distribute them after the presentation is over. This can also be useful if you want the audience to fill out a survey or evaluation form on the handout.

  • Distribute digital handouts: In the case of online presentations, you can distribute handouts in the form of a pdf or a digital file, which can be shared with the audience via email or cloud storage.

Ultimately, the best time to distribute handouts will depend on the specific goals of the presentation and the audience’s engagement & attention span.

Work with us

We hope this article provided you with valuable information on presentation handouts. You can always save & refer to this article while making presentation handouts or share this with someone who could use it.

If you find this to be overwhelming or feel that the DIY method isn’t for you, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We specialize in presentation design and would be happy to assist you with your presentation needs.


Ink Narrates is a Presentation Design Agency. We craft storytelling PowerPoint presentations & provide services in presentation outsourcing, pitch decks, sales decks, animated presentations, template systems & design guidelines. Basically, we live & breathe presentations!

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