Your Answers: When Should You Hand Out Takeaway Notes?

When you give a speech, when should you distribute your takeaway materials?

If you hand them out before you begin speaking, your audience may be distracted by the materials and miss parts of your presentation. If you hand them out at the end, your audience may be frustrated that they didn’t have a chance to take notes on your slides.

A few weeks ago, I asked readers to help me answer that conundrum. You’ll see their responses below. First, here were the two possible solutions I proposed at the time:

  1. To hand out PowerPoint slides in advance so the audience can take notes on them, but to strip them of any information you don’t want the audience to know before you get to it.
  2. To hand out a short summary of your takeaway materials in advance, on which the audience can take notes. You would reserve the more complete version of the materials for the end of the talk.

Here’s what you had to say:

Mary Denihan wrote: “Normally handouts are distributed at the end of my presentations. Usually though, at the tables, I try to make sure there is some kind of note pad and pen for those who need to take notes.”

Craig wrote: “Most presenters don’t use PowerPoint appropriately anyhow. They basically read their presentations off the slides. Graphics and basic outlines sounds like a good middle-ground to me.”

Steve Drake wrote: “I like providing an outline to the audience so they can see where you are going and so they can take notes. It also gives you a place to provide your contact information so all have it. I like posting this outline to SlideShare too. That allows potential attendees to look at your outline and determine whether they want to attend.”

tfrohl wrote: “In almost all cases, the audience tends to read the material while the speaker talks. They even read ahead to the ‘punchline,’ thus potentially damaging the effectiveness of the speaker. The solution I [generally] recommend is to have two sets of slides. The slides you use during the presentation (which should be simple and sparse) and the slides you hand out afterwards (which are the complete slides filled with information).”

Debbie Fay wrote: “Your combination idea is on target. Think of the handout as a guideline; put headings for topics on it with large spaces for them to take notes. Unless you’re printing one slide per page, they’re not going to have enough room to take notes.”

@braddomitrovich wrote: “I distribute a very simple handout that has my contact info and the link for folks to view the presentation again on SlideShare. I have been doing this for about two years and have noticed that more attention is paid to what I say vs. following the handout.”

After reading your comments, I feel good about the approach I proposed a few weeks ago. But since two of you mentioned SlideShare as a tool, I’m going to add that as a third option. If an insistent client wants takeaway materials to be provided to attendees in advance, it might be a good idea to place a heavily edited version of your presentation onto SlideShare so interested attendees can print it in advance and take notes on it during your talk.

Thanks to all of you for weighing in and for the terrific ideas!

Note: Some of these comments came from readers on PR Daily’s website, on which my story also ran.

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