Potent Presentations Initiative (p2i) guidelines for creating better handouts


With a number of great conferences coming up fast on the horizon, we thought it would be an opportune time to share this article by Sheila B. Robinson from the American Evaluation Association's Potent Presentations Initiative (p2i), introducing the new addition to the p2i toolbox - Guidelines for Handouts.

Thanks to the AES for letting us republish this post, originally published in the AEA Newsletter: June 2017. You can also read a resource recommendation from Patricia Rogers for the Potent Presentations Initiative toolkit, outlining how she uses p2i in her work.

Repeat after me: Slides are not handouts! Slides are NOT handouts! I know, I know…it’s just so easy to print out your slides and give them to workshop participants, team members, or meeting attendees. The trouble is that when a presenter does this, one of two things tend to happen:

  1. The slides are loaded with text (because the presenter wants participants to go home with some key points to review later, a noble intent) and that compromises the effectiveness and success of the presentation. According to Nancy Duarte, “An audience can’t listen to your presentation and read detailed, text-heavy slides at the same time (not without missing key parts of your message, anyway).”

  2. The slides are well designed with very little text and instead feature relevant graphics and images such that the slides themselves make little sense when separated from the presenter and presentation.

Condition #1 leaves participants with a set of key points that could have been distributed as a handout with no need for the presentation, while condition #2 leaves participants with a potentially great presentation experience but no easy way to review or remember key points (unless they were taking their own notes).

Creating a separate presentation handout mitigates both conditions.

Here’s one caveat before we continue: Not all presentations require a handout. In fact, not all presentations even require slides! And, it’s certainly feasible to have a “slideless” presentation that does include a handout. The point is to be intentional about whatever resources accompany a presentation. Our p2i Messaging tools can help with that aspect of presentation planning.

Without further ado…The newest tool in the p2i toolbox is our Guidelines for Handouts, now available on our Presentations Tools and Guidelines page. Use this tool to gain insight and perspective into WHY we use handouts, HOW to create effective handouts, WHAT should be included in a handout, and WHEN to distribute handouts – before, during, or after a presentation.

Guidelines for Handouts includes an example of what a presentation handout could look like, and also features loads of Insider Tips and links to additional content.

So, let’s make a deal. I promise to deliver an idea-packed handouts tool, and you agree to stop printing your slides, OK?

Do you have a great example of a presentation handout you’re willing to share?  Tell us how you created and used it, and how it worked for your presentation.


Related resources