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Handy Tips For Effective Handouts: Great Materials Make Audience Members Remember Your Message
By Marjorie Brody   Printer Friendly Version

When the presentation or training session ends, does the learning also have to end? Absolutely not. Yet often, that can happen.

It is critical that presenters use as many of the following five types of materials for audience members to take home. These items not only help to remember the speaker and his or her message, but more importantly aid the participants in continuing their learning. Studies show that people only remember 10% of what they've heard after several days. An effective handout can increase this percentage.

What types of materials can be used?

1) Handouts (or workbooks)

Using handouts that allow the audience members to take notes during the presentation is a great way for them to capture key ideas. When they take notes in their own words it's more meaningful. Handouts need to be visually interesting, but have lots of white space for writing.

According to an article in the February 1999 issue of Presentations magazine, there are five steps to follow for improving your handouts:
  • Stay focused on your goal -- always customize your handout around what you are trying to accomplish.

  • Avoid an information glut -- avoid the temptation to overload audience members with information simply because it's possible. As with the presentation itself, your handout should not include any "data dumps." Delete any material that does not directly support your message.

  • Use graphics whenever possible -- any time you can put a graphic in a handout vs. text do it. People will study a chart or diagram to learn information, but may skip a detailed explanation of the same data.

  • Don't be afraid of white space -- wide margins and lots of room for taking notes is advisable. A good guideline to follow is to fill no more than 2/3 of the page with words or graphics.

  • Make sure it looks good -- the appearance of your handout is vital. When people pick it up, the handout should feel good (paper quality) and look good (printing or copying quality). A handout can't salvage a horrible presentation, but a well designed and planned handout can make the difference between a good presentation and a great one.

2) Laminated book marks or wallet cards (also for use in Day Timers)

These book marks or cards can have key ideas from the program as a reminder for participants. Be sure to include your name, phone number and other contact information. Recently I used a series of five small brightly colored cards. Each had a letter of the alphabet on them -- A through E. On the back of each was "quick tip" information and bulleted points. On one card I listed my e-mail and web site addresses.

3) Small gifts or trinkets that are somehow a reminder of the topic.

Giving away a ruler, for example, can remind you of personal growth. A packet of seeds can be used to convey the thought of seeds for success. I give people a small candle to remind them of their own star power so they will let their light shine. Be careful, however, you don't want to go overboard with this sort of reminder. Any small gifts that you do use should have all your information listed -- name, phone numbers, address,

4) Books, booklets, audio and videotapes, and software packages are excellent learning tools.

These learning tools can be a reminder of the information given in your presentation -- especially if you authored them! Obviously these books, tapes, etc., can also help promote your services and product sales. Another idea is to mail these types of learning tools out regularly -- perhaps once a month -- to audience members so there's continued learning.

5) Newsletters, reminder letters and more tip sheets

Each participant of a Brody Communications Ltd. training program gets our quarterly newsletter inserted into their manual. Each issue contains an article written by me that has practical application in the workplace. Presenters also can use these types of materials by having audience members sign up for a mailing list and then regularly mailing letters and newsletters to participants

Article copyright© Brody Communications Ltd. 1999

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