Paper stackLast week I returned from four stimulating days at the Pennsylvania Psychological Association convention. Apparently paper handouts are still popular, judging from my take-home stash of over 100 pages.

I feel guilty about saying this, knowing how much work the authors put into preparing their presentations and handouts. But I'm probably going to throw most of them away. The least useful are the stapled packets of slide images. Granted, they do include most of the slides from the presentation. However, the images are rather small and hard to read - especially those that are dense with text. And I prefer to keep all my handwritten notes in one place rather than scattered throughout the stapled pages.

The next least useful are agency flyers and promotional information. I may set them in a pile on the shelf for future reference. But chances are if I want to know more about these agencies and services in the future I'll search online.

The handouts I'll probably keep are those that:

  • Are most relevant to my work and interests
  • Summarize the material in a logical way
  • Include links and references

There may be some research on the "best" type of handouts, but ultimately it depends on how you want your audience to use the take-home information.

For example...

When I give a talk to a lay audience my handout has a brief explanation of the problem and a heavy emphasis on application to their own lives and action tips.

If I'm teaching a course or multi-day workshop to a professional audience, I'll have a variety of material, including work sheets, supplementary articles, and slide images bound into a workbook.

For convention-type presentations  to professional audiences I strive to make my handouts conform to the bullet points above.

At the recent PPA convention my presentation on how to find authoritative content online had 92 slides. The handout was one double-sided cheat sheet. Wouldn't you rather have all that content summarized for you rather than having to slog through page after page of slide images?

Keep that in mind when preparing handouts for your next presentation.

Here's my PPA handout, by the way. If you do much online research, click the link to download it and keep it by your computer.

LinksAndResourcesforSearch2012 Wallin