Presentation Materials in the Digital Age: how and why to use them

Presentation Materials in the Digital Age: how and why to use them

Any business today knows the importance of an online presence. At the very least, a company needs a website, and even that is not enough to attract business these days.

When it comes to giving a presentation, a PowerPoint is the most bare bones expectation. Between that and online information, people are compelled to think that handheld presentation materials are obsolete and wasteful, but are they really?

A presentation that is strictly onscreen, while a constant focal point and “green,” does not allow your material to live up to its full potential. Yes, of course, you have to use technology, and you want to be sparing on printed material. However, there are ways to use minimal printed materials in a way that enhances your delivery. Using handouts or presentation folders that complement your presentation will be far more engaging and memorable than if you skip them. Here is why.

It is engaging on several levels. Whether you’re just using one binder to supplement your presentation or hundreds of handouts, you are connecting the audience to your content. Depending on what you use, your material can:

  • Be a reference if they have a difficult time seeing/hearing/understanding you
  • Let the audience know what to expect and follow along
  • Allow people to jot down notes
  • If providing notes, you spare people from taking notes so they don’t miss information
  • Engage the kinesthetic learners using an action sheet
  • Bring the audience together in action when you call attention to a handout
  • Keep the audience’s attention on the presentation – sometimes people zone out; referencing a handout can bring focus back on you

Speaking of zoning out, handouts allow you to cut down on spoken material. It doesn’t matter how amazing your presentation is; people get overwhelmed by too much information. Our attention spans only last so long before we can’t absorb any more material. Any relevant information that isn’t completely necessary to your spoken presentation, like references, expanded stories or research, extra examples, ideas on how to incorporate the information, etc., can be provided via handout.

Your audience is more likely to remember you. It is unlikely that following your presentation, the entire audience will go back to their desks, look up your website, and keep it open as a full-time reminder. Your audience also won’t go back and jot down everything they want to remember. Your takeaways give them a record of what you discussed as well as a visual reminder that you exist after you leave. Also, with visually attractive, professional-looking handouts, you aren’t just remembered; you are memorable.

Your information is available to people who didn’t attend. Sometimes key people can’t make it to a presentation, and you don’t want to rely on attendees to relay all the information. You can control what information is given to someone who wasn’t there to see your whole delivery. This is critical when your audience has to run it past a boss or spouse before doing business with you.

They can save you if technology fails you. It happens to the best of us. A file won’t open, the projector doesn’t work, the server is down; you name the disaster, and it has happened to someone. In the event that you suddenly have to wing your presentation (I hope you memorized it), handouts not only keep you on task, but also give the audience visual aids.

The right handouts will show your audience that you put thought and energy into both your business and your clients/customers. Again, additional information you provide should add something important to your presentation. It most definitely should not exist simply to be a handout. Your audience needs to gain something from it. Here are a few more tips on utilizing handouts:

  •  Don’t just print out your PowerPoint slides. This is a waste of paper. The only exception is if the audience expects to keep a book of notes and the handout explains key points for the visual slides you wisely chose over bullet point slides.
  • Make sure they look professional. Don’t just print them out yourself. Include your logo on the pages, and make sure there is enough white space. People won’t read something that has as too much text crammed onto it.
  • Make each sheet look different. Use different colored paper, varying artwork or photos, or whatever you can do differently on each page to help the audience immediately identify the page you are referencing.
  • Don’t overload on handouts. Keep it down to that which truly helps your audience understand information better, retain information better, know how to get ahold of you, find out more about you or the topic…you get the idea.

There are also ways to cut down on paper use:

  • If you are using professional marketing booklets, rather than provide a folder for extra handouts, you can adhere a vinyl pocket to a page on each. The booklet itself becomes the folder, and you can change the pocket content for separate presentations.
  • It is more costly, but you can distribute DVDs or CD-ROMs. While they aren’t useful during the presentation, they are very engaging takeaways. If possible, don’t use a paper sleeve to hold the media. Upgrade to vinyl or something else less flimsy than paper if you can.
  • For smaller groups, create binders with information that you keep and use again. Hand out just a key page or two to each person to keep after the presentation. You can also just make handouts available for those who wish to take one. Reuse what people didn’t want.

Overall, adding handouts to your digital presentation enhances your lecture or pitch. It engages your audience and helps them remember you later. Handouts are also another platform to represent your company in a professional, competent manner. Handouts aren’t wasteful; they create opportunities for both you and your audience.

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