Handouts – Now there’s the pixeled rub.

Should I or shouldn’t I? When? How? Why? These questions are all connected to an interesting issue brought up within LinkedIn’s “Speaker’s and Panelists” group. Wendy Blomseth of InBeaute Photography asked a simple question, “Have you emailed your handout to attendees before your speaking event?”

As of this writing, close to twenty people have responded to Wendy, many claiming some level of success with emailed material. Some gave words of caution. I was one of the former.

As a speech communication faculty, trainer, and coach, a speaker and speech writer, I have seen too many errors concerning handouts in classroom and professional settings. Some are small but devastating, like “spelink” mistakes, “badder” grammar, and, poor punctuation!. Your handouts, in fact all of your audio and visual aids, reflect on your professionalism and what ever authority you have developed as to why the audience should listen to you, and pay for the privilege at that.

“There,” “their” and “they’re” are not handled by spell check. I read a handout last year that referred to South African Bishop Desmond “Tooto.” Then there was the handout packet that included an advertisement for a local store that had nothing to do with the presentation or the organization. Or lunch.

Ask yourself a question: When will the handout be needed?

If the handout is required for and referred to during the presentation, then make it available or hand it out before beginning the presentation.

If you are using the handout as a future reference tool, self-promotion, or a guide, have them available after the presentation. We have all attended too many meetings where the tables are cluttered with brochures, donation envelopes, handouts and notices, along with the salt, pepper, and coffee carafes. Or the last two minutes of the presentation are spent handing out the material.

I strongly suggest that you place handout information on a table where the participants will be leaving the room in display holders. This includes you business cards and any product that you may be hawking. You have much better control of the material and do not have to spend time cleaning up your mess from a dozen or so tables.

This is a position that Michelle Messina of Global Educational Program, LLC brought to the discussion. “I generally email my materials after the keynote, workshop or talk, in PDF.” It does reduce the distractions during the talk.

Do you have a complete emailing list before the presentation? Whether you do or do not, bring hardcopies for those who decided to show without registering. This is especially true with workbooks and PowerPoint notes.

If you do not, then make the PowerPoint or other notes available by email after the lecture. This is where smart marketing comes in. Do not provide the notes as an attachment, but lead the reader to your Web site. Have the notes posted there.

Others had some great suggestions and reminders. Like Valentino Martinez who reminded us that any handout needs to have your corporate information on the header or footer or both. This information acts like your business card and provides the contact information for a later follow-up.

Ann Kerian, of Ann Kerian: Consulting & Coaching, LLC, provided yet another warning. She said, “if an employee is busy and is debating whether to attend, they may choose not to as they believe they already have the information.” A good argument for offering information after the seminar.

Speaking of PowerPoint, do not printout each individual slide. That is a waste of time and money. Instead download a free application called “CutePDF.” When you have finished the PowerPoint, checked the spelling and the technical information go to “Print” and change the printer to “CutePDF.” Set the slide to “Notes” and three to a page, this will give the participant a place to write additional notes.

One rule I use for politicians and non-profits alike. Always lead the client to your Web site and to your donation page. Whether or not your formal presentation is asking for money, there is an expectation that you will. Have that Web link on ever page, paper or electronic. Make donation envelopes available at the presentations. Asking for the donation is as important as asking for the physical or ballot booth support.

The bottom line is that the more your name is in front of a potential client, the more likely they will call upon you to answer a question or meet a need or donates money. The more professional your look on paper or in pixel, the more likely you business will grow.

David Rosman is an award winning editor, writer, speaker and college instructor in Communications, Ethics, Business and Politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at ColumbiaMissourian.com and New York Journal of Books.com.

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About David Rosman

David is the winner of the Missouri Press Foundation's "Best Columnist" in 2013 (First Place) and 2014 (Second Place), the 2016 Harold Riback Award for excellence in writing, and the winner of the 2007 Interactive Media Award for excellence in editing.
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