It has been seven years since I covered this topic in my blog, and it's time for a revisit to some "top tips" for turning slide presentations into handouts.
I won't belabor the old chestnuts you should already know and live by…
- If you can just print your slides and use them as a handout, you have lousy presentation slides. Your slides SHOULD need additional explanation, otherwise what is your role as a speaker? Make a handout that adds more than just your presentation display content.
- Yes, people often request copies of the presentation ahead of time "so they can take notes as you speak." Don't do it. It undermines the effectiveness of your talk.
One easy way to add explanatory text to your slides when you print them is to place text boxes right on the slides themselves. I learned this trick at one of the annual Presentation Summit conferences when Nolan Haims presented it. You can watch Nolan's presentation on YouTube, explaining this tip and many other valuable design techniques.
The trick is to add two animations to your print-only text elements and make them the first animations on the slide:
- Appear (With Previous)
- Disappear (With Previous)
When you run the slide in slideshow mode, the elements effectively appear and disappear instantly, so viewers see nothing. But printing ignores the animations and the elements get printed with all the other slide content. Very cool!
If you use this technique in a webinar, make SURE to test the slide display to verify that the animations show up in the conference room the way you expect. Web conferencing products are notorious for ignoring or altering animation effects.
The second technique takes more work, but produces a more sophisticated handout. Instead of placing additional explanatory text on the slides, use PowerPoint's speaker notes to write out the explanatory text in full sentences and paragraphs. Instead of jotting quick notes for yourself, write in "book format" so the display slide acts as an illustration accompanying each page of text, just as it acts as an illustration for your live speech when you are presenting live.
Now you can save the notes pages as a PDF, effectively creating an "eBook" electronic document of your entire topic.
I used to save the notes pages by using the PowerPoint Print command and choosing the destination as PDF. But the output quality is poor. I find I get much cleaner PDF files by using the PowerPoint Export command and choosing "Create PDF/XPS."
Make sure to click the "Options…" button and change "Publish what" from Slides to Notes pages.
In my next post I'll add some additional tips about formatting your notes pages to make them look better as a handout.