How to Create an Amazing Handout that Works for You–and for the Audience!

If you’re doing any kind of teaching, whether it’s in a workshop or in a retreat setting, chances are you may get asked to provide a handout. That doesn’t mean you have to photocopy them–often you just email it to the organizer a few weeks ahead of time.

But often we get quite nervous about handouts. What should we include? How long should they be?

I believe a handout should serve two purposes:

1. It should provide action points, tips, or some benefit to people so that they will want to keep it.

2. It should have your contact information and an invitation to find you on the web, so that people can recommend you to others easily.

People will only keep handouts if they’re useful; the trick, then, is to make them useful!

Let’s talk about what NOT to do first:

1. Do not simply repeat all your speaking points.

Summarizing is good; spend perhaps one page with your key points and key Scriptures so that people can find them again. Do not simply regurgitate everything you said, though.

2. Do not leave it to the organizers to put headers or footers on, or to provide extras.

Produce the whole thing yourself! Don’t email the organizers with discussion questions that you want included; write up the page. That way you’re sure that each and every page contains your website and a link to your blog.

Here’s what you SHOULD do:

1. Provide amazing extras.

If you talked about how to find more time in the day and focus on God’s priorites, for example, provide a chart where people can plan their day. Provide a chart for Bible reading. Provide a menu planning chart. Provide something that people will actually want to use again and again. If they’ll want to photocopy it, then you’ve done your job! If it is something they may want to use again, provide a link to your website where they can download a new one, in case they didn’t photocopy it before they started filling it out!

2. Provide discussion questions or guided journalling questions.

Make your handout something that people can take home and continue to learn from. Think of the talk as the jumping off point–now where are they going to go? Provide questions to take them deeper. Leave lines on the piece of paper so that people can write in their answers in the blanks. Suggest that they journal through some of the questions.

3. Provide sample prayers.

If you’ve been honing in on a specific message–Is God Enough? Can I truly surrender?–then on your handout you can provide prayers that people can pray to truly surrender everything to Him. Spend a page just helping people pray through various issues.

4. List Relevant Resources.

If you have interesting resources that you may have mentioned in your talk, but you didn’t have time to delve into, provide these, too. Maybe it’s a list of books you mentioned that you like. In our marriage seminars that my husband and I do, we often refer to personality tests, so we provide links in the handouts to various personality tests people can take online. Handouts are a great place to provide extra resources so taht people are more likely to continue to think about the issues you raised and take these to a deeper level! If you know of online quizzes that relate to your topic, include those, too (or better still, create a quiz yourself!).

Handouts are far more likely to be read and kept if they seem like “additional” or “supplemental” material, rather than just summarizing what you said. If it summarizes what you said, then people who paid attention are likely to think that there’s no use in reading through it, because they already know it. If, on the other hand, there are more resources so that they can continue to follow on the road that you’ve paved, then they will keep it and use it.

You don’t have to include all four points, but try to excel in at least one. Handouts typically run from 3-7 pages, so you don’t have to create a novel or anything like that. And remember that a 7-page handout often provides lots of space to write in, so it’s not like you’ve typed seven single spaced pages!

Then, and here’s the important part–Make it easy for people find you!

1. Provide the name of where you’re speaking and the date on the front page, so people remember where they got it.

2. Use a header/footer on every single page with your name and website.

3. If you are providing something they may want to reuse, provide an internet link on that page where they can download a new one.

4. Invite people to one specific thing online where they can get to know you better–sign up for a newsletter, read your blog, follow you on Facebook, whatever! Near the end of the handout, invite people to find you in at least one specific place! You can also provide a coupon for people to use at your online store (if you have one), or an advertisement for one product you sell that’s especially relevant to that talk.

If people are able to find you easily, it becomes easier for them to recommend you to others who are looking for speakers! So use your handouts well. If you provide a well thought out handout, it’s more likely people will internalize your message and go deeper with God, and it’s more likely they’ll find you again!

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