Far harder than delivering the presentation is creating the handouts. It’s the hardest part of this entire process short of cooking up that awesome title two episodes back. Stay close.
We may have lost most presentation designers right here, in fact, ’cause when it comes to handout design most of them max out at hitting Print from PowerPoint’s file menu. These presenters take a low-resolution medium (PowerPoint slides; only a few lines permitted per slide) and port them to a high-resolution medium (paper; lots of lines permitted per page) without scaling up the content. An opportunity tragically missed.
Furthermore, lemme ask you, as a conference attendee, how many of those packets have you kept a day past the presentation? A year? We could work out some numbers real quick on the back of an envelope reflecting paper waste but the result, regardless of our estimations, is kinda sad, right? No one keeps those things.
I wanted to design something my audience would keep, something they’d use. I wanted the attendees to carry their handouts past the trash can propping open the door. I wanted them to reflect on their handouts often and, after finally internalizing their content decades later, hand them down to a younger teacher.
If you laugh I’ll get depressed again. Why should I aim any lower? Why would you aim any lower? What’s the point?
To accomplish this, I knew the audience had to build the handouts themselves, which isn’t the same as handing its members their own reams of blank legal. They needed lots of room to make the handouts their own, lots of blank space, but the blank space had to be carefully designed.
Two ways I could’ve blown this:
- I could’ve thrown down the points I wanted to make and then subbed in blanks for key words. Churches do this a lot.
- I could’ve handed them a blank piece of computer paper and let them write what they wanted, which would’ve been inane also, but for more obvious reasons than my last hypothetical blunder.
I mention it only to establish our extremes. Design equilibrium lies somewhere between handing them a blank slate and handing them a slide-for-slide PowerPoint printout.
Sure, there are a lot of folks who take a lot of pride in keeping up with those blanks, but that approach doesn’t generate anywhere near the kind of ownership I needed or the presenter-audience chemistry I wanted.
So I needed to design a handout that encouraged them to work, that begged them to put their own words to my situations. It had to look good. My audience wouldn’t bring me anywhere near its best if I hadn’t reciprocated in advance.
So I thought hard about the handout’s function and the process was simple after that. I divided a piece of letter paper into three partitions. I took half the page to illustrate each clichÃ©. I split the other half into quarters for the audience to a) identify the clichÃ© and b) concoct a method for kicking it out of the classroom.
We’re tackling five clichés. Here’s one of them.
What I got right:
- It would’ve been easy to leave the matter at white boxes for the cliché and its solution but, again, I wanted the design to be as inviting as possible, so I threw down some fine lines. (C – you reading this? That was you, girl.)
- I used a landscape layout because half a landscape is basically portrait and I needed lots of portraits. (Serious bonus points if you know who Roland Pryzbylewski is and what he’s doing here.)
- I coulda left it here too, five clichés and the solutions we constructed together. I was pretty sure if I facilitated things properly they’d walk away with a valuable document. Still I went ahead and threw on some assessment resources – completed tests, blank tests, blank concept checklists, templates galore – to complement the last and largest clichÃ©. And with that, we’ve value-added these handouts to death.
One way I blew this:
- I gave equal space to the clichÃ© and its solution. Ethically, this bugs me. Equal space implies equal weight implies the clichÃ© and its solution are doomed to this push-me-pull-you equilibrium when, in fact, it’s possible to demolish the clichÃ©s. It’s a subtle point but one which nagged me all morning.
If you think these things don’t matter, you’re only mostly right. Problem is, these little sacrifices compound quickly until all you’ve got is a great design that could’ve been.Should been this, with the second half split along the golden ratio:
Please take final note of fonts, photos, and layout, all of which will resurface during the slide design part of our show. If you’ve stuck with us from the start, I hope you’ve noticed by now that with a good presentation absolutely nothing is easy.
I’ll leave you with the handouts: