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Fiona Pollock

Zostera Ltd

Learning Consultant & Coach

Read more from Fiona Pollock

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3 reasons not to give handouts


Nowadays, handouts are commonplace.  And most often they are given out to learners/delegates at the start of a session.  Here’s our top three reasons why you should never give handouts until the end of your session:

1.  Without handouts people will be more likely to take their own notes.

When given a handout, most people assume the key points will be in it.  Consequently, they are unlikely to take any additional notes. And of course to an extent they are right.  The key points as you see them as the facilitator will be in it.

However, you don’t know what each individual delegates current knowledge is, you don’t know the gaps they are trying to plug or the specific issues they are facing.  Instead of giving handouts at the start of the day, provided notes pages and encourage delegates to take notes throughout the day of the things that resonate with them and the things that they believe they most want to remember.

I’ve done this habitually for a while now and people understand how only they can create the most effective record of the learning event for them.  (If there is a handout to be provided at the end of the session, I will let people know this and give an outline of what it will contain e.g. the handout contains copies of all the models we’ll be talking about today).

2.  Without notes to look at people are more likely to remain engaged.

Quite frequently, once they have a handout in front of them people think that they no longer need to pay full attention.  I suppose because they assume that the handout will provide all the information they need.  They don’t necessarily appreciate the in-depth knowledge you provide as you are expanding on models/theories/diagrams etc.

3.  Without notes, people can’t skip ahead.

There is nothing worse that introducing a topic to a group and posing an introductory question to a group (such as “what do you think the key characteristics of a leader are?” for example), and then having someone – who has turned the page of their handout pack – read the list of key characteristics out to you.  Not only does this throw your timetable totally out of whack, but it also kills the opportunity for discussion and exploration of ideas, which as you know is part of the process of the learning process.

If you don’t issue the handouts at the start of the session, you don’t run this risk.  People can’t skip ahead (and they will – even if you tell them not too.  Sometimes especially if you tell them not too!)

Try it!  Keep your handouts until the end of your session and see how things go, I’d love for you to come back and let me know if it made a positive difference for you.

Author Profile Picture
Fiona Pollock

Learning Consultant & Coach

Read more from Fiona Pollock

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