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A handout is a hard copy text which supports, expands on, organises or otherwise provides follow up to the training. It is usually very important to the participants to receive handouts. The handout is a very powerful training tool because, when it is well conceived and designed, it provides reinforcement of the information transmitted during the training session and it remains with the participant for a long time.

When developing handouts for training it is best to think about how they might be used after the training is over. Your handouts will be very successful if your participants can use them:

Reasons for giving handouts

The main reasons for giving handouts are:

Types of handouts

Presentation or lecture transcripts

This is a verbatim transcript of the speaker’s words. It is rare for an experienced speaker to read a script, but they may have produced something for publication which is based on a frequently delivered lecture

Background notes

Background notes might be used in conjunction with a range of training delivery methods. They are comprehensive and detailed notes on the subject which can be used by the class to inform exercises and workshops or to supplement a lecture when there is not sufficient time to cover everything.

A set of the OHP transparencies or the PowerPoint presentation print-out

This is a very quick and easy handout to produce, especially if no handout has been planned in advance. However, this type of handout can tend to have little value to anyone who has not been present at the lecture.

An outline of the presentation

An outline of what is to be covered in the lecture can help participants to orient themselves during the session. It can also be the basis of a partial handout which involves participants in filling in the detail with their own notes.

The course outline

Course outlines are appropriate when the training lasts for more than a day or two. It informs participants about what subjects will be covered each day.


A bibliography provides the class with a list of useful publications for background or more detailed information on the topics covered in the training. A good bibliography will be well organised into sections and provide full information about authors, publishers and dates of publication. If there is time to annotate the bibliography it will really help your participants in deciding how to focus their reading.


A webliography is a list of URLs or Websites which are relevant to the subject of the training. Although it is possible to produce a hard copy of a webliography, it can be more useful as a floppy disk or CD, since typing in URLs from a handout can be time-consuming and lead to errors. As with bibliographies, webliographies need to be well-organised and it is very useful to annotate them. Websites are much more dynamic than hard copy publications so, whilst this is a real strength, allowing your participants to have access to really up-to-the-minute information, it also means that they may change or disappear altogether. It is vital that you check your webliography regularly to ensure you are handing out accurate information.


A glossary is a list of terms with definitions that are particular to a given subject or area of expertise. It is usually organised alphabetically and may cross-reference or self-reference where synonyms or wider terms and narrower terms are included. Although there are published glossaries, it can be very useful to develop your own as a common reference so that your class know what you mean when you use specialist terms.

Bio-sketch of trainers and speakers

Bio-sketches of trainers and speakers provide participants with information about the experience and expertise of the people delivering their training. This can help the class to frame more pertinent questions and to take full advantage of the expertise of the trainers.

List of participants

Most individuals like to receive a list of their fellow class members. Such lists are usually organised in alphabetical order by surname and at the least contain first and surname and employer / organisation details. Depending on the agreement of the class they can also contain contact details.

Programme or timetable

As with course outlines, programmes or timetables of the training inform participants about what subjects will be covered during the training. They are typically provided as part of the training publicity or at least as pre-course materials but it can be useful to include them as a handout in case participants have forgotten to bring them along.


Diagrams can provide useful illustrations of, or aides-mémoire to the subject matter of a training session. Sometimes part of the learning process may depend upon the class copying the diagram but often it is more effective to provide the class with a copy.

Exercise, workshop or discussion outline

An exercise outline provides written instructions for the exercise, explaining what the trainer wants the class to do or discuss and produce by way of feedback. It means the individual members of the group can refer to these to clarify their understanding of oral instructions. The handout can also provide space for the group to write notes for themselves and to use as a basis for their responses to the class as a whole.

Incomplete handouts

Incomplete handouts are notes which provide guidance or direction for participants to fill in details of what they are learning in class — either during a presentation, as an exercise, on return to the workplace or as preparation for training. It can be useful to provide full notes at a later date.

Useful articles

Published articles which support or supplement the training session can be very useful handouts which don’t require a lot of work from the trainer. However, be sure to explain why you are giving it out and make sure you are not infringing copyright.

Examples of documentation covered by the presentation

This type of handout consists of copies of documents or sample documents which are relevant to the subject under discussion. Case studies and presentations on procedures and practice particularly lend themselves to this kind of material, such as examples of policies.

Quick quizzes and worksheets

Quiz sheets and other types of worksheets are handouts which can support, preempt or supplement a lecture or even the whole course. They can be used as an exercise, as a means for participants to evaluate their own knowledge before and after the training session. As with partial handouts, it can be helpful to provide an answer sheet after the exercise.

When to pass around handouts

It is important to distribute the handout at an appropriate time. If the handout is just bullet point headings and intended for the participants to add their own notes, it needs to be handed out at the beginning. If it is detailed notes it may depend on the type of class whether it should go out at the beginning or the end. If the handout is more interesting than the presentation you may lose the class by handing it out in advance. On the other hand, it may be that some of the participants find it easier to follow by reading along with the handout. If it is to be distributed at the end, you will want to tell the class that the detailed handout is to come and they can sit back and enjoy the presentation without needing to take copious notes.

Other kinds of handouts are appropriate for the very beginning of longer training courses — for example the trainer bio-sketch and the programme. With exercises, group work, workshops and even facilitated discussion a handout can help the groups or individuals to get started by succinctly explaining what they are expected to do and giving space to make notes on their responses.

It is important to think through how many handouts you have, when they will be given to participants and how they fit together. It can be helpful to give the class a binder in which they can collect and store their handouts.

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Last updated: 20 December 2005