AI generated photo of a woman falling asleep on the table at a presentation

AI generated image of a woman falling asleep at a boring presentation (Microsoft’s AI image generator)


I was barely hanging on that day.

I didn’t want to be in the room, wasn’t the least bit interested in the work-required presentation, and tired (literally!) of jolting myself out of almost sleep every 10 seconds.

And then came the next slide.

A full (and I do mean FULL) paragraph of some legal statement about somethingorother. There were 260 words on that slide!

How do I know there were 260 words on that slide? I counted! I counted the words on the slide rather than reading them or listening to the presenter read them to us.

And then I did something I’m not particularly proud of, but temptation won the day. I surreptitiously snapped a photo and texted it to a presentation designer friend for a good giggle. Anything to save the day. 

Now, that legal lingo was indeed important and something the audience that day needed to have access to after the presentation. It just didn’t need to be projected on screen and certainly not read aloud. But we’ve all probably done this. We created the presentation slides, printed them out, or PDF-ed them and gave them to our audience because they needed some of the important text or figures. It doesn’t have to be this way! 

Presentation slides are NOT handouts! 

My teaching slide decks are HUGE! They’re designed for presentation, not distribution. Most of my slide designs are simple, image-based, contain little or no text, and would be meaningless without me there to present them. They’re designed to align with and support my teaching and talks. I also have a collection of hidden “just in case” slides sitting at the end of the deck, ready to be pulled into action if I decide at the last second to use them. These decks contain a lot of imagery, icons, the occasional 3D model (fun!), custom fonts, sometimes videos, and other elements that swell the file size, making them challenging to distribute. For these reasons and more, I create separate handouts for my audiences and workshop participants. 

Sounds like a lot of work, I know. And for me, it is. But it’s a labor of love—love for my audiences and workshop participants. A good handout is a gift—key information they need in order to retain and be able to apply it later.

There are several ways, however, to shave time off the task of creating good handouts. Most involve investing a little time up front to save more time later. 

Creating custom handouts—Method #1

Perhaps you do want people to have your slides after a session, but you also want them to have some text that explains the slide or concept you’re sharing. Take advantage of the Notes Master and Notes Pages in PowerPoint to design a handout from your slides. Here are three ways to leverage the built in Notes feature. 

⭐️ The one-star solution:

Use the Notes Pages. Type the text you want participants to have in their handout in the speaker notes section of each slide as you’re working on your slides. Then, select Notes Pages in the print dialogue box and distribute. Easy-peasy.

Customization options are limited. You can temporarily hide some slides so that they don’t become part of the handout (just remember to unhide them before presenting). You can add elements like shapes, graphs, photos, adjust the text, and change the size of the content placeholder and slide thumbnail on each page by clicking View>Notes Page. BUT, you are making these adjustments to only one page at a time. 

Not the most elegant solution, but it is the quickest if you don’t want to customize each page. 

The downside? You won’t have speaker notes available if you use Presenter View during your presentation.  (screenshot) 

Showing Notes Page vs Note Master icons on PowerPoint ribbon

Learn to use the Notes Page and Note Master in PowerPoint to create handouts.

⭐️⭐️ The two-star solution:

Use the Notes Master. Best time to do this is you start to design your presentation slides. Go to View>Notes Master (not Notes Page!) and create a design for all handout pages. 

Customization is virtually unlimited here. You can make all the changes listed in the one-star solution, but now, they will propagate to ALL slides! Consider simple design elements, like a band (narrow rectangle) at the top and/or bottom. Add a customized header or footer. Add a small company logo. 

From there, follow the directions above for the one-star solution. Now, you have a handout that is custom designed—a definite improvement over the one-star solution! Again, however, you won’t have your speaker notes with this method. (screenshot) 

⭐️⭐️⭐️ The three-star all-pro move:

Use the 3-in-1 solution. This one is genius! (wish I could take credit for it) Go to Vew>Notes Master. Design your handout as described in the two-star method, but before adding any design elements, slide the existing content placeholder off the slide onto the pasteboard (the pasteboard is the space outside of the slide). Be sure to leave a note in a textbox above it for anyone else who is collaborating with you, letting them know not to delete it. These are your speaker notes! You will add them in Normal View as you’re developing the presentation slides, and they will appear when you’re in Presenter View. 

Now, go ahead and design your handout. Change the size and placement of the slide thumbnail (or delete it), add design elements, cutomize header/footer, etc. 

To add textboxes and notes to each page, you’ll go back to Notes Page and add the textboxes and text there. You can also add photos, graphs, etc. to individual Notes Pages. 

Why do it this way? If you’re used to using speaker notes and Presenter View when you present, this technique will still allow you to see your speaker notes, and create a custom handout that only shows your participants the text and images meant for them. Brilliant, huh? My friend Stephy Hogan pioneered this “3-in-1 presentation” technique. 

Creating custom handouts—Method #2

Create a separate PowerPoint deck to be a handout. This is my preferred solution. I like creating handouts in letter size portrait orientation, very different from my slide deck with a widescreen landscape orientation 16:9 aspect ratio (13.33 x 7.5”). I do this by going to the Design>Slide size, and changing the slide size to 8.5 x 11” and portrait orientation. I designed for myself a very basic template with my custom colors and fonts, logo, and branding elements. For most of my talks and workshops, the first and last pages are identical (except for the title of course), so this makes it easy to create new handouts for new versions of my workshops and talks. 

What handouts could include:

  • Lists, processes or frameworks that participants want to remember
  • Quotes
  • Links
  • Relevant examples
  • Additional resources for extended learning
  • Next steps
  • Extra content
  • Key takeaways


  • Your contact info!


Here are sample pages from several of my talk and workshop handouts:

example handout pages in a GIF




Interested in a talk or workshop on PowerPoint slide and handout design, teaching or learning strategies, or any of the topics I offer? I’d love to chat with you.