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David Maister

A wise mentor of mine once taught me that, as a speaker or teacher, you can focus on one of three things: (a) yourself ("Aren't I impressive") (b) your material ("We will cover this in the chosen order no matter what happens") or (c) your audience ("Where are they in their understanding? What questions do they have?")

Phrased that way, the answer is obvious - only the third choice makes any sense unless you're an egotist or a control freak.

Hand the material out either at the beginning or in advance. Let the audience determine the flow.

michael webster

This is an interesting study because it calls into question what we want the audience to do. Is the audience experience intended to be one with everyone madly taking notes, or one with a view people actually listening to the voice?

Daniel Christadoss

This goes true for business/workplace as well where students are ultimately destined to be in. I have seen meetings progress faster when presentation material is sent along with the meeting invitation.
Team mates have time to read and prepare for the discussion. True, the discussion may even be elaborate but would definitely save time over the long run.

Wonder how this concept would work with brain storming sessions. Does an element of surprise bring in more creativity?

Peter Evans-Greenwood

If your slides have enough content on them to stand on there own, then you might as well hand them out and not bother with the talk.


An ex tutor of mine used to hand out the slides in advance but with gaps where the key words should be. The idea was that we would have to process the information instead of going from our ears to our hands and bypassing our brains and that we would still be free to listen rather than constantly scribbling. It was also designed to stop people cutting class by ensuring the handout alone did not contain enough information to pass the course.

It was an interesting idea, I have no strong opinion on whether it worked or not. Although it certainly didn't stop me cutting class, it just made it harder for me to catch up afterwards.

David Moisan

I have seen a surprising firestorm come up over handouts. The reasons cited for not allowing handouts are as you describe: Speakers do not want, do not want, people to read ahead!

I want handouts. I have the eyes of an old man and can't see the screen. The handouts let me focus on listening--and taking a few key notes if needed.

Some presenters just feel like the audience needs to take their information dribbled out at the speaker's pace. These are like the teachers who scolded me when I read later chapters of my textbooks than the ones we were covering. Goes over well with me, it does.


I'm curious to know what types of material was on the slides. I'm guessing that this would apply much more significantly for heavily text-driven PPTs. Passing out heavily visual slides in advance, or even slides with small amounts of text, would provide very little context to what is being presented.

In fact, passing out heavily text-driven PPTs might have the effect of reducing the amount of reading that people are doing while the professor is talking. Because the audience is familiar with the slides, they aren't as focused on reading the slides and can better listen to the presenter. As Andrew Abela notes in "Advanced Presentations by Design", the research is pretty clear that talking while projecting text is less effective than talking with no slides or projecting the slides and not talking at all!


The year of publication is 2010; the volume/page number is correct, though.

Hi.... I checked in several places and they all say 2009. See

Thanks for staying one me, but I think I didn't mess-up this time, but will in the future.

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