6 Top Tips for Creating Memorable Handouts & Manuals by Steve Cherches


“6 Top Tips for Creating Memorable Manuals & Handouts”
by Steve Cherches

Remember that amazing seminar you went to a little while back? So much great information and plenty of food for thought. You left the seminar at end of the day with your manual in hand – chock full of new ideas and your brilliant notes. And you were ready to take action!

Then, if you’re like me… you went home and put the manual front and center on your desk because you knew that you were going to refer to it constantly. As time went by (and you needed more desk space), you decided the manual needed a new home… so you placed it on your bookshelf – wedged in between your copy of Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends & Influence People and your high-school term paper on Catcher In The Rye. But don’t worry, that manual will always be there when you need it, and you’ll be reminded of that in 10 or 20 years when you’re packing up to move to a new home, and you come across that aging manual with its now faded text and yellowing pages.

Why do we inevitably toss aside our handouts, manuals, workbooks, or notes after we take these inspiring seminars? I suspect there are many reasons, but here are my top three:

  1. Information overload. When you’re taking the seminar, you digest the information over time, and it all makes sense. When looking back at the manual without context or story, it’s often difficult to remember what it all means.
  2. Text, text, and more text. It’s sometimes difficult to be inspired to read a lot of dense, printed information without meaningful visuals.
  3. U-G-L-Y… Ugly. Plain and simple, it’s just not fun to look at something that doesn’t look good.

So, as presenters, program designers, and trainers, what can we do?

Create handouts and course manuals that people will want to refer back to… again and again. Make it clear, streamlined, and visual. Here are 6 Top Tips for creating handouts that won’t get stuck on the shelf:

1. Edit Ruthlessly – Focus on the core of your content and the meat of your message. What do you need your audience to know, and what do you want them to remember?

2. Color – The world isn’t black and white, so why should your manual be? Liven it up with color.

3. Visuals – Incorporate meaningful visuals that enhance understanding and amplify the message.

4. Models – No, not those kind of models! Conceptual models…! People are more likely to recall and understand the concepts (and more apt to take action) if they can see the concept. Make it visual and understandable.

5. Workbook it – Turn your manual into an interactive workbook, so your audience can fill in the blanks as they move along, and process information in their own way. You want your audience to not only see it and think it, but also to feel it and engage with it.

6. Marry your presentation to your manual – Use visual cues and content cues that harmoniously sync your verbal presentation, visual presentation, and your manual.

If you want to make sure that your powerful messages don’t get tossed into the “manual graveyard,” create materials that will Educate, Engage, and Excite™ your audience long after the seminar has ended.



10 thoughts on “6 Top Tips for Creating Memorable Handouts & Manuals by Steve Cherches

  1. toddcherches

    Really great post! And those are some of the most visually attractive workshop materials I’ve ever seen. (And I’m not just saying that because I’m his brother. I swear ! :)

  2. Rachel

    These are such great tips…and yes, I am the person who saves materials and never looks back at them…now I know why. Rarely, do materials look like the ones you are suggesting. Great post. Thanks!

  3. UWS Patrick

    good piece, and I like your logic here. i particularly like the emphasis on use of color in the handouts (because i always take the cheap route, but you’re right about this), and conceptual models (the science tells us adults think in pictures and graphics). good points, thanks for sharing!

  4. Seth Foster

    All good points that anyone developing handout material (for a course or even a general presentation) should adhere to. I think point #6 really helps one remember the specifics of the course and retain the information best. Thanks for sharing a very useful- and relatively easy to implement post.

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