If you’re giving a presentation at an industry organization luncheon, a community event or even to your entire team, handouts are a great way to enhance your presentation. There’s much debate as to whether handouts are a helpful tool or just a distraction, but when done correctly, handouts have the ability to serve as a valuable reference tool for your audience members.

It’s common practice for presenters to simply print out their slides and distribute them to their audience. However, this practice makes handouts pretty much useless. If you’re looking for ways to create effective and helpful presentation handouts, here are five tips:

Prepare your handouts in advance

Don’t wait until last minute to create your handout. We’ve all been in a situation where we’re spending so much time making sure our presentation is perfect that we forget about the handout and rush to put it together. Even though it’s tempting to put off the creation of your handouts, try to give yourself plenty of time to put them together. The more time you spend creating the handout, the more effective they’ll be. Handouts are too important to simply be neglected.

Avoid just printing out your slides

Printing out a copy of your slides isn’t just lazy; it’s also ineffective. If your slides are compromised of bullet points and partial sentences to help guide you through your presentation, there’s a good chance that your slides won’t make sense to your audience after your presentation. Additionally, if your slides are full of pictures, they won’t make sense to your audience without additional supporting text. If you’re set on using your slides as handouts, use the “notes” section at the bottom to give supporting details and useful information that will give context to your slides. When you print out your slides, make sure the “notes” section is included.

Ensure your handouts reflect your presentation

After an audience member leaves your presentation, you want them to be able to use your handouts to relate the handout to the presentation. If you use the “notes” section of PowerPoint, this should happen naturally as the notes you created will directly reflect your presentation. Make sure your handout has the same title as your presentation, and make sure you follow the same structure so your audience can easily find the information they want.

Distribute your handouts after the presentation

There is a long-standing debate as to whether you should distribute handouts before or after a presentation. There are many benefits to giving out handouts after your presentation rather than before. When you pass out handouts before a presentation, your audience will likely spend more time reading through your handout than actually listening to your presentation. When you distribute your handouts at the end, it serves as a summary of your presentation and won’t accidentally ruin any surprises or exciting moments you have planned. To ensure that your audience doesn’t leave without your handout, let them know at the beginning of your presentation that you’ll be distributing your handouts at the end.

Make sure your handouts look professional

Your handout is meant to serve as a summary of your presentation. There’s also a chance that it will be passed on to other people who couldn’t make it to your presentation. You want your handouts to enhance the perception people have of you and your business. To do this, make sure you always have someone proofread your handouts to ensure there are no spelling or grammatical errors. Also, try to create a look and feel that is consistent with your brand. Put your business’ logo at the top, use the same fonts and colors, use the same tone, etc. Your handouts will be a direct reflection of your company, so make sure that they look professional and represent your brand well.