How to Create and Format Handouts in PowerPoint

Handouts can be a great way to enhance your PowerPoint presentation and provide your audience with a helpful reference tool. Well-designed handouts allow audience members to follow along, take notes, review key information later, and even share what they learned with others.

Creating effective PowerPoint handouts does take some strategic planning and design work. You need to decide which information to include, how to format it, and how to optimize the handout for printing and distribution.

In this blog post, I’ll walk you through a step-by-step process for creating professional, easy-to-use PowerPoint handouts.

Step 1: Plan Your Handout Content

Before you start designing your handout, you need to decide what information it should include. Here are some tips:

  • Focus on key takeaways. Don’t try to cram every slide from your presentation onto a handout. Select the most important information, statistics, bullet points, images, and quotes you want the audience to remember.
  • Provide context. Even if audience members miss parts of your talk, the handout should still make sense. Give a brief overview of your topic at the beginning.
  • Include attribution. If you use quotes, data, or images created by others, be sure to cite your sources on the handout.
  • Add value. Supplement your slides with detailed information, additional resources, your contact details, etc. Make your handout useful beyond just capturing your talk.

Step 2: Set Up the Handout Master

The Handout Master view in PowerPoint allows you to format a template that will apply to all printed handout pages. Here’s how to access it:

  1. In PowerPoint, click the “View” tab.
  2. Click “Handout Master” in the Master Views group.

A new slide will appear with the default handout layout. Now you can customize the following:

  • Slide placeholder size and position
  • Text boxes, shapes, and images
  • Fonts, colors, and theme
  • Headers, footers, and slide numbers

Use the placeholders to organize important handout sections like an introduction, key takeaways, your contact info, citations, etc.

Step 3. Add Handout Headers and Footers

Headers and footers are text boxes that appear at the top and bottom of every handout page. They should include:

  • Page numbers
  • The presentation title
  • Your name and/or company name

To add a header or footer:

  1. Click the “Insert” tab in the ribbon.
  2. Click the “Header & Footer” button.
  3. Select the placeholder you want to add.
  4. Type your text.

Use a smaller font (10 pt.) in the header and footer so they don’t distract from the main content.

Step 4. Print Preview Your Handout

Before finalizing your handout design, preview how it will look when printed.

  1. Click the “File” tab.
  2. Click “Print”.
  3. In the settings pane, choose “Full Page Slides”.
  4. Click the drop-down menu under “Handouts” to pick how many slide images you want printed per page.
  5. Scroll down to preview how the handout pages will appear.

Review the layout, formatting, page numbers, etc. and make any changes necessary in the Handout Master view.

Step 5. Export Handouts to Microsoft Word

For advanced formatting, you can export your handouts to Microsoft Word. This allows you greater editing capabilities while retaining the slide images from PowerPoint.

To export:

  1. Return to the “File” tab in PowerPoint.
  2. Click “Export”.
  3. Select “Create Handouts”.
  4. Choose a Word template and click “Create”.

In Word, you can tweak fonts, colors, alignment, spacing, indents, and more with better precision. Add tables, SmartArt graphics, detailed citations, additional text, and images as needed.

Step 6. Save Handouts as a PDF

For easy digital distribution, save your finished handout as a PDF file.

In Word or PowerPoint:

  1. Go to “File”>”Save As”
  2. Choose “PDF” from the save as type drop-down.
  3. Select publishing options.
  4. Click “Save”.

PDF handouts can be uploaded to a website, shared via email, or transferred to mobile devices.


Well-designed PowerPoint handouts can make your presentation more impactful, memorable and shareable. By following the steps above, you can create professional, polished handouts tailored to your audience.

The key is keeping the focus on your most important information and adding value for those who read the handout later. Take advantage of headers, footers, images, colors and spacing to make your handout easy to navigate.

With PowerPoint and Word’s formatting capabilities, you can produce handouts that perfectly complement your slides and elevate your speaking engagements.