Design    5 min read

Getting the most out of your design presentations

Design Presentation

We’ve been mentoring a lot of junior designers lately and can’t help but notice many of them still come down with a case of the jitters when it’s time to pitch their work to clients.

We get it—it’s a nerve-wracking, emotional struggle when first presenting your work to a client. There’s so much that goes on behind the scenes preparing for the design presentation meeting. Blood. Sweat. Tears. Coffee. Whiskey. All these things have been poured into creating the perfect “thing” for your client.

When it’s time to finally present your work to the world, you might feel like you’d rather jump off a cliff than meet with the client. But don’t worry—we’ve come up with some tricks to help you feel more comfortable the next time you sit down and present your design work.

Start preparing before the client arrives

Like anything in life, preparation usually breeds success. Your design work is ready, but the foundation for the review meeting is just starting. The following will help you get in the zone:

Narrow down your choices

It’s important to make sure you’ve selected the best work to present to the client. Showing them too many options is 1) counterproductive and 2) a sure-fire way for them to make the wrong design choice. Review your design options internally so that you have no more than three tried and true directions to review in the presentation meeting.

Get your tools together

Now that you’ve got your design options sorted out, it’s time to figure out how you’ll present them. It’s always best to take your medium into account. For example, if you’re presenting mobile design, showcase your app design inside of an iPhone or Android device. It helps the client envision what the end result will look like and can help you get to sign off more quickly since they can actually see an end result.

Tools like InVision for organization and interaction or Mockuuups for visual demonstration give the client a better feel for the direction you’re proposing.

Consider your audience

You’ll likely have had some interaction with the stakeholder before your design presentation, so it’s important to present to them. By considering what makes them tick, you should tailor your presentation in a way that gives you the feedback you need to move forward.

Be energetic, get out of your seat, move around the room—bring out the response you’re looking to receive.

For example, if they’re a bit tight and hard to reach, make sure you engage them more. Be energetic, get out of your seat, move around the room—bring out the response you’re looking to receive. To do this though, you’ll need to make sure your design thinking is well informed and thought through. If you’re going to be that energetic and vocal, you’ll need to explain your design decisions and back up your opinions.

It’s all about telling a story. So tell the story the way you want to. You crafted the design, so there’s nothing wrong with crafting the presentation to your client’s needs and sensibilities.

It’s meeting time—you got this!

The big day’s finally here. You have your prep work out-of-the-way so you’re feeling more organized. If you’re still feeling a bit shaky, these key points will help you keep calm during the meeting:

Starting the design presentation off right

The first part of running a successful and efficient design review is setting the agenda. Let your stakeholders know what will be covered, but more importantly, what won’t be covered. If the design review was called to discuss mobile design layouts, then it’s an inappropriate time to discuss slight tweaks to the logo. Staying (and keeping) on task will benefit everyone and make for stronger, more succinct feedback.

Be confident (or fake it ‘til you make it)

You’ve put a lot of time and consideration into this meeting. You got this. And remember… you are a professional. The client is paying you for your professional insights and opinion. They’re looking to you for guidance and it’s your job to deliver.

Don’t lose your cool

You probably think you know what’s best for the client. And maybe you do. But design can be objective. Especially for people (a.k.a. your client) who might not be used to evaluating it on a daily basis. For that reason, and many others, it’s important that you leave personal feelings and ego at the door. There’s no room for that during a design presentation.

If you get defensive and emotional when a client questions particular design choices, you come off as someone who is difficult to work with. Not to mention you risk building up a wall between you and the client and that will lead to unnecessary animosity and distrust.

Keep a level head and listen—you’ll find you learn a lot more and will make more progress.

You did great! Now what?

Whew, the hard part is over. Now it’s up to you to take the client’s feedback and dissect it so it can be applied to the design and/or development flow. The following will help you get organized for the next phase of the process:

Review your notes

Hopefully, you or someone on your team was taking detailed notes about general feedback, direction, next steps, and deliverables. Take time to break these down either by yourself or with your team so that you know what direction to head in.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

If you are in the middle of the project, you’ll likely have a few more rounds of changes—which means more design reviews and presentations. Use what you’ve learned from the previous meetings and add a personalized touch to the process above. With every new chance to present your work, you gain valuable insight that can be applied during the next go around.

Honing your skills through practice and experience will lead to a more positive and productive design presentation. You’ll soon find yourself getting the right type of feedback from the client, which will, in turn, improve your work going forward.

Written by @mattdowney

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