One of the most overlooked aspects of design is how to effectively present designs to clients. At the end of the day, there are lots of aspects of design that are subjective and as a designer it is your job to sell your designs in a way that inspires confidence and trust.
Making presentations to clients is a skill that all designers struggle with. In this post I am going to share some tried and true strategies for making great presentations, as well as things to avoid.
Before the Presentation
Confirm Meeting Details & Set Objectives
Before you do anything else it is important that you confirm all of the meeting details with your client. When and where will you be meeting? What objective are you trying to accomplish in this meeting? Once you have answered these questions, be professional; show up on time and be prepared.
Design Your Presentation
If you are an introvert like me, client presentations can be stressful. So the greatest gift that you can give yourself is a well-designed presentation that helps to steer the conversation in a productive direction. When creating your presentation, limit each slide to one design/idea. This ensures that everyone in the meeting will stay on topic and not be distracted by other competing designs. Include mockups to help your client visualize your designs as they will exist in real life. This could include placing a logo design onto images of tote bags or coffee mugs, or showing it on a webpage. Be sure to keep the mockups relevant to your clients industry. Last, but not least, triple check your spelling and make sure that your images are sharp and in focus.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Once you have designed your presentation materials, practice what you will say for each slide. Be prepared to explain all of your design decisions in terms of how they accomplish your clients goals. Make these design conversations about the objective, not the subjective! Finally, anticipate the questions that your client may ask but don't be afraid to say “I don’t know” or “I’ll have to check on that”.
During the Presentation
Nothing will alienate your client faster than using jargon when you explain your design decisions. Your client is not a design expert, that is why they hired you. But do you know what your client is an expert at? Their business. Frame your presentation around how your designs will improve their business. Now instead of feeling overwhelmed and confused, your client will be engaged and excited about the work that you are doing for them.
Ask Leading Questions
Do not EVER ask “What do you think?” or, worse yet, “Do you like it?" These questions lead nowhere and will not achieve your objectives. Instead, ask leading questions such as: “Does this reflect your brand?” “Does this appeal to your target audience?” “Does this solve the problems that we outlined in the Creative Brief?” etc. These questions will give you the targeted feedback that you need for your design process. You are the professional here, you are not desperate for validation.
If you can, have someone take notes for you. Otherwise consider recording the meeting (with your clients approval, obviously) or take notes discreetly. Don’t rely on your memory alone, because you will forget things.
After the Presentation
Thank everyone who was involved
As designers getting feedback from our clients is essential to our process, and it often means that our clients are taking time from their day to be involved. Thank them for their time and for their feedback.
Send A Summary of what was discussed
On the same day as the presentation, send a summary of what was discussed to everyone who attended. This ensures that everyone is on the same page and that there is a clear record of what was discussed.
Let it simmer
Don’t push your client to make decisions immediately after presenting designs to them. Allow time for everything to sink in and for any remaining questions to be addressed.
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By following all of these steps before, during, and after your client presentations you will come away from each meeting with exactly the kind of feedback you need and a clear understanding of what to do next…and your clients will come away with a renewed confidence in your abilities.
If you want to read more about client presentations I recommend:
Anything by Mike Monteiro of Mule Design Studio. He has literally written the book on client services. This is a great article of his about how designers mess up client presentations. Jamie Starcevich of Spruce Rd. also frequently writes about the client process.