Join Petrula Vrontikis for an in-depth discussion in this video Averting disaster and bad decisions, part of Running a Design Business: Presentation Skills.
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Unfortunately, presentations in the approval process can go wrong. Here are a few techniques that I've used over the years when problems arise. The first and more important, keep the conversation on objective points, by stating the problem you are given, and the logic behind the design solution. A few years ago I asked an esteemed colleague how he got approval on such gorgeous design work. His secret was to always keep his language in objective terms.
Prior to designing, he painstakingly worked with the client to, to define the problem and get the consensus from them on the criteria for the project. When the time came for presenting, the discussion was never about likes or dislikes, color or font choices. It was about the unique, and visually compelling ways, the problem had been solved. It's all about putting your design solutions in the context of a business goal, and taking the conversation away from any discussion of aesthetic preferences.
Because everyone has a favorite color. That's not the point. The point of good design is to work with the client's intended purpose. You need to convince them that you have done just that. If someone asks you a challenging, or aggressive question, it's very important that you don't appear defensive. One of the best strategies is to make sure you know what they're asking. Pause a moment, then restate their comment. Ask for clarification.
Know exactly what's being challenged before you respond. Designing on your computer as a client looks over your shoulder seems like a good idea, but it sets the precedent of making you immediately available on a whim to be their hands. It positions you as just someone who knows software versus being a design expert. If you do this one time, you will be asked again in the future. One of the main problems that causes difficulty is when someone new enters the picture.
Someone not involved in the kickoff meeting, in the project brief phase, development stages, or in previous approval stages. He or she doesn't have the same understanding of what direction you were given, or what criteria have been agreed upon. Without this orientation, he or she often derails the process. Clients sometimes think it's a great idea for someone new to come in and give a fresh perspective. If you sense that this may be happening, ask the new person to be given the background on the project.
One of the most difficult disasters to deal with, is when someone says something that paints an awkward picture in everyone's mind. For example, that logo looks like a giraffe doing yoga. Once someone says that, no one can ever look at the logo again without thinking about a giraffe doing yoga. I wish I had better advice here, but many times it's so powerful that it taints the work. We often have to make changes or go to another design.
Surprisingly, a common reason why clients make bad decisions, is because designers show them extra designs just to prove they've been working really hard. Designers think the client won't possibly choose that one, but clients often do. Never show anything that you don't want a client to choose. Most presentation disasters can be avoided. It's difficult to remain objective when you feel so strongly about your work. It's exceedingly important that you maintain grace and professionalism, no matter how you're being challenged.
- Presenting one-on-one, to a team, or to a larger audience
- Choosing a presentation format
- Introducing your design and providing context
- Persuading your audience
- Developing visual aids
- Creating a great first impression
- Understanding verbal and nonverbal cues
- Getting approval
- Facilitating a Q&A session