You’ve put in the long hours day and night for the last week and it’s time to finally present your concepts to the client. Your concepts are solid and you feel it’s exactly what the client and, more importantly, the audience needs. Don’t let a bad presentation take your beautiful work and turn it into a mediocre mess.
Even the best designers in the world need to know a couple of things about presenting their work and managing a client/designer relationship.
1. Present with confidence
The biggest rookie mistake designers make is that they don’t present their work with confidence. Everyone gets nervous, but meetings are not the place to be shy. When I first started designing in college, I used to have shaky hands and my voice would crack like I was going through puberty, but I finally learned one thing to help me get by.
Confidence comes from knowing you put the work in. You put in the long hours and went through all the research and client briefs to provide the best solution to the client’s problem. Why shouldn’t you feel on top of your game at this point? Just believe in your work.
2. Defend Your Concepts
This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the previous tip, but don’t be afraid to push back on the client if they are making the wrong decision. Be ready to explain every single pixel committed to the screen and why it’s important. Without that your work will have no legs to stand on.
If you’re having trouble vocalizing why you’re doing what you’re doing, just remember design is about solving the client’s problems. Whether that’s a communication (graphic design) or a behavioral (interactive design) problem, start from there and you’ll find that your rationale will be much more convincing.
3. Listen to Criticism
Always make sure to listen to the client’s comments and any user feedback. No matter how un-intelligible it may be at times, they might have insight on something that you never thought of (especially if it’s in a market you have no experience in).
Also, be careful and don’t take all criticism at face value. You have to really listen and find the heart of the issue because most of the time your clients will not be able to vocalize the exact problem. If the criticism is especially cryptic, just dig deeper and you’ll eventually come to the root of the problem.
Don’t take “I just don’t like it…” as a response. Ask more questions.
4. Don’t be a “Yes Man”
I’ve put in a lot of hours at various advertising agencies in the past couple of years and the worst thing that happens in client meetings is watching people become “yes men”. Bad account executives are notorious for doing whatever it takes to make the client happy, even if it’s at the expense of the project’s quality. It’s sickening to watch.
You have the benefit of not having a middleman when being a freelancer or running your own shop. So take advantage of it and make sure your ultimate goal is to produce the best product possible, not stroke the ego of the client. Put the egos away if you want something to be done right.
5. Find the stakeholders/decision makers
There’s nothing worse than presenting your work to someone and realizing that they have no sway or power. You jump through all the hoops and realize you have yet another set of people who have to approve of the design and direction. So, find the people who make the decisions and present to them alone. You’ll save everyone’s time and money that way.
Summing it up
Overall, remember that each client relationship you have is a balancing act between addressing needs, problem solving, and your knowledge of the impact of good design. Be confident in fighting for what you believe will produce the best work. In the long run your client will be pleased and, more importantly, it will keep you from throwing your computer and yourself out your office window.