13 ways designers screw up client presentations

Mike Monteiro, Keynote for Interaction Design Association, Mar 2015

A lively, enjoyable, and valid talk. Also, I like Mike´s slides very much.

Mike Monteiro´s Keynote for Interaction Design Association.

Assumptions prior to the client presentation:

The 13 things to avoid:

  1. You are not there to be the clients friend. Happiness is a side-effect of good design, not a goal. You are there to solve a problem. Having unpleasant conversations is part of the job, because avoiding confrontation is increasingly expensive.
  2. Not getting off your ass. You are giving the presentation. There shouldn´t be a doubt. You should give confidence to the client that they hired the right person for the work. Your confidence is the clients confidence. Humility is increasingly expensive.
  3. Starting with apology. Every time you apologize for something, you are freaking the client out. Every time you aplogize you are giving the client a reason to not trust you. Do not apologize for the work you are doing and are getting paid for. If you apologize, your client has to apologize somewhere the ladder up. You are always presenting the correct amount of work. Resetting expectations must have been done earlier – if necessary.
  4. Not setting the stage properly. Answer two questions: Why are we here?, and When can we leave? If the meeting is for design approval, let the client know it´s for design approval. The minute you get the approval, pack your shit and leave. The longer you stay, the more the chance you are undermining what you just got. Once you´ve gotten what you need, shut up.
  5. Giving the real estate tour. Never explain what the client can see right in front of them. „There is a logo on the left, here is the main menu, …“ Talk about the benefits of the work. Work like a scientist and present like a snake-charmer. Clients make decisions based on good story telling – which needs to be backed up by data.
  6. Taking notes. While giving a presentation you are too busy taking notes. You loose everybodies attention while taking notes.
  7. Reading a script. You need to convince the client that you are excited about what you are showing them. Show passion. Know why you have made the choices that you have made.
  8. Getting defensive. You are not your work and your work is not you. Your work has to meet the client goals. It is allowed to be critizised and you are allowed to defend it. Defending your work is not the same as getting defensive. When a client is giving feedback, it is a great time to listen. A quick reply always looks defensive.
  9. Mentioning typefaces. Do you really want the clients input on typefaces? Why should you ask? The more you dive into typefaces, grids and CSS selectors, the more you make the client feel uncomfortable, because they don´t know anything about it. A room full of people arguing about typefaces is boring. The clients comfort zone is business needs, not design.
  10. Talking about how hard your worked. The worst feedback from a client is, „It looks like you were working really hard on this“. The best work looks effortless, like it always existed. You are not getting graded on effort. You are there to solve a problem.
  11. Reacting to questions as change requests. Sometimes the client just has a question. Answer the question. The simple answering often makes it all go away. When you reply to each question, „oh, I can change it“ you are opening a can of worms, because something that could be handled with just answering is now a source of doubt. Probably other decisions you have made are now open to be questioned.
  12. Not guiding the feedback loop. Most clients have no idea what kind of feedback you are looking for. You need to guide them to the kind of feedback you need. Give examples: „How well does this reflect your brand? How well does this reflect your users needs? How well does this reflect your ad strategy?“ Keep the feedback questions to things the clients are subject matter experts of.
  13. Asking „Do you like it?“ You now gave away everything. Your research: wasted. Every decision up to this point: wasted. The client is no longer viewing you as an expert. You now invited subjectivity into the meeting with open arms. Typically you ask this question because of fear.