In the article 13 Ways Designers Screw Up Client Presentations, author Mike Monteiro outlines the various mistakes designers often make when presenting their work to clients. Unfortunately, I found myself all too familiar with many of the thirteen presentation pitfalls. Most of Monteiro’s examples had to do with self-assuredness, which involves almost everything I struggle to be. Even if I’m internally confident in my work, I consistently come off to others as reserved, apologetic, and easily swayed. This article opened my eyes to the multiple ways in which I’m failing both myself and my clients.
What I found myself most guilty of, ironically Monteiro’s number one mistake, was this: Seeing the client as someone you have to please. “The client didn’t hire you to make them happy or be their friend. Your decisions should revolve around adding your expertise to your client’s expertise to help them accomplish their goal. They will ask you to do things that run counter, in your expertise, to achieving the goal, and your job is to convince them otherwise. In the end, they will be better served if you see yourself as the expert they believe they hired. Doing the wrong thing to avoid an unpleasant conversation doesn’t do either of you any favors in the long run.” Oof – that’s me, right there, the avid people pleaser. I will do anything to make sure a client stays happy, including using three different display fonts in a logo. I knew it went against everything I’d ever learned about good design, however, just as Mike said, I did the wrong thing to avoid a potentially unpleasant conversation. After reading this article, I vowed then and there to never let my people pleasing nature get in the way of what I know to be right.
Monteiro’s third presentation pitfall was one I notice all too often in myself and in other student designers: Starting out with an apology. In almost every classroom critique I’ve been a part of, either myself or one of my classmates will begin our presentation by apologizing – “I’m sorry I didn’t have enough time to finish,” “I’m sorry it’s terrible,” “I’m sorry ____.” The article made it crystal clear that at the time of presenting, there’s no time for sorry. Present what you have and get to the point. And on the topic of giving student presentations, whether they’re for a critique or a final, it should seem as though you’re presenting to a client – that client or clients being the intended audience or user of your creation.
The eight mistake that designers often make when presenting to clients is also one I immediately knew I was guilty of: Getting defensive. “You are not your work and your work is not you. It is a product done to meet a client’s goals. The client is free to criticize that work and tell you whether he believes it has met those goals or not. You are free to disagree with him, and you are expected to be able to make a rational case for those disagreements. But you should not be getting emotionally hurt because of it, this is a job. There’s a difference between defending the work and getting defensive.” I have an extremely hard time separating my work from my worth as a human being, so critiques can (and have) gotten far too deep under my skin. I’ve always known it was a problem, but reading this section of the article reaffirmed that knowledge. I sincerely hope from this point forward to keep Monteiro’s words in mind when getting feedback on my work.
Overall, I found this article extremely helpful. While most of the mistakes I understood and recognized, I also learned gained new insight into the world of professionally presenting. Presentation pitfalls such as “Giving a real estate tour (explaining what people can obviously see in front of them),” “Mentioning typefaces (Talking about design specifics that the clients won’t understand and don’t care about),” and asking questions such as “What do you think?” or “Do you like it?” had previously never crossed my mind. However, as Monteiro explained them, I realized that these mistakes truly can completely ruin both your presentation and the way your client respects you as an expert. The idea that clients need to consistently view you as an expert (because you are, and that’s why they hired you) was drilled into my head, as was the importance of confidence and business savvy leadership. Three things I’m currently not so good at, three things I now vow to work harder at.