If you work as a creative, whether as a web designer, graphic designer, painter, sculptor, or even creating social ads, you have probably asked yourself at some point; “How do I effectively present my creative idea?”. If you haven’t, then you probably should.
The old adage goes; if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. If you’re in a position where you have to present your creative ideas either for approval, support, or feedback, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about that presentation, preparation for the presentation, and next steps or followup after your presentation. Here are some good tips and tricks on how to effectively present your idea and gather feedback.
A Solid Foundation
Do you know what your audience is expecting? Have you set the foundation for what will be presented, what the client should expect to see, and what type of feedback you are looking for? You are setting yourself up for failure if you fail to communicate that this is a rough draft and the client or your boss is expecting something more polished. Make sure you’ve set those expectations early.
This also includes giving your audience guidelines for what type of feedback you are looking for. Are you pretty set on the overall design and just want their feedback on color? Tell them that BEFORE you show them your work. Is this presentation more of a brainstorming session about general directions and ideas? Tell them that BEFORE you show them anything so they can prepare themselves mentally to look for the type of feedback that you are looking for.
If you don’t set a solid foundation for your presentation, your audience will assume that it’s open mic and you may start getting feedback, opinions, or questions that you weren’t prepared to field or answer.
Setting The Stage
Of course we’re assuming that you’ve really put your best foot forward with this idea and that is an accurate representation of your skills. No amount of tips and tricks can save you if you didn’t put the effort in to begin with. Assuming that you have spent a considerable amount of time sketching, prototyping, brainstorming, researching, etc, then you need to make sure that the client understands the work that has gone on behind the scenes.
You want to take your audience through the same creative process (abbreviated, of course) that you went through to get to your idea. You need to set the mood. There should be some creative passion or energy behind your work else the presentation of your idea WILL fall flat. You must successfully convey the message that this idea has already been through the refiner’s fire and that only now is it ready for their feedback.
How do you communicate the effort put into your creative idea? You can show them the sketches, the iterations, the color palettes, or the mood boards you used for inspiration. You can go into detail about the research you conducted based on their initial direction or instruction and the paths that you went down during that. You can pull up examples of competitors or industry leaders and what they’re doing. All of this should be done before you present your creative idea in one way or another. You need to set the stage.
Present With Confidence
Let me preface this section with this warning; you can’t make up for lack of preparation with confidence. That being said, all the preparation in the world means nothing if you’re unenthusiastic during your presentation.
How do you generate confidence for your presentation? Here are few suggestions:
- Prepare before hand the questions you’re going to ask and how you’re going to ask them.
- Practice giving your presentation alone or to somebody you trust.
- Record your presentation and rewatch it. Does your presentation seem long-winded or slow? Are you talking too fast?
- Prepare how you’ll begin your call. Find something you can use to lead into your actual presentation.
The real question is this: are you genuinely excited about what you’ve created? Then everybody needs to feel it. Presenting with confidence does not mean steam-rolling your audience, but it does mean knowing the right questions to ask and how to answer questions even if you might not have the full answer.
Be O.K. With Saying “I Don’t Know”
Don’t feel like you have to have all the answers. Even if you position yourself as a professional in your field, it is ok to not be a walking encyclopedia.
Now, you should be prepared to answer questions that somebody would reasonably expect somebody in your position to know, but it is impossible to predict all of the off-the-wall queries you’ll get. You do not have to know everything and it is totally acceptable to say “I don’t know”, as long as it’s followed up with “, but let me find out for you”. Your audience will appreciate your honesty and your resourcefulness and diligence when you do return with an answers to all their questions.
Know How To Ask For Feedback
Knowing how and when to ask for feedback is arguably the most important part of your presentation or pitch, otherwise this meeting really doesn’t have a whole lot of purpose. Deciding how to ask for feedback and opinions is going to depend on several key factors:
- Is the purpose of this presentation to get feedback on specific details (colors, fonts, positioning, wording, etc) or opinions on general directions, pathways, and ideas? If you are looking for feedback on specific elements, your audience needs to know that BEFORE you ask them for feedback. They need to know that the general direction or concept has already been decided and that all you’re looking to change are some very specific pieces.
- Are you looking for approval or feedback? If you are looking for approval, then ask for it. Asking for feedback when you don’t need or want it can open a door that is very hard to close. Is this a green-light, thumbs-up, rock-and-roll kind of meeting? Or more of a “What would you change?” sort of thing?
- Are there other people working on this project with you? If there are other parties or individuals who are responsible for parts or pieces of your creative presentation, the audience needs to understand what role you play both in the creation, edits, and communication of feedback to the rest of your team. Asking for feedback on a solo-project is very different than asking for opinions that you can pass along to the team. You may need to prepare your responses to feedback; “This is great, let me check with my team to make sure that is something we can do” or “I can bounce these ideas off the rest of the team and get back to you with what we decide”.
Remember: You Are The Expert
At the end of the day, you are the creator and the expert in this relationship. Your audience should understand that when you make decision it is based on your expert/professional experience and that represents your opinion. As anybody who has been in the creative for very long understands, you will have clients or bosses who request changes or edits that go against everything you know to be right as a creative. In those situations, you need to remember that you are the expert and that you need to make sure that your opinion, and sometimes opposition, is at least expressed and respected.