Presenting Creative

or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Trust the Process

Your design skills in your sketchbook or behind the keyboard can only take you so far. There will be a time where you have to present those ideas. We can’t hide behind the Account Executive forever. As a creative, we need to be able to explain the thinking and strategy that shaped our designs. Yep, we have to become salesman.

What makes the client tick? What can you say to make sure they leave the meeting confident that your designs solve the problem they came to you to fix.

At the Presenting Creative event held in March at Keiser University, there were professionals from both the client side and the creative side giving pointers needed to evoke trust and confidence when pitching your next design. Carl Smith, Chief Keeper Upper & Founding Member at nGen Works, and Al Emerick, Vice President of Marketing & Communications, Health Physician Partners, held an interactive discussion where they engaged the audience with their tips, tricks and secrets on how best to be able to present creative.

Know Yourself – What kind of work do you want to be designing? Have a path set for yourself or company. Know where you want to take your company and what direction you want your design portfolio to take. This will build self confidence for you and your abilities by only having to present the work you truly want to be doing.

Know Your Client – We all want to work with people we like. Get to know the client before you get in a relationship with them. Learn their company history and know who you’re going to be working with at the company. Review their existing business site, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media sites. Become invested in their industry by learning all that you can to give yourself a possible advantage over the competition. If you don’t pay attention to the details of the company and the marketplace then how are you going to be able to properly build their brand?

Know the Problem – To be able to present creative properly you have to first know the problem you’re being hired to solve. Start with a creative brief that asks all the necessary questions about the target audience, the traits of your client’s brand and other important details that will influence your designs.

Know What to Say – During the meeting be sure to prime the client by talking about the strategy and position that shaped your ideas. Don’t just throw the visual out there and ask them “What do you think?” Those can be some of the worst words you can use when presenting. It opens up the door to their initial opinion and reaction which might focus on less important details and not the strategic bigger picture from creative brief and whether or not it solves the initial problem. Keep control of the conversation and revisit the initial problem that you were tasked with solving. Does your design fit with the requirements set forth? Does it solve the problem? Design work can be like a fine wine. Sometimes you just need to open it up and let it breathe before deciding if you like it or not.

Know the Approval Process – When you’re dealing with clients, especially in medium to large companies, the people you’re dealing directly with might not be the final decisions makers. Find out who gets final say on your designs/ideas and try to get access to them. If you aren’t able to get directly to them, then make sure your work speaks for itself. Include the original creative brief and problem you were tasked with solving. Name your ideas when their are more than one. Use adjectives that describe the positioning, using words like edgy, conservative, or forward thinking to differentiate each potential direction. Don’t just show, be sure to also tell why you’re solutions are the right solutions.

Sell Your Design Process – Revisit the creative brief to remind them of the task at hand. Let them know the steps you have gone through to get you where you are. Show artifacts from the process like mood boards, sketches, the creative brief, words and any other homework that went into your design solution.

Respect Your Design – If you don’t respect your work, time and experience than the client won’t respect it either. Enter the presentation knowing that you are the expert and the client hired you based on that fact. Keep the lead at the meeting and don’t let the client take hold of the presentation. End the meeting knowing that whichever direction they end up approving is one that solves the problem first defined on your creative brief.

Follow Up – Once everything has been approved, launched, printed or released to the public in some fashion be sure to follow up and find out how the work did. What kind of stats has the website seen? What kind of reaction has their audience had to the brochure? Is the rebrand actually working? This extra effort will give you extra understanding for the next project and will definitely show the client that you’re serious about the service you provide. The business relationship you create is just important as the work you create.

Ultimately, we want all of our projects to be approved. Be prepared if a design doesn’t get the green light. Toughen up and realize it’s not about you. It’s all about solving the client’s problem. Prepare yourself as best you can by knowing their business and industry. Sell your process and designs with confidence. Act like the expert that the client hired and you’ll leave every meeting knowing you have nothing to worry about. Just trust your process.

~ Ron, Business Outreach Director

By aigajacksonville
Published May 8, 2012