If you work in marketing, advertising, design or development, at some point you will likely need to present creative work to a client, a potential client, or some other group of stakeholders. Marketing team members inside large corporations will also find themselves presenting creative to their lines of business or executives. Whether you are presenting your own creative work, or the product of an outside agency, doing a good job of presenting is a vital step in insuring the best ideas get produced. Getting comfortable with the process, planning ahead and following a few tips can help your presentation go smoothly.
- Give the presentation context and focus.
Start the presentation by reminding everyone of the project goals. Of course, everyone in the room is invested in the project in some way, but they likely have a million other things going on. Taking a few minutes to get everyone on the same page. Remind them of the problems the creative is trying to solve to get them thinking about the task at hand. Give people an idea of how the presentation will flow, what they will be seeing, and what kind of feedback you are expecting at the end. This will put them into a more psychologically safe frame of reference, and it also gives you a few minutes to calm your own nerves.
Use this time to explain the creative considerations that framed the work process. For example, if the budget only allows for certain production costs, remind people of that. Reiterate key audience insights and branding mandatories. You’re not using these considerations to make excuses—you are painting a picture of the world this piece inhabits. At d.trio we present creative in the following stages: Introductions, Background, Creative Considerations, Overall Creative Rationale, Concept Rationale and Creative Presentation, Next Steps and Thank You.
- Don’t read to them.
Yes, take a deck to show on screen. Yes, plan on leaving printouts of that deck behind or sending it electronically once the presentation is over. Yes, include your background and rationale in that deck, along with the creative and next steps in the process. But do not read the text to your audience. You need to know the material well enough to get the points across in your own words. Paraphrase, make points a little out of order, speak in a natural, conversational rhythm. You are in the room to prove that your creative will get results, not to prove that you can read.
- Be confident.
Only show work you believe in, and that solves the problem you were asked to solve. Anything else is a recipe for disappointment on all sides. If you find yourself presenting other people’s work, make sure you’ve spent enough time reviewing it and asking questions so that you understand and believe in the idea you’re presenting.
We’ve learned that our clients will sometimes choose a concept we like the least. Usually because it’s the safest or easiest, which doesn’t make it the best idea or the one that will be the most successful. So we leave the ideas we don’t believe in back at the office. It helps us feel more confident in our presentation.
- Explain why, not what.
Have a creative rationale for each concept. If you are presenting an outside agency’s work, get their rationale and add to it from your own point of view. If you’re an account rep presenting concepts developed by your designer, talk to them about it and find out why they did what they did. Tell your audience about the design and how it solves the project goals. Tell a story if you can, and point out your inspirations or underlying ideas. If the box is red, explain why the information inside is important enough to be framed by such a strong color. You’re not just using that graphic element because it’s pretty—it’s there to reinforce an idea or sensibility that’s appealing to the audience or representative of the brand.
- Remember, we’re in this together.
Your audience has a vested interest in the success of the project you’re presenting. Arguably a larger stake than your agency, as it will directly effect their business, budgets and careers. So, remember that you are a team, all trying to find the best solution. There may be criticisms and hard questions, so know your stuff and be prepared. Sometimes a person will request a change just for the sake of putting their stamp on it. Meet this potentially negative input with confidence and positivity—keep your cool, don’t get defensive and back up your ideas with solid rationale.
- Don’t demand immediate reactions.
Of course, you hope your audience will love everything you present, but you’ve just spent the past few days or weeks living with your ideas. Allow your audience the time to absorb them. You can certainly ask for initial reactions, but ask them to live with the concepts before giving you more thoughtful feedback. Under pressure, it’s easy to give a knee-jerk reaction they might feel they can’t take back.
Here are few advanced tricks to add to your arsenal:
Be mindful of the order. You’ll most often be presenting several concepts or options. Take time when putting your presentation together to consider the best order to show them in. This can make all the difference and it helps to know the sensitivities of your audience. Will they be more ready to see the riskiest work first and then ramp down, or do you need to start slow to get buy in for new ideas?
Be ready for anything. Do not let a forgotten monitor adapter throw off your whole presentation. If you can, scout the room beforehand and test the technology. If you’re going into an unknown space, bring printouts of your deck in case there’s no screen in the conference room.
Read the room. Check the audience once in a while. If people are looking bored, checking email, or having side conversations, then speed it up. If someone is looking lost, ask the group if they’re with you and give them a chance to ask questions. Early on, learn the titles of the people you’re presenting to so you can change your emphasis if necessary. If it’s a meeting full of engineers, you may need to give more detailed rationale about your process. If you’re surrounded by marketing folks, include some thoughts about how the piece aligns with the overall brand promise of the organization.
In summary, know your stuff, present it in the best light possible, be confident in your solutions, and share the credit. Keeps these tips in mind and you’ll be giving your hard work its best chance to see the light of day.