7 Common Mistakes When Presenting Design Work (And How To Present Like A Pro)

7 Common Mistakes When Presenting Design Work (And How To Present Like A Pro)

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This article has been contributed by Dan Martin.

Have you ever found yourself thoroughly unmoved by a presentation? You sat in the audience with other colleagues, and the guy on the podium just swept through his presentation and gave you tabular data and pictures.

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The presenter went by and you shook his hand for his effort, but you didn’t understand the presentation. It passed in front of your eyes without leaving a mark. This is a classic sign of an ineffective presentation.

Related: Brand Naming – How to Present Names & Win Every Time

Rookie Mistakes

Most rookie presentations are presented this way. You will find these elements in almost all these presentations:

  • Tabulated data
  • Pictures and other graphics
  • Overused animations
  • Bulleted talking points

There is nothing wrong with including these in your presentation. But, if you don’t have an idea on how to present your design work properly, these elements will just saturate your presentation.

Your presentation will fall on deaf ears if you don’t know the basic principles of delivering outstanding presentations. Once you lose your audience’s attention, it is nearly impossible for you to get it back again.

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Make a Presentation to Remember

You want your audience – your client – to remember you for the right reasons. If you leave them in awe of your work, you’ll have left your mark on them.

If you present a lackluster presentation, you might also be remembered. But not in the way you want.

To leave the best possible lasting impression on your clients, you have to present your work perfectly. You have to communicate the message you want them to receive. To do this successfully, you have to apply the four principles of delivering outstanding presentations.

Four Principles for an Outstanding Presentation

1. Understand the Audience

Design presentation audience

The first thing you have to understand is your audience. You have to know who you’re going to talk to, what they like, what gets their attention, and what annoys them. Dig deep into their demographics and find common ground with your audience.

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Once you do this, it will be easier for you to gain their trust and secure their participation in your presentation.

2. Customize Your Presentation for Your Audience

In presenting your work for an audience, one size doesn’t fit all. You cannot have one single approach you follow for all types of audiences.

For instance, let’s say you’re designing for a nonprofit organization that works with street children. A luxurious or business-themed presentation won’t suit this kind of client. They won’t feel that you understand their mission and vision for their organization.

You’ll need to customize your presentation based on your target audience. The goal of your presentation is to get your client’s buy-in on your design. Thus, you have to be able to empathize with your client at a deeper level throughout your presentation.

3. Be Confident

Presenting your work requires a lot of confidence. But tread lightly, as this confidence can sometimes be conveyed as arrogance.

Being confident takes a lot of practice. After you’re done practicing your presentation, practice it again with an audience.

Ask for their recommendations so you can further improve your presentation. When you know that your presentation is in perfect condition, you’ll be far more confident when you present it to your client.

When you present your work with confidence, you will appear more knowledgeable, capable and competent. When presenting your brand design to your client, confidence can be the difference between getting the job or not.

4. Control Your Surroundings During the Presentation

There are a lot of external factors that can interrupt your presentation and most of these are technical problems. Maybe the microphone is not working properly, or the projector is malfunctioning. Either way, these factors will negatively impact your presentation.

You can call these factors accidents, but there are no accidents if you are in control of your presentation. You have to foresee these kinds of events and have a quick fix every time.

If you have a backup plan in case of technical difficulties, your clients will be impressed with your decision-making skills. You have to show them that you are in full control of your presentation and these technical difficulties will not stop you in your tracks.

Common Mistakes When Presenting Your Design

You’ve spent hours and hours working on your presentation and your client loved it. But at the end of the day, your presentation was second best to some simple PowerPoint presentation. What went wrong?

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You made the best presentation that you could but you failed in selling it to your client. Your client simply chose the more actionable, convincing and believable presentation.

To keep this from happening again, be aware of the most common mistakes that occur in any presentation. Consciously or unconsciously, these mistakes have a detrimental effect on design presentations.

1. Not Setting the Mood

Applying the first principle of delivering an outstanding presentation, you should know your client’s likes and dislikes. When presenting, you should have an idea of how you will make the presentation relevant to them.

Let your clients settle in first. Open your presentation with some introductions before going to specifics. Set up a friendly atmosphere and encourage your listeners to speak up if they have questions.

Even senior designers make this kind of mistake. They proceed to discuss their design without letting their clients settle in. It’s like reading a book from the second chapter without reading the first one.

Standing up during the presentation seems like a standard gesture, but the impact is huge. When you stand up among a sitting crowd, it shows that you are in full control of the situation.

Your clients will instinctively give your presentation more attention and respect when you’re confidently standing in front of them. Once you’ve set up the mood, you can proceed to your presentation without the worry of being disregarded.

2. Not Providing a History of Your Design

The last thing you’d want is your potential client to be puzzled by your design. This can happen when you show your design without introducing it first.

Your design is a work of art, and art has an inspiration. Tell them a story of how your design came to be. Every decision that you made for your design has to have a rationale.

Below is an example of providing an explanation of various elements of a new logo. The Talance logo was redesigned to symbolize the bond between clients and candidates.

Graphic design presentation rationale

Explain the reason you chose triangles instead of squares, why you preferred yellow over shades of blue, etc. For every detail of your design, there is a story to tell.

If your client’s business is in handmade products, your design will have a handwritten typeface. By explaining this to your clients, they will be confident that they have hired a creative and capable designer for their product.

Your client wants to know what led you to such an idea. It is important to give your client a visual of your hard work, from initial sketches to the final design. This will make them appreciate how much time and effort you’ve invested in creating the design for their product.

3. Lackluster Presentation

Of course, delivering a dreary presentation is a mistake. When presenting your design, you always want to put your best foot forward. Giving your audience a lackluster presentation will not help you achieve your goals. And it won’t help you get the job.

Your presentation is the story behind your design. Thus, you have to present your design in the best possible light.

Be careful in making your presentation because there can be a tendency to overdo it. Keep it simple. Remember that your slides are just visual supplements.

You need to polish your presentation before even presenting it to a test subject. Minimize descriptive texts in your presentation. If possible, don’t use any at all as these can be distracting to your audience.

Have only one focal point per slide even at the cost of having a longer presentation. Your goal is for your audience to absorb what you want to communicate in your presentation. If your ideas are too clustered on one or two slides, you won’t get your point across.

If you are going for PowerPoint presentations, there are free PowerPoint templates that you can use for your presentation. Minimalist templates can have the most impact because they eliminate other distractions. This lets your clients focus on your design work.

Lastly, thoroughly go through your presentation and practice it with an audience. This familiarizes you with the flow of your presentation. Do it with an audience and get some feedback, then make modifications accordingly.

4. Getting Left Behind by Your Own Pace

Usually, you are allocated a certain amount of time to present your work. Most of the time, this time allowance is not enough to go through everything that you want to discuss.

If your time is almost up and you’re still telling a story about the history of your design, you are in deep trouble. That’s why you have to budget your time accordingly and allow time limits for each section that you want to discuss.

You may request your client to hold their questions until the end of the presentation, allowing you more control of your time while you are at the podium.

Be aware of your client’s reactions. If you see someone checking the time on their watch, you might want to pick up the pace. This saves precious time and can give you more time to discuss the most important matters.

If the discussion goes off track with questions, try to politely remind your client about the goals of the meeting. Your discussion will get back on track and you’ll have more time for more relevant questions.

5. Repeating What’s in Your Slides

PowerPoint logos

You may have encountered presenters that only read their slides without providing additional information. So you know how ineffectual and uninspiring it is.

You don’t need to state what’s already in your slides. If you can read it, they can read it. Tell them what they don’t know yet to capture their attention.

Persuade instead of educating your clients. If you’ve mixed this up in your previous presentations, this is probably where you’ve gone wrong.

You have to understand that your clients are not designers. Thus, your presentation should not be flooded with jargon. Your presentation should cater to the most ignorant client in terms of design.

Remember that your slides are guides for your audience to catch up with what you are discussing. Do not rely on your slides. What matters is that your client understands your thought process and how your designs will help them achieve their goals.

6. Not Focusing on How Your Design Solves The Client’s Problem

Graphic design presentation and business goals

Your design may be the most sophisticated graphic art out there and yet your client won’t accept it as their brand identity. This is because your mindset is not aligned with your client’s mindset.

You see your design from an artist’s perspective whereas your client sees it from an economic perspective. If your work does not benefit the client, your efforts will just go unnoticed.

The first thing you need to do when designing for a client is to identify the problem that they want to resolve. With this knowledge, you can connect your brand design to their business goals.

Your client’s top concern is how your design helps them solve their problems and achieve their business goals. When you present your design work, make your client understand how it fits in the bigger picture of their business.

7. Disregarding Your Client’s Feedback

Graphic design presentation client feedback

After presenting your design work, your client might ask you to work on some modifications. Their feedback is important even if they have absolutely no idea how graphic design works.

Be receptive to your client’s feedback. Hear them out. Thank them for their suggestions and work on the project together.

You are an expert in the field of graphic design and you have been hired because of it. However, it is normal that your client may disagree on some parts of your design. Always have an open mind to your client’s concerns.

Change what needs to be changed and retain what needs to be retained. It’s your job as the designer to recommend what’s best for the design, while still meeting the client’s business goals. Working hand in hand with your client will make the final design even better.

Pro Tip

Always present three different designs per project so your client can choose what’s best for the business. Your designs should be as follows:

  • Client’s preference – how the client envisions the design
  • Designer’s preference – how you, as a designer, would like to see the design. Consider your client’s goals and the trends in graphic design. This will give a balance between the client’s preference and your preference.
  • Flashy design – this stretches the limits of your design. It gives your client an idea of possibilities.

Final Word

Your presentation is the unveiling of your design. It tells your client what your design is about, and how it will help them achieve their goals.

To be able to present your design flawlessly, you will need to practice your presentation to perfection. Presenting your work with professionalism makes you more credible and authoritative.


About the author: Dan Martin has had hands-on experience in digital marketing since 2007. He has been building teams and coaching others to foster innovation and solve real-time problems. Dan also enjoys photography and traveling.

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