Mike Monteiro
Listen to podcast episode

This is a short, neat little booklet by Mule Design about how to do an excellent job at communicating your designs to your clients. This essay covers 13 ways designers screw up client presentations. Below are my favorite takeaways.

You don’t have to please the client

“Your client hired you because you are the expert… What they didn’t hire you to do is make them happy or be their friend.”

When a client asks you to do something that runs counter to your expertise and their goals, don’t do it just to please them. Calmly and confidently convince them otherwise. That conversation may not be easy, but it is necessary.

Stand up!

Don’t present sitting down. Stand up and command the room. It’s nerve-racking but the act of standing itself gives you more presence, helps your voice carry, and allows you to pace around.

Set the stage

Make it worth the meeting attendee’s time for showing up. Thank them for coming. Know their names. Provide context. Share agenda and goals for the meeting upfront.

Sell it!

As Monteiro says it, don’t give “the real estate tour”—as in, don’t just explain what the client can see in front of them. Instead, tell the story of the benefits of the design and how it exceeds the client’s goals.

Make eye-contact with the client. Be energetic and excited. Be ready to talk about major decisions and why you made them.

“Be a scientist when you work, and a snake charmer when you present.”

Don’t get defensive

Feedback and criticism are good. You are not your work, so when a client criticizes your work, don’t take it personally. Listen to feedback, consider it, decide whether to act on it, and communicate the why or why not clearly to the client.

Talk about what the client cares about

That’s the benefits of your design and the decisions you made to get there. It’s probably not typefaces, how hard you worked, or design directions you scrapped. (Or maybe it is—so know your client and communicate accordingly.)

Provide guidance for the kind of feedback you want

Say something like “here’s the kind of feedback I’m looking for today” to guide the discussion. If you don’t focus the conversation, you won’t get the feedback you need.