10 Smart Presentation Tips for Professional Designers
Creating designs is the most important part of a designer's career. The second most important part? Giving presentations.
Presentations are crucial for your development. You'll see a lot of so-so designers selling work like hotcakes and speaking at every conference, while amazing designers stay in the shadows. Presentation has a lot to do with that. You can be the best at what you do, but if you don't present yourself or your designs well, you'll miss a lot of opportunities.
That's a lot of pressure, especially if you're not a natural public speaker. Fortunately, you can combat nervousness and hone your presentation skills with these tips.
Don't Walk In Blind
Some speakers can waltz into a room and use their magnetic personality to give a stellar speech. Most people aren't that lucky. Before you start planning what to say, know who you're saying it to—and why. Speaking at a conference, sitting on a panel, guest lecturing, or pitching to a client are all very different scenarios.
Go the Extra Mile: Review any guidelines or creative briefs to make sure that you're presenting the most useful information and addressing the concerns that your audience is most likely to have.
Prep Now, Present Later
Most people write a presentation from start to finish, then do a few minor revisions. If you want to be taken seriously, that won't cut it. Instead of writing out your whole presentation right away, begin by outlining your main points. A 3-part story structure (such as problem-process-solution) tends to be most helpful for staying organized and focused.
Go the Extra Mile: When you finish your outline, write out your full intro and conclusion. Then place them side-by-side. If they have differing main points, your presentation has strayed off topic and needs some corrective work.
Get Some Guinea Pigs
Ask a few friends to be "guinea pigs" so you can practice your speech. Look for people who are on the same knowledge level as your audience, because they're likely to have the same questions or points of confusion as your audience.
Go the Extra Mile: One of the most common excuses for not practicing a speech is, "I don't have time." This isn't true. You can record yourself giving the speech once, then listen to it in the car during your commute. Or tape your notes to the side of the bathroom mirror to look at while you get ready for work.
Prepare For the Worst
As great as technology is, it isn't perfect. A bug or a lost password can leave you in the lurch. Be prepared for those scenarios by making every presentation BYOL—bring your own laptop. Or a thumb drive. Or both. Basically, bring at least one backup of everything you need.
Go the Extra Mile: When something does go wrong—because eventually, something will—laugh it off. If you throw a fit, your audience will only remember your tantrum. If you laugh, your audience will appreciate your sense of humor and be more inclined to listen to your presentation.
Print Presentation Materials
Audiences often walk out of a presentation without remembering a single word—even if they participated in the conversation. That doesn't mean they are disrespecting you. It just means they have short attention spans. Provide printed handouts so they can focus, take notes, and take information home for later.
Go the Extra Mile: Make your presentation more professional by handing out specially made folders with your handouts inside. Not only will presentation folders keep your printed materials organized, they offer you a chance to reinforce your brand identity with a stylish, unique design.
PowerPoint: Friend or Foe?
Slideshows are one of the most popular means of presenting information because they provide a logical sequence and an interesting visual. However, that doesn't mean it's the best visual. Ask yourself, "Is this really the best way of presenting my information?" Maybe it is—or maybe, your presentation requires more creativity.
Go the Extra Mile: When you do create a PowerPoint slideshow, put your best design foot forward. Your slideshow is the place to show off your skills—whether that's photo editing, creating a specialty background, or using fonts no one else has.
Manage Your Time
When a presentation runs too long, it damages the audience's willingness to listen or participate. Make sure your presentation fits into its allotted time slot. You may even be able to encourage audience engagement by saying that you'd like to try to finish a few minutes early—and then upholding that bargain.
Go the Extra Mile: One of the biggest presentation time-wasters is a too-long intro. Your audience doesn't need your entire corporate history. Pare your intro down to thirty seconds or less. You'll only have time for the most important details.
Nothing is more boring than watching somebody stand in one spot, talking in a monotone voice. Be active within your presentation space. More importantly, be interactive with your topic. Use a design mockup, object lesson, or demonstration to help your audience really visualize what you're saying about a design or concept.
Go the Extra Mile: Audiences like to feel connected to what's happening onstage. In small-group settings, let key audience members interact with your design. In a larger crowd, ask questions or invite volunteers onto the stage to help you with a demonstration.
Be Confident—Or Fake It Convincingly
It can be awkward to watch a speaker who is anxious or who covers nervousness with aggression. The good news is, you can calm your nerves—or at least cover them. Pause for a drink of water if your voice is cracking, or hold a prop if your hands are shaky. Don't worry if you're still not totally comfortable onstage. Most of your audience has been in your shoes, and they're rooting for you to succeed.
Go the Extra Mile: Confidence can be subtle. For instance, instead of ending with, "Does anyone have any questions?" you can ask your audience, "What questions do you have for me?" The second example establishes an expectation of audience participation, while still taking responsibility for the information in your presentation.
Give It That Little Something Extra
Most likely, your audience won't automatically believe every word you say—nor should you want them to. A skeptical audience challenges you to really know your material. Anticipate their questions, and include high-quality data to support your answers. Just remember, one or two well-placed graphs will be more effective than putting a chart on every slide.
Go the Extra Mile: While you need to support your presentation with legitimate evidence, part of winning your audience's trust revolves around establishing a warm relationship. Providing snacks, bottled water, or branded ink pens are a few small ways to break the ice.
Giving presentations shouldn't be a source of stress or anxiety. It's a normal part of a designer's job—and it can lead to more career opportunities if you do it right. You may still experience stage fright occasionally, but that's something you can learn to manage as long as you keep practicing and honing your speaking craft. Who knows, you may even find yourself starting to enjoy the spotlight!