Featured image: Bottle Rocket’s offices. Image from Bottle Rocket.
In the midst of all the trendy fads and new technology at South by Southwest was a panel called “Sucking Less When Presenting Creative,” a down-to-earth session offering practical, real life tips for anyone presenting creative work to a client.
Michael Griffith, VP of UX and executive creative director at Bottle Rocket, crammed his top lessons-learned into 25 minutes. Here are the best of his tips for before, during and after a presentation of creative work, including client relations and team leadership skills.
Set up the presentation for clients
After developing creative strategy and before you present the blood, sweat and tears of visual assets, impress clients with your efforts to understand their tone and culture to express it creatively. Griffith shares how their team’s designer will sit down with a client to walk through a “mood board analysis.” Like a mood board for a dedicated campaign, these are different interpretations of how they think the client’s brand can be visually represented in general, before the real specifics of a campaign. Griffith reports how it ultimately impresses the client without a high level of investment and helps the client build trust in the work of a designer. It also sets up someone in his role of creative strategist to start a presentation by reminding the client of past conversations and approvals to get them in the right frame of mind.
1. Name the options
Agencies commonly offer a client multiple options for the direction of their visuals, a practice that often causes friction and delays afterwards to make sure everyone is talking about the same example. In a beautifully simple solution, Griffith suggests giving each option a name for the presentation. This aids discussion and has the added benefit, he says, of an extra opportunity to highlight the subtle differences of a proposal’s key message.
2. “Build a story, but don’t build drama”
We all want to tell a story with our work and through its presentation. However, Griffith says there’s no added value in saving your top choice for last and trying to build up to it. Instead, Griffith advocates being direct and telling clients in the moment which option is your preference and why, with no need to place it first or last. “You don’t need a big reveal,” he says, keeping the focus on real value for the client’s needs.
3. The answer to your perfect last slide
Continuing his focus on removing friction wherever possible, Griffith has learned the power — and usefulness — of leaving your clients with a visual summary of your best assets. “Take the most memorable pieces to go together on the last slide,” says Griffith. Showcasing a representation of your options together sets the stage for the closing discussion. “It’s easier to talk about.”
Never say this after a presentation
“Solicit feedback at the end, not in between.” The temptation to start talking about a creative option in the middle of multiple options all too often distracts you and the client, with a high risk of not getting through all options. Commit to saving discussion for the end, then start the feedback process by asking questions that lead to real answers. Griffith advises “Never say, ‘So that’s it, what did you think?’” Instead, ask purposeful questions that direct the thoughts of your audience and can lead to real analysis.
Always remember the human elements of your team
It’s generally best practice that a team leader will need to provide time and space for debriefing, venting and offering constructive feedback. Griffith’s experience has led him to realize the importance of debriefing with your team right away, not eventually. “Since there’s usually something the client didn’t quite get,” says Griffith, the creative team can get “frustrated” things didn’t go perfectly in a presentation. He advises to let everybody vent for five minutes but then move on together and get started on the next thing.
This also helps teams learn how to work together and trust each other for the flow of a presentation. As with any kind of team work, knowing the personalities involved and actually listening before providing direction will create a productive environment of trust.