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Presenting design like your life depends on it

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17 eager participants started the day with a nervous cup of coffee at Fotografiska in Stockholm. Nervous for a workshop with “Mean Mike” and Erika where “feelings might get hurt”, as stated in the workshop description. But, as we at inUse of course already knew, the day turned out to be just the opposite.

Mike and Erika in action
Mike and Erika in action

Extremely energetic, Mike Monteiro and Erika Hall at Mule Design, started the day with an exercise focused on presenting yourself – or rather selling yourself. Selling in the same ways as designers are forced to sell their design almost every day. A task, despite amazing design based on tons of user research, that can be equally hard, frustrating and hair-raising every time. So, Mike and Erika told us about The 13 most common mistakes designers make when presenting design and how to avoid them:

  1. You are not there to be the client's friend. You are the expert they hired. Always focus on the client.

  2. Not getting off your ass is always bad. Stand up and take charge of the room.

  3. NEVER start with an apology. Start your presentation with confidence.

  4. Set the stage properly. Have an agenda and a goal.

  5. Don't give the client the “real estate tour”. Don't tell them what they already see – sell the benefits. And ask questions, it’s OK to be annoying!

  6. Taking notes when presenting can kill a presentation. Assign roles and stay focused.

  7. Reading a script takes your focus away from the room. Put on a show! Energy and involvement is the thing when presenting.

  8. Getting defensive is not the solution. Set your ego on fire.

  9. Mentioning typefaces has nothing to do with the client’s business solution. Be aware of what decisions you need their input on, and talk about what matters to your client’s business.

  10. Talking about how hard you have worked is terrible. What you talk about and show them is what they need to hear/see; the amount of time spent is not for the client to know.

  11. Reacting to questions as change request is not a good strategy. Stop, take a breath and then answer the question in relation to the client’s goal.

  12. Not guiding the feedback loop means not getting the feedback you want. Explain for the client how to give feedback. Ask for the Why and the What.

  13. Asking “Do you like it?” is probably the worst question ever. Decisions made leading to a solution shall never be based on liking, but always on expertise. Ask useful questions and never use the word Like during a design session.

After that it was time for lunch, which off course meant time for some reflections and further discussions.

Lunch at Fotografiska
We also enjoyed the fantastic view
We also enjoyed the fantastic view.

During the afternoon we did some more practical exercises. Each of the participants in the workshop had to go up on the stage and give a presentation while Mike, Erika and a workshop participant acted as the client. The client asked relevant but sometimes provocative questions so that the workshop participants could practice how to deal with such a situation.

After the feedback from the client the whole group gave feedback in relation to how the presenter had responded to the client, but also to their body language and tone of voice. The setup for this part of the workshop was built up to be a safe environment where we as participants could comfortably be on stage yet have the courage to meet our fears so that we could grow and learn – feelings weren’t hurt at all. A very special afternoon with an awesome group of people!

Some more good advice from Mike and Erika:

  • Always start your presentation with: Why are we here? When can we leave?
  • Be clear of what you want to get out of a meeting, what kind of feedback you need to get to the next phase.
  • Tell them the status. For example: Everything is going great but we found one problem area or opportunity.
  • Don’t use too much text in presentations. Make one set of slides for the presentation and one with more information to hand out.
  • If you’re presenting info graphics, don’t make it too beautiful.
  • When you’re presenting a design make it feel like it’s already real. Make the client feel even  more excited. Put it in context and put a little fantasy in it: “Put the logo on a building”.
  • Bring your developer/IT person if you’re going to a meeting with the client’s IT people. Get equal with the customer.
  • Always be two persons from “your side” in the meetings.
  • Try to include the developer! Don’t settle with a handover.
inUse Miranda Sherman’s awesome sketchnote from the workshop.

It turned out to be a lovely day with great discussions that had the workshop going 30 minutes overtime. The final conclusion from the day was that “Mean Mike” turned out to be more of a “Magic Mike”, and that Erika should be on stage, too.
Many thanks to both Mike and Erika, and we hope to see you at From Business To Buttons in the years to come!