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Designs Don’t Sell Themselves: Why Presentation Matters

Posted on July 05, 2016 by Michelle Child

‘Becoming digital first’ is a phrase that’s been used by our executive teams a lot this year. Executives are realizing the importance of user experience and design, and our work as a UX team is gaining support from the top level. This should be music to our ears!

As experts in the digital realm, we need to take the lead in the digital first movement. Executives look to us (or should look to us) on how to take this vision forward, and Paul Boag warns us this could prove dangerous if we do not handle it well.

This means getting in front of top level employees more and selling our designs. Yes - selling. Even the best designs can’t sell themselves: it’s up to us to help executives navigate their way through our intentions and expectations, and convince them of our idea. 

Take the time to build a solid presentation to showcase your designs and processes. Not only will you gain credibility and confidence from executives, you’ll become better at your craft.

1. Don’t Send Designs over Email

Sending a design through email—and thereby losing a chance to present your work—can lead to misguided attention, confusion, and costly changes to your original intentions.

Maintain agency of your work by controlling the order, pace and conversation of the design review. You want your work to be viewed on clear, uncluttered screens, not a preview window of an email client.

2. Create a Visual Aid to Guide the Presentation

While this may seem redundant - building a visual for your visual - this is a great strategy for us visual thinkers. Taking the time to build an outline grants you the opportunity to step back from the pixels and consider the project as a whole, just as you’d want your audience to do.

Limit your focus to one point per slide. This prevents you from overwhelming your audience, and keeps the presentation running smoothly. 

Consider potential questions and concerns and prepare for them, both visually and in your talking points. You may need to allow more time for one issue if you know it’s going to raise questions. 

3. Define the Background and Goals

Always start with the background and goals. It’s imperative to make sure everyone is on the same page before moving on.

Use your visual aid to as a starting point here, but be sure to elaborate beyond the text on slides. Your audience should be listening to you, not reading your slides. 

The more people in the room, the more important this step is. It should be very clear what you’re about to present and what problems your design solves. If someone veers the conversation off track, pull them back in by reminding everyone of the task at hand. 

4. Share Your Process

You can bypass a lot of misguided feedback by being completely transparent with your process, provided it’s grounded in research and data. Being able to explain how you arrived at your decisions will gain you credibility and trust from the business-minded.

This is most helpful when done before showing your designs, when you still have everyone’s undivided attention. It may be a quick overview or a detailed step - either way, you should be able to elaborate on any design decision when questioned. 

5. Use Real-Life Examples of Your Designs

If your work is still in image form, present your design in a laptop or mobile mock up. Help the audience visualize by putting your design in a context they understand.

By eliminating some of the visual noise, you will draw the focus directly to your work. 

As a Sketch user, I’ve enjoyed Meng To’s Angle: 200 Devices & Mockups for Sketch, but there are tons of mockups out there for every design software.  

6. Use Transitions and Animations

We’ve seen what a difference subtle animations make on the web, and your presentation is no exception! Use slide and element transitions to keep the audience interested, help them focus on one item at a time, and ultimately give you more control in your presentation.

Using GIFs is a fun way to bring your designs to life or showcase a process. And using infographic elements, as we know, is extremely helpful in visually representing data.

7. Guide Feedback/Next Steps

Always include a slide centered around user feedback. Specify what type of feedback you’d like to hear to avoid irrelevant feedback and time wasted. 

Most of all, be confident! If you’re confident and enthusiastic about the product, your audience will be too. Let’s take the lead in becoming digital first and guide our executives along the way.