I’m going to let you all in on a little secret, I don’t love presenting. Back in fourth grade, every week a student had to look up one current event and present it to the class - Literally, just say a sentence.
Without fail, whenever it was my turn to do this, the day before I’d ask my mom to let me stay home so I wouldn’t have to do it - In that case, being absent from school was better than actually facing my fear – long story short, my mom saw through this every time and she didn’t let me do it. And I still went nervously up there and read my events. I’ve gotten a lot better with my attitude around public speaking since then, for one I usually don’t try and not show up (yay progress!) but I still get nervous before them. That is something I have not been able to shake.
So here’s my dilemma, as a graphic designer, presenting is actually part of your job and while it’s not my first choice of activity, I do understand why it’s important. Communicating your designs to your client makes a huge difference. It for one, lets you, the designer articulate your design choices, and if done well, it instills a client’s confidence in you. If done not so well, well then it can make it harder for the client to trust you – and gaining a client’s trust is one of the most important things for any agency. As a designer, you know so many tiny yet important details about the design that your other team members might not, so it’s your job to let the client know why certain choices were made and to say them in a way that shows you are competent.
Ok so presenting is important, but how can you avoid the nerves and stress that comes with it? That I don’t have a direct answer for as I’m still figuring that out myself. What I do know is that knowing your stuff helps and there’s no shame in taking time before a presentation to prepare, even if that’s just for five minutes. If you know you get nervous, then focus on what you want to say. How did the design come to be? Why did you make these choices? Why was this color chosen and not that one? You know your stuff. Use that information to make a list of items you want to address when speaking and if you get lost in thought or taken in a different direction, you can refer back to that list to make sure all your points are made.
And don’t be afraid to ask your peers for feedback and tips. Just this past week I got some feedback from my boss on presenting designs more thoughtfully. It was a super helpful conversation mostly because I knew I could improve upon things public speaking-wise, but I couldn’t pinpoint what it was I needed to work on. The fact of the matter is presenting doesn’t come naturally to everyone and that’s ok. I recently watched a TedTalk where the presenter referred to public speaking as a learnable skill – which means for all you people like me out there, there’s hope! If you work on presenting, you can get better at it. For creatives especially, I feel like our first nature can be to hide behind our designs instead of sharing them proudly with the world, but it’s helpful to know that there’s space for us to get better at this. Because proudly sharing your work is so important for clients to understand why designs are the way they are and for your credibility as an agency. Plus, your work deserves to be shown off. Good luck!