Design presentations and pitches are an integral part of the industrial design profession. As what is a great idea when there is no one to sell it? In fact many great ideas in our time haven’t come into fruition due to poor communication. A lot of the time within small to medium businesses we find industrial designers doing most of the selling as a professional marketeer is not affordable, and who else really knows a product more than the person who created it? Some of these presentations include selling to your boss or design team, a client, a supplier or even a retailer. Presentations are everywhere, in fact it could be said that 90% of time being an industrial designer is all about communicating, whether it is through word of mouth, telephone, email or even through sketches and CAD.
Article by Martin Gibson – Twitter – 29.01.2010
Giving an energetic and riveting presentation is a very difficult thing to do. There are so many things that can go wrong, and so many variables and dynamics that must be balanced to create an inducing presentation. Some people call these presentations ‘design pitches’ ‘elevator pitches’ ‘marketing presentations’ but I like to refer to them as ‘entering the shark tank’. This is because the audience has the ability to eat you up in a matter of seconds and when it comes to question time they can finish you off literally. If you want to check out some good/bad product pitches I highly recommend two television shows: The Dragons Den (UK) – best seen on Youtube, and Shark Tank (USA) – best seen on Hulu if you’re in America or Youtube everywhere else. Below are 2 examples of pitches, a bad nervous pitch and a good confident pitch. See if you can spot which one is which.
It is fairly obvious that the second video is an example of a good pitch and the first video is a pitch gone horribly wrong. However do not fear the sharks, there are some simple and quick things you can do to polish your presentations.
1. Practice and Time Your Presentation
As they say practice makes perfect! For important presentations you should at least run through it twice before you actually give it. Make sure you time it and see how long it goes for. Your audience’s time is precious, don’t waste it.
2. Envisage Your Presentation
The greatest skill of a good presenter is being able to visualise and imagine how the presentation will go before hand. Go somewhere quiet and imagine yourself in the room giving your presentation. What does the room look like? What are you talking about? Where are you standing? What do you look like? What is the audience’s reaction? This ‘imagination session’ is a good tool to simulate problems or things you may want to address.
3. Structure Your Presentation and Tell the Audience About it
Your presentation must have a structure, for products a logical structure could include: introduction/welcome, the design problem, solution overview, solution detailed specifications, conclusion, questions. Not only have a structure but before you start the presentation tell the audience about the structure, this will give them an opportunity to be able to follow you along.
4. Consider Where You’re Standing/Sitting
Think about where the best position in the room is for you to give your presentation. If you have a powerpoint or some other visual material involved in your presentation what is the optimal position of yourself and your visuals in relation to the audience? What is the percentage time ratio of your audience looking at you versus your visuals? Whatever you do don’t block your visuals by standing in the way.
5. Remove Distractions
Talking about visuals, only use your visuals when you need them, when they are not required hide them otherwise they will become a distraction to the audience.
6. Body Language
Think about your posture, are you standing upright? Don’t lean or put your arms in funny places. Either put your hands behind your back, by your sides, or in an inward embrace position. Feel free to talk with your hands, this can be used to give emphasis, passion or emotion behind important words. But don’t over-talk with your hands as this can be distracting. Ensure that you use common hand gestures like the ‘why? face with your hands out wide’ or the ‘power fist to make something strong’ or ‘point gestures’ or the ‘lifting or lowering of your hand to show something growing or declining’.
7. Pitch Variation, Volume and Rhythm
Don’t talk in a monotone voice use quite a definite pitch variation within your words and sentences but don’t overdo it or make it annoying. Consider speaking loudly and boldly for big important points to bring emphasis to certain aspects of your presentation. Also think about the rhythm of your sentences. Talk fast for minor details and talk slowly for important points. Keep a rudimentary and consistent rhythm to the majority of your presentation however.
8. Control Your Subconscious Actions
Sometimes we don’t realise what we do with our bodies, hands and feet while we are giving a presentation because we are so focused on what we are actually saying. Make sure you don’t move your body into funny positions, cross your legs back and forth, twitch, sway, fiddle inside your pockets, scratch constantly etc.
9. Open Up to Questions
Opening up to questions portrays to your audience that you have a deep knowledge of your product and that you’re confident that your concept or idea has little in the way of flaws. But of course be prepared for what they might ask, people will often try and deflate your ideas.
10. Reading Off Notes
If possible don’t read off your notes, just have keywords to get your memory jogging again. If you must read off notes please ensure that the majority of your sight is focused on the audience and not your palm cards.
11. Excessive Repetition
As mentioned before, time is so valuable in a presentation don’t waste it by repeating yourself over and over again. Of course in your brief conclusion you should remind your audience of the main points you made. Repetition is a great way of emphasising your main points, but don’t repeat everything, and don’t repeat anything more than twice.
12. Give Some Background Information
Before you begin, and if your presentation is to people who may not be familiar with who you and your company are, give a brief background to them outlining this information. There is nothing more awkward than a member of the audience asking you a question and they don’t know your name or where you’re from.
13. Dress Appropriately
You always want to come off professional so make sure you dress appropriately for the occasion whether it be formal, semi-formal or casual.
1. Small Annotations and Text
Ensure that annotations and descriptions in your slides are readable. Think about how close your audience is going to be to the screen or projection.
2. Keep Slides Clean and Uncluttered
This is pretty self explanatory, but you see it all the time, try and restrict the amount of text and images per a slide. When someone sees 40 lines of text on a powerpoint the only thing they can think of is all the work and effort they have to do to read all 40 lines on the powerpoint whilst somehow miraculously being able to listen to you simultaneously.
3. Hectic Background Colours and Images
Make sure your slides don’t have image backgrounds or crazy colours link pink and yellow unless you believe it is pivotal in setting the theme and tone of your presentation. Remember black backgrounds with white text are good in dark rooms, whilst white backgrounds with black text are good in light rooms. Also consider contrast! Ensure you have good contrast between your text and the background. Don’t have lime green text with a yellow background!
4. Test and Fix Technical Difficulties
Make sure you test animations, screen resolutions, aspect ratios and other factors that go horribly wrong when you least suspect it before you start your presentation.
5. Aspect Ratios
Make sure the aspect ratio of your original file matches how it is going to be utilised in the presentation. For example, if you are going to use a widescreen television you may want to use a 16:9 aspect ratio, if its going to be on a projector or computer you may want to go for 4:3 (which is a standard powerpoint file size).
Consider the relevance of your powerpoint in how it enhances your presentation. Don’t just have a powerpoint because it is pretty, only use it if it can add value. Make sure each slide is relevant to what you are specifically talking about.
7. Check Spelling!
8. Progression Bar
Related to the structure point I made earlier, a good way to keep your audience aware of where you are up to in a presentation is to put a small status bar on your powerpoint with a dot or marker indicating where you’re up to. Don’t make this detailed keep it simple by having just the main structure labels like introduction, design problem, conclusion etc.
1. Show the Process of Your Design
Give a brief outline of not only your final design solution but also how you came to that outcome. You may want to present this through a series of sketches or in a timeline. This can be great especially if you lack confidence in your final solution as sometimes a client might not like your final design but they might take a liking to a concept direction you might of previously ignored.
2. Have Something Tangible
If you have a model or prototype of your design even if its a foam model give it to your audience as a way for them to better understand the overall form your trying to communicate. Foam models are great for illustrating ergonomic or scale issues.
3. Explain Abbreviations or Industry/Design Slang
If your product or the industry of your product has a certain lingo don’t just say these words/abbreviations without interpretation. As otherwise it is likely the audience will get completely muddled trying to understand what you’re trying to say.
4. Be Creative, You are a Designer
Make your presentation stand out by making them interactive and exciting. Some ways of doing this might include using props and demonstrating the design problem first hand. For example if you have designed a revolutionary new toothbrush, maybe show the problems with old toothbrushes by brushing your teeth in the presentation. It will make your presentation rememberable and it will be extremely clear to the audience what the main issues are. Another option is to play a game with your audience or have some level of interactivity. For example if you have designed a new ergonomic baseball glove, perhaps play a game of catch and throw with someone from your audience with your new glove and ask them what they think of it.
5. Sketches and Renders
Make your sketches and renders clean and easy to understand. Put perspective on your renders and show the products in use as well as hero images.
6. Use Juxtaposition
Back on the interactivity element, a great way to prove how good your design solution is compared to competitor products on the market is to get a side-by-side comparison by displaying your two products on a table in front of the audience. Treat this demonstration like an infomercial on television, but ensure there is no bias by modifying samples to help your product, or also by not using a key competitor and using a ‘home-brand solution’.