“Your work is very uninteresting. I expected better.”
“Seriously you are wasting my time.”
“After seeing your work, I don’t think I can trust you with this.”
Does this sound familiar? Well, these may be the feedback you get when you don’t present your work well to your clients during a client revision meeting.
Whether you’re a freelancer or new business owner, most people (especially introverts) dread presenting their work to clients for review – it puts you up for at times merciless criticism and feedback. The truth is, relations, trust, and respect are built during those vital revision meetings, so it’s important to learn how to present your work in the best light possible.
Having personally been through sometimes nasty review sessions, I’ve learned how to tackle these challenging instances of feedback and critiques. Once you’ve found your own unique way of presenting your work, I’m confident that you will begin to look to those client presentations where you’ll be in control of the situation.
Be confident, by planning your client revision meeting.
Picture this: Minutes before the call or meeting, you get butterflies in your stomach, your mouth gets dry and you begin to forget what you’re meant to say. Many creatives or new business owners are not naturally great speakers, myself included. As such, the idea of presenting to clients and making yourself vulnerable can sometimes seem like a nightmare in real life. Worse, when you fall flat during this meeting, your revision policy seems to go out of the window.
When you are not confident, your uncertainty can be blatantly obvious to our clients, coming across as unprofessional and amateurish. How are you going to be their trusted advisor if they can’t trust you to appear as an expert? This can also affect you landing your first client as a newbie.
Before each client presentation, you should mentally prepare what you want to say. Create an agenda that outlines the presentation beforehand and rehearse to perfection. If you’re really nervous, consider pre-empting granular bits such as the conversation before the pitch, and predict different things that the client may say or ask. Being prepared for almost anything the client can throw your way, it becomes hard to not be confident.
Even if you aren’t generally a confident speaker, at least try to be confident in the work that you are presenting. Make each statement a firm sentence instead of sounding unsure. Also, avoid filler words such as ‘so, like, um, uh, er, ah, right?, you know, etc’. They just distract your client from what you’re actually trying to say, and that usually inspires skepticism and frustration.
When your client asks a question, and you’re not sure how to reply, avoid ever using this snap reply:“I don’t know”. Instead, let the question sink in first. If you find you don’t yet have the answer, confidently reply “Let me check and get back to you on that”. Having that game face and being in control of the conversation at all times will ensure that you maintain your client’s trust in you. I’m not advising that you pretend you have all the answers, but try to give the impression that you’ll find them soon.
Most client presentations are face-to-face, but not everyone has time for that. Video conferences or even a phone call are possible mediums to conduct a review meeting on. If comments and your clarifications are intended to be slightly nuanced, try to avoid mediums like text or email as you might come across as aggressive or unsure if your client reads in a different voice. Once you send your work over, try to be proactive by arranging the call with your client. Avoid waiting for them to call you; this gives you more control of the situation as they have lesser time to circulate it to too many stakeholders.
At the point you arrange the call, you would likely have a better understanding of the project you’re working on. At times, better than your client. Ensure that your intimacy with the project shows during your call, it could be a matter of your ability to describe specifics in detail or having a good handle of the process to get there. Articulating these during the call bolsters your image as a competent provider and can put the client at ease to know that they are in good hands.
It can also help to create a PowerPoint deck to walk your client through updates on your project as well. Preparing this might take some time, but if done well it can leave a lasting impression of professionalism.
Conclusion: Having innate confidence is the first step to leaving your client feeling impressed or feeling depressed after your presentation. Practice and plan the presentation beforehand if you feel nervous.
Have a strong introduction
Now that you are feeling more confident, it is time to present to the client.
A good presentation is similar to telling a good story. There must be a clear introduction or opening and an ending or conclusion.
You can start by reminding them of the project’s brief and outcome. Doing this ensures that you and your client are aligned towards the project’s objectives and reminds your audience of the purpose of the project before jumping into the nitty-gritty details.
For instance, you could say something like:
“Just to go through the objectives one more time, the aim of this corporate video is to raise awareness of your business, and promote sales from your target audience, which are mainly other businesses, and they are generally more serious and formal. With all these in mind, we have put together …”
Next, you should move on to your output. If it’s not the first meeting, you might want to refer to the previous iteration, summarize feedback on that and talk about which were applied. If possible, begin your presentation with the previous deliverables that were received.
Don’t let your client get distracted by shiny things. Always align on the objectives of the project upfront to ensure that the focus does not change along the way. The last thing you want is to have a lengthy or even a subsequent discussion because you didn’t start the meeting well.
Share your journey, and explain the why you made certain revisions
Never ending changes are a provider’s worst nightmare. In our company, we create explainer video animations, and sometimes we hear feedback like “Can you change this color to another color like blue?”, and sometimes even after we did change it to blue, we would still get an irresolute feedback from the client “I think it looks better in yellow”. And this just goes on and on without end.
Why they do this can be due to various reasons:
a) They are indecisive and generally difficult clients
b) You weren’t clear in explaining your rationale for certain choices you’ve made
Your client should be taken through your work process, from the strategy you are using, your discovery stage, and how you ended up with the current work. It’s also important to talk about the challenges and solutions you encountered during your work process. This helps them to understand why you made the decisions you did and avoid double work to make the same mistakes again.
Sometimes, the end result after feedback can sometimes be vastly different from the first draft and the client is still left unsatisfied. The solution is to link your journey back to your strategy and the client’s objective.
Your process and strategy in executing the work will likely include standard steps like defining their target audience, their personality and preferences, identifying what you want the audience to think, feel, and do; etc. When doing your project, always ensure that you are always referencing back to what you agreed on with the client in the beginning.
For example, if you picked a particular color for your work because you anticipate it works better with their audience of choice – say so. If you explain your decisions confidently when you first present your work to them, you’ll have a higher chance of getting buy-in from the get-go to avoid further changes.. Even if they still insist on making revisions, at least there’s some basis or reasoning to it, making them more likely to stick with their revisions moving forward..
Another key thing to note is to avoid using jargon and to always stick to using simple English. Using creative jargon like: ‘visual balance, golden ratio, visual hierarchy, minimalist’ can potentially confuse and annoy your clients if they are not initiated with the lingo.
Instead of a jargon-filled statement like: “Our videos aim to maximize the customer experience, driving engagement and bringing the brand alive.”
Here’s an example of using simple English within a benefits statement: “Our videos will help you explain what your business does, so your customers know why they should buy from you.”
Your work is highly subjective, if your client sees it without your explanation or guidance, they can give all sorts of unproductive feedback, usually about the aesthetics or other unimportant details. In the midst of their hectic schedule, sometimes they forget about focusing on the objective the project. It is our job as consultants to bring them on a journey through our thought process, while linking our design choices to the overarching strategy. This way they are focused on ensuring the objective of the project is met.
Ending your client revision meeting
Often after a long discussion with our client, we try to end our presentation as quickly as possible to get it over and done with. This is a big mistake. Instead, you should set aside extra time to summarize the outcome of the presentation. A quick summary of the pointers mentioned helps to set the stage for your next review session as well as reiterate revisions to your client to get their buy-in once more to solidify the changes.
At the end of the presentation, repeat key feedback garnered during the presentation, clarify any doubts, mention what revisions you will be making, and tell them what you will be presenting in your next meeting. This helps you avoid making mistakes with revisions, assures your client that you’ve been listening and overall makes you look like more of an expert – killing three birds with one stone.
Remember to let them know if your revision counts towards a free revision round or not. Not only does this help to set the expectations early that you do count the free revisions, but it also makes the client more wary of making you perform revisions to avoid any extra fees unplanned for.
I hope these simple tips will help you ace your next revision meeting to avoid unnecessary changes and also help you appear more confident as an expert. Want to tell us about what’s worked for you? Leave a comment below.