Communication is __________.
What word would you use to complete the sentence?
Communication is key? King? Everything?
For an introvert like me, communication used to be agony. I was happy to just sit in my cave made out of computer screens and a big comfy chair, and correspond only over emails and short messenger chats. But boy, did I learn that the agony of not communicating properly is far more painful than the agony of communicating.
This quote sums it up nicely:
You can’t expect people to be on the same wavelength as you all the time, and people are certainly not mind-readers. Thus, you need to give people a context and put them through your design-thinking process to sell your idea.
After working in an agency for a while, I realised that it’s so important for designers to also know the skill of communication and presentation. To know how to articulate one’s concept clearly and know how to convince people to try your idea – if not, those good ideas/designs will end up in the trash bin faster than you can say ‘Quidditch’. (Props to you if you understood this phrase 😉
Most of the time, we get pretty good ideas forming in our heads after hearing the brief. That idea has gone on to be a full-scale campaign complete with a flash mob and a viral video (with 10 million views!!) in your brain. It will work, and it will work out great. And then you start to suggest the idea and people start shooting it down, and so you think it was not a great idea at all since people didn’t get it.
But hello? People didn’t get it because you didn’t explain it to them! (Preaching to myself here.) You need to walk through the design/conceptualisation process to help everyone in the room latch on to your idea – and see that grand finale of a flash mob + viral video together with you.
I used to look only towards improving my technical skills as a designer, but now I’ve learned that investing in communication skills is just as important.
And so I’ve decided to share these 3 simple tips I’ve learnt that helps me communicate and present better.
1. Write down your points first
I learnt this back in school when my lecturer made everyone write a script before we went up to present. And strangely, everyone gave a smooth and focused presentation. When we prepare ahead and list down all the important things we need to say, we get less anxious when it comes to speaking in front of strangers because we know we won’t forget what we’ve come to say.
Of course, when it comes to strategy meetings and throwing out our good ideas, there may not be a need to write down an entire script. But if you can list down the problem, and convince yourself on why your idea helps solve it, then you’ll have a pretty good chance explaining it to a group of tired brainstormers.
And if you’re like me, getting all tensed up when more than 2 pairs of eyeballs are staring at you, then looking at your notes help to keep you on track — instead of clamming up halfway because the idea slipped out of your brain for that tea break you can never take.
2. Practice makes perfect
Public speaking (even if it’s to a crowd of 3) can be daunting. The first step to overcoming that fear is to face it. Like everything else in life, practising it makes it more comfortable. Start by sharing one sentence at a meeting, then two at the next, and eventually start speaking in human sentences so that your colleagues can understand you.
3. Have more confidence in yourself
You are in that strategy meeting or presentation for a purpose. You are creative and probably good at what you do. Give yourself a little more credit and dare to voice your ideas. You’ll realise that other people suggest just as many stupid ideas as you do. Plus, there is a phrase that tells you to ‘fake it till you make it’.
Clients don’t need to know if you’re unsure of the idea. All they need to see is that you look confident to pull it off (with the right amount of smoking too), and you’ve won half the battle.
My favourite story about confidence is when George Lois (the original Mad Man) was pitching to a client on a poster design and the client straight-out rejected it, he climbed onto the window and threatened to jump off.
‘You make the matzo, I’ll make the ads’ George exclaimed while sitting on the window ledge with the poster clutched in his free hand. The client eventually relented because of George’s unwavering confidence in the design (or perhaps he didn’t want George’s death on his hands).
At the end of the day, we are storytellers.
Our role is to explain the story of our ideas and designs to the clients, and show them how it benefits their brand and objective. If we mumble and stutter through our story, then we have no one else to blame when people press the snooze button on our award-winning idea.
Do you have more communication tips on how to clearly present ideas across? Feel free to share comments below and help an introverted designer out!
This article was first published on Medium.