Talk the talk
How do you make sure to engage stakeholders in a presentation? Think like a salesperson!
What I am saying might seem controversial and that’s why I want to state right now that I do not mean that designers should become salespeople. But (and here is the but!) our job is not just to craft beautiful experiences for users. Our job is to identify businesses problems and create the right solutions for them. As part of this process, we need to sell our ideas and convince clients or stakeholders that our designs really do so. Therefore, we need to learn how to adjust our language and the way we communicate to sell our designs.
We should put ourselves in the clients’ shoes!
Reading Dale Carnegie book ‘How to win friends and influence people’, I realised how important is to change the way I talk to ensure I obtain the best outcome from a meeting. In the book, Carnegie goes through a lot of stories that allow you to understand the importance of looking at things from your listeners’ point of view. He also shows what difference it can make not only to the outcome but to the whole conversation.
He provides a great example from Ft. Gerald S. Nirenberg who says: “Cooperativeness in conversation is achieved when you show that you consider the other person’s ideas and feeling as important as your own. Starting your conversation by giving the other person the purpose or direction of your conversation, governing what you say by what you would want to hear if you were the listener, and accepting his or her viewpoint will encourage the listener to have an open mind to your ideas.”
He also says that if, as a result of reading the book, you get only one thing that should be what Dean Donham of the Harvard business school says:
“I would rather walk the sidewalk in front of a person’s office for two hours before an interview than step into that office without a perfectly clear idea of what I was going to say and what that person — from my knowledge of his or her interests and motives — was likely to answer.”
The way I organise my meetings is simple and includes extensive planning and I bring to the table a lot of empathy and confidence.
1. Start with business aims and objectives
This is what the people in the room are most bothered about. Your work is based on a brief that is connected to business’ goals so make sure you state them clearly. Reassure your audience that you haven’t just put pretty images on a screen but you have analysed their goals, identified a problem and provided them with a solution. It’s so valuable to connect to your stakeholders and give them a clear message that you know what they want and your work reflects that.
Tip: sometimes this is as simple as reiterating what has been written in the brief. I understand that business talk is not everyone’s favourite, but it’s pivotal to engage your audience and have a conversation that is based on the same level of understanding.
2. Talk about the users
Set the tone correctly and introduce who you are designing for. It’s not about what you or the business like. It’s about the user and it’s your job to make this clear. Sometimes projects don’t have the budget for user research, but you will have some data or idea of who you are designing for, so state this.
Tips: The first place to start is usually analytics to get a high-level understanding of your users and their journeys. Ask yourself where are users coming from? What are they trying to do? Is there any specific goal or need? My first call is usually Google Analytics. This is free and most companies have it set up on their website. Look for what devices are most used by your users, landing pages, navigations patterns and keyword searches. Data is what makes your work objective rather than subjective. Even if this is a very shallow view of your users, it sets the conversation to a different level.
3. Talk about the why (and not the what)
Explain the rationale behind your design. This is the time to show stakeholders that what you have done solves the problem and achieves their goals. Why have you chosen a colour more than another? Why is the photograph a certain way? What is the design trying to communicate?
Tips: Take your audience through your creative process and the steps you have followed to get to the design. You can also talk about competitor analysis, web standards and any other research you have conducted, or things you have considered as part of your designs.