In the world of Graphic Design and indeed any other business practice Presentation and Time Management are an essential part of the everyday running of the business. For example, in a design consultancy a presentation would be brought forward to a client promoting the design. It is essential that the presentation communicates well, it could be down to this whether or not a client will buy and go with the proposed design.
In the following design report I will be concentrating on the importance of Spoken communication , Written Communication and Time Management . Where possible I will relate my own design presentations to my findings.
Verbal or spoken communication is something that occurs everyday between friends and family. If we could not do this life would be difficult, because we would not be able to hear other peoples opinions, feelings and ideas. This is one reason why it is so important to have spoken communication in business, both formal and informal. Even though a company may have come up with an excellent design, if they cannot back that up with a verbal interpretation which will explain in depth and clarity the reasons and solutions, a client may not be convinced and the design company will lose business.
I can relate to this within my own design presentations to a certain extent. Most of my final design presentations are backed up by visual and written work, although in some cases a spoken involvement occurs, even though it is not a formal spoken presentation. For example, in many final designs where own interpretation wasn t instantly recognisable questions from clients (if it were a live project) or tutors gave me the chance to explain my ideas and reasons for using certain images and typography. This gives me the chance to improve my communication skills in the spoken form which I feel is essential in a professional design consultancy. Good communication skills are not only important in a formal presentation but even just talking to a client over the phone.
I have given a couple of spoken presentations in the past in communication class. These provided me with the experience of learning that it is not just a matter of getting up and talking to a group of people. There is a lot of preparation involved as well as forward thinking, for example, when giving a presentation on Point of Sales Display Design I had to think of who the audience were going to be, what style did I want to create, the content of the presentation, did I need any visual aids, was I going to do it all from memory? I also had to think of ways to keep my audiences attention. As you can see there is more depth to presentations in the spoken word than one might think. I will look at these factors in more detail.
There are approximately eight main factors that I would consider when planning a presentation. I feel that all these factors should be observed in order to give a successfully well communicated presentation.
First of all we must consider the objectives. This involves coming to a decision of what you want to put across to the audience and what you want your outcomes to be.
- find out if the audience is senior in status. For example, are they clients, friends, colleagues or juniors? In my case for the presentation concerning Point of Sale Display Design the audience was made up of mainly friends. This makes it much easier to prepare the content and to assess the audience. Though I found in some cases this can be a disadvantage because you can sometimes assume the audience knows more than you think and leave your presentation a bit thin in content. Also the audience may have preconceived ideas about you and your presentation.
- you must also identify the key people in the audience. In my case this was my tutor whom was marking me at the time. I had to give my presentation to the standard she would expect and also be prepared for questions she would throw back at me.
-having a view on what the audience already knows about the subject helps. Though to cater for all you sometimes need to begin as though they have no knowledge at all about the subject without going too much in depth and become tedious.
-finally it is important to know how many will be present. ( this may help when it comes to visual aids)
Tone and style of a presentation varies dramatically. It should be the right choice for both audience and subject matter. In basic terms it can be very formal or warm and friendly. Again in my case it was a more warm and friendly presentation, due to the fact that the audience were already friends. This also gave me more confidence to ad-lib at times rather than relying on my notes.
- structured in logical order
- beginning, middle and end
- regular sign posting
- supporting evidence
- argument clearly expressed
- imagine what objections audience may raise
I briefly mentioned before I used memory aids for my presentation, so as not to lose my place or direction. You could use brief bullet – point notes on cards for this, always try not to red in full.
As well as memory aids I also used visual aids. This was so I could keep the audience interested. If they were just looking and listening to me they would soon lose interest and concentration. My personal choice of visual aid was acetate sheets on over head projector. Though there are many others you could use, such as, presentation boards, 35mm slides, 3D models and handouts. As well as keeping the audiences, attention they also clarified points.
When you have finished the preparation for the presentation you must go back and edit, making sure everything is clear and concise, rehearse it, to reassure your own confidence and time how long it will last.
Written communication is essential in a design consultancy. Although after talking about the importance of the spoken word, written communication is often used to back that up. Almost always people, clients or designers want everything in writing to make something final.
When preparing for my verbal presentation on Point of Sale Display Designs I also had to produce it in full written form. It had to communicate as well as my verbal presentation, therefore I could not write it in note form, it had to be in clear, written English. I could build from my notes used in the spoken version to enable me to be clear and concise.
Many people, including myself are not experts in the English language, therefore we must develop our skills in this area. This can be done in many ways. First of all we can make a dictionary and thesaurus available wherever we are working from. We can also expand our knowledge of words as well as fact by reading more books, newspapers and even magazines. Make use of the spell-check capabilities on our computers, it is so easy to make the smallest mistake without realising. Sometimes the best way to learn is to go back to the basics of spelling, vocabulary and grammar.
Everyone can find certain words more difficult to spell than others, if you practice breaking the word down, learn spelling rules and don t be afraid to ask people how to spell words or use the dictionary.
Written communication in a design consultancy is involved in many aspects of the business. It is used for informal messages, note – taking, business letters, memoranda and reports and proposals. Informal messages can prove to be of great importance especially in a design consultancy. In a busy, fast – moving company, short notes or messages aid in the smooth running of the business. Even if it is a message to phone a client back, this could determine the clients choice to stay with the company or not. It is important to take down to take down the message or pass it on accurately, for example make sure you the date and time is taken, name of the message taker, name and telephone number of caller and a clear indication of what action is required.
Note – taking may be necessary if present at a meeting. By taking short annotated notes it may aid you in the future if for example you were asked to make a report or needed information for a future project or client. It is even useful to make notes during a telephone conversation with a client. How many times have you forgotten certain things that were said about an hour later never mind the next day? Notes can also be useful if something came to court over disputes with clients or within the company.
Business letters almost always have to be written in a design consultancy, whether it is to existing or potential clients. Even the letters layout as well as the language used can give an over all impression of a businesses professionalism.
It is important for everyone to be able to write a letter because we all need to write them. Whether it is a job application, a covering letter for say an appointment arranged over the phone or to potential customers to try and attract them to your business. Key elements of a business letter are:- who it is going to:- salutation and endings:- your reference:- date and senders name and job title.
Finally when looking at written communication in a design consultancy we must look at reports and presentations.
Reports must be complete and tell the whole story, if a table or reference that will be needed be the reader it should be included in the document. Writing a report, to me is like when I am writing a structured essay. You must collect all the relevant material, take rough notes, use reference books if necessary and go through all the material and come up with a structure. Without a structure the report will lack direction and not communicate well. Only use relevant material for the structure and not something which is irrelevant.
A perfect report or in my case an essay, isn t finished on the first draft, it may take several drafts to come up with something satisfactory. Getting it proof read by a colleague can also prove useful as something that makes sense to you may not to someone else.
The presentation of the report is just as important. Something that looks tatty may give an unprofessional feel and opinions may already be made before it is even read.
We always here people say there s not enough hours in the day . This suggests we are a nation that aren t very good at managing our own time, not being able to complete tasks in a time scale we would have liked to.
In general people divide their time into work from non – work activity, but as a student and designer, like designers in professional consultancies, it is more beneficial and less time consuming to interconnect all areas of life with design and creativeness. The experiences we have during non – work activities often influence what we do in work time and vice – versa. For example, I had a project to do based on cars for direct mail design. In it I wanted images of the natural environment to show that the car company considered such factors. Therefore I took my camera with me when I was going for a walk in my non-work time. Here I was able to enjoy the walk and environment while taking photos of the scenery which I was able to use to good effect in my design piece for direct mail.
Being a successful designer depends on whether they deliver work to clients effectively and efficiently as possible. Not getting bogged – down and being completely tired and uninspired is important, so we must maintain our own personal time and have self – development so that we are able to input for greater creative output.
Design is all around us, therefore we are constantly taking in new ideas and inspiration. Don t limit yourself to a work time / non – work time.
It is extremely easy to become over committed, sometimes due to the fact the work is attractive and enjoyable. Taking too much on can lead to failure to deliver to the client. This results in client dissatisfaction. Sometimes when you take a step back and look at the situation realistically saying no to a particular deadline can work for the better in the long run.
Concentration can be a demanding factor. A lot of people find it hard to keep their concentration, especially in a busy and demanding design studio. After all, everybody is human and the human brain is designed to concentrate on one thing at a time. Prioritising your work load and allocating the necessary time to one activity and sting with it until you finish will work. There is usually something that will have top priority, it is important to give prime time to this. You can even add a little extra time to complete it, of this time is not needed you can use it to get ahead on another project.
In a design consultancy, delegation can be a key factor in sharing a work load or getting colleagues to help out. You must be careful to communicate clearly with each other and not to step on each others toes.
A plan when put into practice must continually be reviewed and revised it must also be written down and communicated clearly to all members of the team . As I have already mentioned previously priorities are the key factor in meeting deadlines. Priority and time have an influence on results.
Being a student means having more than one project at a time. It is therefore important that I prioritise my own work. I often do this by looking at deadlines, which piece of work has to be handed in first, which will take longer to complete and so on. Though , sometimes I am not very good at doing this I must learn to prioritise immediately and do things in order of importance. Another factor which sometimes proves difficult is decisiveness . Being decisive for example is by doing things now! avoids the build up of projects and tasks that you never get around to doing.
Organising your workspace and sitting in a clean, clear environment, clears your mind of distractions and irritations which may be found at a messy desk. When planning day to day activities and further into the future it is important to select a system. For example, a diary or notebook. This is particularly important for a designer in a consultancy, so as not to over book their work load and to make appointments, to name a few reasons. They should carry such a diary everywhere so that it is possible to make a decision or arrangement there and then.
Breaking work down and planning each day at a time is important for good time management in a design consultancy. In this way, the designer should be able to achieve their goals at the end of the day so that it does not eat into the next.
We cannot predict what will happen from one day to the next, sometimes unplanned events occur, for example, telephone calls, interruptions (usually from colleagues), meetings and crises. We can learn to control some of these events. Sometimes people look at Murphy s Laws – nothing is as simple as it seems
- everything takes longer than expected
- if anything can go wrong it will
Personally I feel that Murphy s laws are very passive and sometimes we should be more assertive and look at the brighter side of things.