My Advice on Presenting

This week, I have two presentations that I’m working on.  It brought to mind the fact that I haven’t spoken about modes of presenting on this blog, and I think this is a good time (while it’s fresh on my mind!).  I know that a lot of schools say that you should have presentation boards with samples glued on.  I find that not as interactive, because most people like to feel the fabrics and also see all the materials at once.  This is especially for clients that have a touch of ADD – it can all be quite disconcerting as they will focus on the things that you don’t want them to look at.  I find that looking at renderings and a furniture plan (e.g. showing a photo of a sofa and then fabric that it will be upholstered in) is helpful to get the clients focused on exactly what you’re talking about.  As the materials (fabrics, marble, wood, steel) start getting placed on the conference table, it starts to build in their mind the interaction of elements in the space.

One of the things that I do is remove all the labels off the fabrics so the clients are seeing the materials and not tags.  We press all the samples so they’re not wrinkled, and I lay them out on a tray before the presentation in the order that I am going to present them.  I also present the photographs of items (lamps, etc.) in the same order.  To reduce stress, I have everything organized beforehand.  I think it makes the client feel that you have it all under control.

I have a notepad in front of each person, and at the beginning of the presentation I ask them to write down questions, and I tell them I’ll answer them at the end of the presentation.  This helps them stay focused and puts them in absorbing mode.  Usually by the time I finish presenting the room, I probably have answered their questions.

I use black and white renderings, hand-drawn – black and white because I prefer painting the color in front of the client and a hand-drawn because it has a warmer, less-mechanical look to it.  I start from the front door in, and when I’m presenting a room, I start with the ceiling, walls, floor, window treatments, upholstery, case goods, and then lighting.  It makes it easier to organize this way, and it’s almost like putting a puzzle together.  At the end of the presentation, I give the client a presentation book with the renderings and artistically arrange the fabrics for the individual rooms with the pictures.  If I don’t have a picture, I include a room plan.  In the back of book are pages of estimate cost (e.g. sofa costs $X amount), so at the end of the presentation, they know how much everything will cost.

It’s very helpful to have gone through questions with the client, finding out their likes, dislikes, and thoughts about the function of each room.  This helps me design for the clients with their requirements.

What’s your advice on presenting?

11 comments


  • todd haley

    i am a doing presentation for a client (for their residence in chicago) who live currently out of the country in power-point and will fedex them the fabric/finish samples – then we will walk through everything using skype

    April 25, 2012
  • Positively brilliant!

    April 26, 2012
  • Thank you for writing about this….I love hearing about other designer’s approaches. Since I was an artist first, I love the idea of “sketching” out the furniture and letting the tactile feel of the fabric, leather, etc. paint an image in a client’s mind. I also have never given out notebooks, which I will do next time. I love your work, and haven’t seen this picture before…….

    April 26, 2012
  • Thanks for the advice on presenting. As a designer who is just starting out in the industry, I really appreciate how transparent you are with sharing your methods when it comes to the design process. Always enlightening!

    April 26, 2012
  • Thank you Vicente! Presentations are done so many different ways. I find it very helpful to hear your view on the issue, and your reasons why. Thank you!!

    April 26, 2012
  • I couldn’t agree more Vicente. I learned a similar method while working at an Architecture firm in Baltimore. I agree that people want to hold it, touch it, sense it, feel it. It has been a tremendous help to have as many of the actual finishes and even products present during presentations whenever possible – this includes, a chair, a hardware sample, a lighting sample. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then actual materials are priceless.

    April 27, 2012
  • KJ

    I’m not a designer, but I love your idea about giving the client a notepad and pen to write questions on. This would be helpful in so many different situations. … allowing the presenter to stay on track while also acknowledging the audience’s questions.

    April 29, 2012
  • […] Vicente Wolf’s brilliant post on how he presents his design vision to his clients.  To me, it is required reading for all creative business owners […]

    May 01, 2012
  • Vicente,
    I have long admired your work and am happy to hear you present they way I like to….having finish boards that are too definitive can make the client fell left out of the process. I like to give them the experience of touching the materials and perhaps choosing between a couple of options on the fly. Then I’ll often make them a job folder with swatches and images to keep, so they have something concrete to keep at the end of the meeting. Finish boards come later in the process.

    May 08, 2012
  • […] Vicente Wolf’s brilliant post on how he presents his design vision to his clients. To me, it is required reading for all creative business owners to […]

    February 22, 2013
  • I present in a complete thought with renderings, furnishing plans and samples. I dont do different choices. I only present one. If any changes are needed I will present another option. When presenting other choices it left open ended. Because I presented the way I have, I present the total cost of what they seen. It helps them visually and give them an idea of cost.

    July 17, 2013

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