how to present a project

When presenting work to clients, it’s easy to let your work do the talking—after all, isn’t that what the client is paying you for? In reality, how you present your work is just as important as the work you are presenting. Here are all the steps for how to present a project that keeps your clients happy.

Set the Right Conditions for Success

You’ve wrapped up all your work on the project and are excited to pick up the phone to let the client know. After all, you value open communication, right? However, while that open line of communication is great for small, daily communications, a project presentation requires more structure to ensure you accomplish everything you need.

For this reason, it is critical you plan for a presentation meeting that sets the right conditions for success. Draft up a meeting invite that includes the following:

  • An invitation for all necessary client stakeholders, decision makers, and client-side subject matter experts (SMEs)
  • A detailed agenda outlining everything you intend to accomplish in the meeting. You want to be in control of the meeting, not the client
  • A recap of the brief or goals of the project or deliverable, including a bulleted list of any items that were raised during your last communications with the client’s team

Additionally, it is important to present your project face-to-face. If an in-person meeting isn’t possible, use a suitable video conference solution—but make sure you thoroughly familiarize yourself with the software to ensure you know how to share your screen and annotations. 

Also as a final note, make sure you turn your computer’s notifications off before you start sharing your screen—it’s easy to overlook even the simplest steps when learning how to present a project that wins.

Starting the Meeting

Once everyone is together for the meeting (whether virtual or in-person), it’s time to outline what you are looking to accomplish, and how the client can support this. Fortunately, you’ve already delivered the agenda noted above, so you can use this document to guide the conversation.

The first step is recapping the project’s objectives as outlined in the project or creative brief. You must do this in order to guide the client team into the right frame of mind for this conversation. After all, you might be living in this project every day, but your client isn’t. Be sure to reaffirm your understanding of the project goals, the target audience, and any technical project mandatories. It’s important you and the client have a shared vision and understanding on all of those elements so that when feedback is provided, it is provided through the lens of the target audience personas.

After laying this groundwork, briefly recap the work you have completed to date, and what sort of feedback you are looking for from the client. If you are near the final draft of your project, this might mean very specific final details. If you are just presenting an early prototype, you might be looking for more broad feedback to help hone your vision. It’s up to you to tell the client what type of feedback they should be providing.

How to Present a Project

Now comes the fun part: Presenting the output of all your hard work! As you dive into presenting your project, keep in mind that it will take a while for the client to fully understand every component that you are calling out. Your goal at this stage is to provide a high-level overview of the project. Be sure to call out all the key features, functions, or components, but don’t bogged down in details. You’re trying to show the client how your project addresses all of the requirements outlined in the project brief, through the lens of the target audience. The client will have time on their own to review more thoroughly.

After you finish the project presentation, return once more to the project brief. You want your client to have the brief top of mind as they begin sharing initial feedback—this is critical for occasions when the client’s feedback is negative or combative. By framing the conversation around the goals of the project brief, you can shift a confrontational, “you vs. the client” fight into a more collaborative “us vs. the problem” conversation, as mediated by the brief. It’s often helpful to remind the client that, while they might have great insight into the goals of the project, they don’t necessarily reflect who the audience is. The project or deliverable you are presenting has been crafted to speak directly to that target audience, and not to the client.

At the conclusion of the meeting, set a plan for capturing all feedback: Determine how many days the client will review the project or deliverable, and schedule a followup meeting to capture all feedback on that date.

A final tip as you learn how to present a project: If you find that you are regularly nervous or uncomfortable during project presentations, try creating a “cheat sheet” you can reference during these meetings. Write out a bulleted list of everything you need to accomplish and walk the client through, including all the essential bits of info you need to communicate. Having this cheat sheet in front of you during the presentation can lift some of the pressure off your shoulders.

By now, you’re excited to get your next project presentation scheduled. So go forth, empowered with everything you need to know to make that project presentation a success!

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