Denis Potschien May 22nd, 2017

Presentations: On-Site With the Client or Via Web?

In the past, this was out of the question: presentations were done at the client's place or in your office space. During my studies, I learned how to glue printed drafts to cardboard, to show them during presentations. Even web layouts were printed and presented that way. Nowadays, the ways, and options, of presentation have changed. By now, thanks to the internet, a presentation can also be done when you're separated from the customer both spatially, and time-wise.

Presentation on Location: Elaborate and Time-Consuming

Nobody will present a web layout on a traditional presentation board anymore. It takes at least a projector and a canvas to show a website in front of, possibly multiple clients. This way of presenting is connected to a certain effort. A date with all participants available has to be determined. Technology needs to be prepared, and, obviously, the presentation itself takes up time as well. Naturally, it's very tempting to just send out a presentation as a PDF, or the link to the website prototype via email. This way, the client gets to look at the draft for as long as he wants, as well as read through provided comments or explanations. Especially those that don't consider themselves to be great speakers and convincers may prefer this type of presentation. Not only because it saves time, and possibly takes less effort. You also avoid the alleged danger of a poor "performance."

Don't Underestimate Direct Contact

Nonetheless, an internet presentation - whether it's an email with a PDF attachment or a simple link - comes with big risks. While you as the designer or developer wait on the client's reply, you have no influence on how the blueprint is perceived. You are unable to immediately address criticism and open questions. Often, a draft is handed over to a colleague, asking them for their impression. Family members and friends are also a popular way to get input on the draft. In the end, about a dozen of people may have seen and thought about your draft. In a lot of cases, the general opinion will be more on the negative side. That's because designers and developers focus on usability, target audience, and other objective aspects, while clients - and all other people that saw the outline - decide with a simple, personal "like" or "dislike." Presenting on site, however, allows you to address criticism and questions right away. Ambiguities can be removed quickly, or don't even come up. Suggestions for changes are another thing you get to react to instantly. Client-sided suggestions for changes and improvements are often a delicate topic. Not every suggestion works for the client. In a personal conversation, these proposals can be turned down, and explained easier.

Even Presentation Grouches Should Present On Location

Although it seems simple to forgo an on-site presentation, even presentation grouches should swallow the seemingly bitter pill. Even with the best ideas, you'll often have to convince people first. The best way to do so is personal and direct. You don't need to be a rhetorical expert to do so. If you're convinced of your work, you should be able to show this to your client. Cards with keywords or small PowerPoint presentations help you to not get off track during a speech.

When Email Presentations Make Sense

Although on-site presentations are sensible and necessary in many cases, of course, there are plenty of situations where an email presentation is entirely fine. If the design and realization have already been discussed, or even determined, the risk of general criticism that has to be addressed right away is low. Here, there's no reason to send intermediate results or a finished project to your client. There's nothing wrong with the email route when it comes to small projects with the effort of an on-site presentation bearing no relation to the budget. In any case, with an email presentation, you should always ask for questions or ambiguities, to be able to react to them as soon as possible.

Combination of On-Site and Internet Presentations

Especially with big projects, one presentation won't always do the trick. Between the presentation of the layout, concept, and the final presentation, it makes sense to show the client intermediate steps as well, to get their permission. Here, you don't always have to set up an on location presentation. To solve a bunch of details that come up in larger projects, it is recommended to use tools that ease the workflow of these projects. Web applications like "Live Capture" by InVision and Diigo allow you to upload drafts, and seek feedback. Here, it's possible to draw on the drafts, as well as place comments directly within the draft. Even in larger teams, it is feasible to answer any questions, and any design or concept errors can be determined. Thanks to these tools, this is very uncomplicated and faster than trying to solve all these issues via email or phone.


In general, an email can rarely replace a personal presentation. Instead, digital forms of presentation should mainly be used as additional means of cooperation, to lead a project to its successful end.

Denis Potschien

Denis works as a freelance web designer since 2005.

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