Illustration by Tridib Das

Here we discuss some best practices to ensure you’re communicating your designs as clearly and effectively as possible.

Being able to present your design concepts is often as important as the concepts themselves — a project may only move forward if you are able to communicate your ideas clearly. To get buy-in from stakeholders so that progress is made towards implementation of your idea, delivering effective design presentations is key. 

1) Know your audience

Considering that design is iterative and part of an ongoing cycle that involves team members, stakeholders, and users, communication and collaboration are essential components of this process.

Communicating with the design and product teams throughout the process is important, but so is presenting your concepts to non-designers. Understanding your audience is the first step in delivering an effective presentation that improves your chances of getting buy-in from the stakeholders. 

In order to deliver an effective presentation, you need to meet your audience wherever they are. A few questions to consider, to set yourself up for success:

  • Who are you presenting to? 
  • Do they have much design knowledge?
  • How much do they know about the project already? 
  • What do they expect to get out of this presentation?
  • What are their expectations of the project?  

Each project is different, so it’s our responsibility to justify our design decisions according to each project’s goals and business objectives. 

In order to present our ideas effectively, we need to know our audience and speak their “language.” This often means avoiding design jargon and presenting objective data in a visually clear way — through graphics and charts, for example — and connecting our design concepts to the business goals.

Using diagrams and graphs with the Presentation plugin for Adobe XD.
Adobe XD lets you easily add elements such as diagrams and graphs with the Presentation plugin.

Learn how the Presentation plugin for Adobe XD allows you to easily integrate elements such as graphics and diagrams into your presentations.

2) Structure your presentation in a simple and visually engaging way

You don’t have a lot of time to make an impression on stakeholders. The truth is that each member of your audience will most likely have different priorities, requirements, and several considerations regarding other departments and teams. 

Too often your audience hasn’t been involved in the project from the beginning, and this is why it’s important to quickly summarize the context, the goals, and your decisions in a structured and visual way. 

Here are some aspects to consider when structuring your presentation:

  • Include an executive summary — it should be short, not too technical, not too vague, with enough information about the context, challenges and goals of the project.
  • Structure your presentation in a logical manner — clarify what you’ll be covering during this session and what the overall goal is.
  • Avoid large chunks of text — simplify, add visuals, and make the content easily digestible by breaking it down into several slides.
  • Finalize with feedback and questions, and next steps. 
Using the layout functionality and the presentation plugin for Adobe XD allows you to easily create stunning presentations
Using the layout functionality and the presentation plugin for Adobe XD allows you to easily create stunning presentations.

Learn how to use the Presentation plugin for Adobe XD to build visually engaging presentations.

3) Collect feedback 

To receive effective feedback that moves the project forward you need to guide your audience through this process. This involves asking the right questions that align with the project goals. You also need to ensure you’re keeping track of the feedback you receive; including suggestions, criticism, and positive notes. 

Many design concepts fail not only because not enough context is given, but because the feedback is not focused on the goals of the project. 

When asking for feedback, you should consider the following:

  • Do not ask for feedback before you justify your design decision. Do that first.
  • Ask questions that direct your audience towards the goals of the project, e.g. “How do you think this solution meets our goal of increasing engagement?” 

While collecting feedback, you can do it in different ways:

  • Synchronously, by sharing a link to your presentation with your audience while you’re in the same physical or virtual space; 
  • Asynchronously, by sharing a link to your presentation after or before your session, to both attendees and those who were unable to attend.

For example, Adobe XD allows you to do this easily through the design review mode when you use the share functionality.

Using the design presentation mode in Adobe XD to present a design concept and gather feedback.
In order to encourage your participants to engage with meaningful feedback, you can choose to use the design review mode, the presentation mode, or a combination of both. 

When presenting asynchronously, avoid just sharing a link of your presentation without any further context. This is when recording is useful, which is the next best practice we will cover.

4) Record your presentation

Achieving the right balance between a presentation that is visually engaging and being able to provide a standalone document with all the necessary information for those who were unable to attend is a challenge.

Put too much information on a slide and you risk boring your audience or ending up reading all those long paragraphs without further explanation. On the other hand, don’t put enough information, and those who receive a copy of your slides without attending your session won’t understand the reasoning behind your designs.

The solution? Do both.

Recording an engaging presentation will allow you to:

  • Present your design concepts even when you are unable to meet synchronously. 
  • Communicate your decisions clearly to stakeholders who were unable to attend that specific session.
  • Allow everyone, including those who attended, to review and reflect on the information you presented.

Learn how to use Adobe XD to easily record your presentation or go through your design concepts without leaving XD.

5) Make your presentation engaging and interactive

We work hard on our designs and it’s understandable we’re passionate about them. It’s exciting to present work we’re emotionally engaged in. When we’re presenting live on a video call to a group, on a stage, or in front of a meeting room full of people, we feel we are the center of attention and our energy is at its peak. 

However, on the other hand, it might not be as exciting to sit and watch a presentation with a long to-do list waiting after a long day at work. You know it’s going to be tempting for your audience members to catch up on some emails only to realize minutes later they’ve missed half of the presentation. 

Hooking your audience and getting their full attention is crucial. As we mentioned before, if the stakeholders don’t clearly understand the reasoning behind your design decisions, they will be unable to give meaningful feedback. If they are distracted, not engaged, and not listening, this is exactly what will happen.

To make sure you get your audience’s full attention, you should try to make your presentation as engaging and interactive as possible. Here are some ways to do this:

  • Add animations and motion. Animations are not just meant to make your slides fancy; they can direct attention, illustrate a specific concept, and reduce cognitive load by introducing your content progressively. 
  • Make it interactive. An interactive presentation is one where everyone is able to participate and feel part of it. This can be achieved with prompts, questions and even ice breakers when appropriate.
With a bit of creativity, it’s easy to use animations and interactions to make a presentation more engaging while inviting our audience to provide us with ongoing feedback. Watch Ana’s video here.

Learn how to use Adobe XD to add motion to your presentations.

6) Show practical examples and scenarios through storytelling 

Your design concept might look great. But how does it work? Better yet. How does it work for the users? And what’s in it for the stakeholders? 

Storytelling is a major factor in engaging an audience so that you can promote empathy towards end users and convey interest in finding a suitable solution for everyone. Here are some key things to consider when telling a story through a presentation:

  • Who’s the hero of your story? As designers, we might have come up with these amazing concepts, but we are not the heroes. We are merely the guides who are helping our main hero achieve their ultimate goal. Depending on your project and approach, this might mean that your hero is the end user, or in some cases, your client. 
  • How does your solution help the hero achieve their goal? What’s in it for them?
  • What does it look like when the hero achieves their goal? If you’re telling a story from your user’s point of view, feel free to use scenarios and examples.

Communicating design ideas is an essential skill

It’s not new that communication skills are one of the top soft skills sought by employers, and with good reason. Being able to communicate your design ideas is as important as the design itself. 

Your great design idea might never be implemented if you are unable to provide the reasoning behind your decisions and connect it to the business goals and priorities of the audience standing in front of you. 

When it comes to presenting design ideas, we now have a wide range of tools and features that we can use to our advantage to suit a variety of settings: in person, remotely, asynchronously, and synchronously. Most of the time, all that is needed is that we are able to commit the same creativity and dedication to presenting as we do when we design the solutions themselves. 

Learn how to use the Presentation plugin for Adobe XD to build visually engaging presentations.