No matter how great your design is, it is ultimately only as valuable as others determine it. This assessment is not based solely on your design’s inherent characteristics but also on how you prompt others to see it.
In other words, improving your presentation skills will be an incredibly valuable skill, not just in school but in the professional field of architecture.
The design itself is important, and while there is nothing you will read here that will negate that, it is crucial to know that your work does not end when the drawings are complete.
While it is undoubtedly appealing to utter that classy phrase, “My work can speak for itself,” it is not always true. Your work can say a great deal, certainly, but you are there to build it up even higher so that your audience cannot easily overlook it.
If you are a student, you may want to be aware of some useful tips for architecture presentation, along with some things you should include.
1. Get a Grasp of Your Audience
Interest levels are going to vary between audiences based on the context of your presentation. If you are a practicing architect, your design is the keystone of the presentation.
In this scenario, your professional success depends not just on how good your designs are but how well you can sell them to clients.
If you are a student, you are unlikely to be selling your design as much as you are trying to get a grade. It would help if you considered why your audience is sitting in front of you at that time.
Chances are students who, like you, are also trying to get a grade and ultimately will spend more time in their heads going over their own talking points than paying attention to you.
It is hard to entertain everyone in such a situation (although you will reap benefits if you manage to do it), so you will ultimately want to target the ones giving you a formal review.
So, focus on demonstrating your knowledge, dedication, and creativity. Prove that you worked hard on the presentation, and you will draw respect.
2. Plan and Structure Your Presentation
Unless you are incredibly gifted (maybe you are), you are not likely going to be able to ‘wing it’ with an architectural presentation without jumping unmethodically from point to point like an inebriated cricket.
It would help if you had a plan.
More specifically, you need an outline.
If you have ever taken a writing class, you should already be familiar with what an outline is and the purpose of doing one. Get a sheet of paper or open a word document/sticky note on your computer or phone and lay it out.
Have a series of steps that break down what you are going to present in which order. For example:
- Define criteria
- Present design
Keep in mind, the above is only a rudimentary example, and you should structure your presentation appropriately to make it relevant to any given requirements.
Add additional details that could help you more comfortably present your design in an informative and easy-to-follow manner.
3. Structure the Visuals as You Would Telling a Story
You are an architect, after all. Words are your wheels, but compelling visuals are the car you are driving.
You want to present your design in a way that involves your audience’s eyes more so than their ears – like how you’d structure your architecture school portfolio, in a way.
If all you do is stand up there and talk, you will quickly find yourself in a room of bored faces in any presentation. This is especially true in a visually dominant subject like architecture.
Arrange them on the presentation board where you start with the macro-view or overarching concept on the far left; progress with other visuals as you explain and reveal details that support your ideas.
Whatever you do, base your presentation on those visuals and use your words to enhance them, don’t just add them in as a distraction from your persistent rambling.
4. Speak Clearly and Confidently
It is so blatant it’s cliché. But don’t overlook it.
Practice if this is an area in which you struggle. Your design is great, so speak clearly and confidently to back it up.
If you mumble your way through a presentation of the next Eifel Tower, but nobody understood enough of what you said to recognize that, you are not going to score very well.
Appearing unconfident during the presentation will likely attract more negative critique than if you sounded self-assured.
The concept is your brainchild; stand by it; defend it.
You need to relax because anxiety will ruin you if you let it – okay, that statement might not help.
Nevertheless, being comfortable when you have the floor will enable thoughts to flow through your head more clearly by blocking out potentially stressful outside stimuli and make the situation just about you and the design you are presenting.
It may be hard for you to get to this point, but once you do, you might find yourself looking forward to sharing your brilliant work rather than dreading it.
Easier said than done, but research deep-breathing techniques and meditation practice if you need to – find something that works for you.
Another method to train yourself in this regard is grabbing every opportunity during presentations and crits to get involved (even when it is not your turn to present) – ask questions, participate in discussions, and be an active participant.
Practice, identify weaknesses, and practice more to correct those weaknesses; recognize more areas for improvement and practice some more.
You cannot over-practice; the only thing you can gain from rehearsing is confidence and clarity, which will help with the presentation and achieve relaxation.
7. Dress Nice
For a practicing architect, a snazzy suit is a tool of the trade when presenting to clients because it demonstrates a nod to professionalism and conveys sincerity.
If you are a student, you may consider investing in high-quality garb for when you present your final project because, ultimately, putting effort into presenting yourself only aids the effort you put into presenting your project.
Should you always wear a suit when presenting a design?
Casual clothing is usually sufficient, but it certainly does not hurt to have something stashed away for those special occasions.
8. Be Concise
Short-and-straightforward beats long-and-convoluted when you consider that people seem to be developing shorter and shorter attention spans these days.
You will want to include all of the pertinent information that pertains to your design and your purpose in creating it.
But if you have to ask yourself whether or not the audience needs to know blatant fact 1 and useless detail 2, chances are you can leave them out for your presentation’s betterment.
9. Include Humor
It is entirely optional, so if you don’t have the humor gene, do not force it because that will backfire.
However, if you have a habit of making others laugh easily through your wit, it is not unprofessional to bring some of that humor to your presentation to add extra depth and color.
Also, people are more likely to remember experiences that make them laugh.
10. Be Personable
You are not a design machine; you are a human being who is creative and methodical.
If people see that you worked hard to put your presentation together, being open and sharing your experience will not bring you down.
Some people might even find the obstacles you faced and overcome as a test of your character and a tribute to your hard work. So, don’t be afraid to share your moments of weakness, observations, or whatever else that applies to human nature.
It adds a dimension of entertainment to your design project, and it adds a layer of likeability to yourself.
11. Recognize Imperfections
It does not matter how many times you revise, rehearse, or plan – if you are a student, it is virtually impossible for you to achieve perfection at such an early point in your architectural endeavor.
You need room to grow no matter how long you have been designing buildings because it is that opportunity to get better that ultimately keeps you engaged.
As an architect, if you know it all, you won’t be driven to innovate and whoever is judging your presentation is likely to know this.
All you have to do is what you can, and do not expect any more than that. If someone viewing your presentation calls you out on something or questions a component of your design, respond openly to the criticism, and don’t beat yourself up.
12. Include a Chance for Questions
The iconic last words of a solid presentation are “Any questions?”
You cannot expect to cover everything the human mind could contemplate asking, so inserting a brief Q&A as you wrap things up provides you an opportunity to cover anything you could have left out.
When you take on the challenge of encouraging questions – even if nobody asks any – it is a credible way to state that you know, in detail, everything you presented. Well enough to talk about it even when torn away from a guiding outline.
Furthermore, while it is no guarantee, you should anticipate questions if you have intrigued your audience enough with your design for them to want to dig deeper.
So, before any major design presentation, up your question-and-answering game by getting friends, colleagues, or anyone interested to ask you some impromptu questions so you can optimize how you respond to the unexpected.
You may also consider asking yourself questions, and in doing so, you may further understand your purposes in creating your design.