I have been practicing architecture now since graduating in 1982 and becoming licensed in 1985. Working in design firms has always allowed me to participate in client meetings and project proposals – if you do the math, I have a lot of experience in both. 

For several years we utilized presentations to communicate to our clients – traditional models, boards, and formal static images to convey and communicate design. It got easier and faster with zip-a-tone, letraset, and Kroy lettering machines – anyone over 40 may remember these things. If you don’t, ask an old dude. 

But it was still always a presentation –a fixed message.

PowerPoint came online and we rejoiced! Now you could animate – present faster, easier, and cleaner than ever before – and you still can. But it felt just that…canned. 

PowerPoint gets a bad rap that it just doesn’t deserve. 

Now, you can be critical of a presenter, but not the software. We have ALL sat through presentations where slides are read to us.

It’s 2017PLEASE do not ever do a presentation where you read through the slides to an audience…EVER.

If you want a great resource for good presentation skills I recommend Presentations Field Guide” by David Sparks.


And yet, we have found ourselves doing something differently

It’s subtle, but profound. Profound to the point others have been inquiring about how we do what we do.

It’s best explained this way:

I’ve referenced PowerPoint above.  We learned how to do good – great – PowerPoint presentations. Huge presentations, with many slides, and animations that made sense. We told a story. Got projects. 

Years ago, when called to a client’s office to visit about a possible project, we had an hour to load a computer with example project information, example process information, and information about ourselves. That meeting became a watershed moment in my career because instead of presenting to the client, we had a conversation. 

A conversation about them

Their needs, their desires, their concerns. And in having this conversation about THEM, we were able to show them how WE worked, problem solved, and could do the same for THEM. In the course of this conversation we opened software and exhibited HOW and WHY things were done. 

It was subtle, but profound. We opened the software and showed them. 

Not PowerPoint. Software. Whatever it needed to be. 

Looking back on this I have realized, clients know we work in software – why not let them see us work? Why hide behind the veil of PowerPoint? Let them see we know the software, how it works, and how it can work for them.  If they have an idea or question, show them the answer. 

How do you do this? 

Without a PowerPoint. 

Without a canned presentation. 

Without a net.

With a readiness for a conversation.

Ready to not only let them see WHAT you can do for them, but HOW. NOW, as you are talking with them.

I stated in my last post that you need to sleep with your software and hardware. Become familiar with it – comfortable with it. With this familiarity and comfort comes a confidence and nimble-ness (and, you will find, a wonderful nervousness) that allows you to converse by using the device.

Let a client SEE the active window- or five stacked on top of one another – on multiple desktops, in different operating systems, inside and outside of the office. 

It shows that you know the software.

And that you CAN do this for them. 


They become part of the process.

Conversation vs. Presentation:

  • Which do you think results in most memory retention? 
  • Which do you think results in a more pleasurable time (for all parties?)
  • Which do you think typically results in a “let’s do this again” kind of feeling? 
  • Which does not have a script? 

Be ready and know your software. Be “conversational” in your software.

Ever take a foreign language? Not me – but I know what it means when folks talk of being “conversational” in French, Spanish, Pig-Latin…you need to be conversational in your design software as well. 

Enter the Ipad.

On April 3, 2010, Apple introduced the iPad. It was reported to be magical. It was reported to be ground breaking. It was going to change things. It has.

The first version of it ended up being explained by critics as being for “content consumption.” One could digest the intellectual bounty of treasures online at their leisure – anywhere. They were pretty much correct.

Later versions of the device all reported to be for “content creation” and I admit it is great for that – I’ve gone through four versions. 

But we have a third “C” – the device is best for is CONVERSATION.

Conversation about our designs, about our client’s needs, and about every aspect of a project. 

Conversation with a client, 

with a building official, 

with a contractor – you get the idea.

Tina Fey said it best: Improvisation is magic. 

Take your stiff software, your standard hardware, and  mix it with your sketch software, your flow chart software, that spreadsheet software, those maps apps, that funky animation software, goofy 3D software, your marketing software, and that virtual meeting software. Add your Apple pencil and be ready to reference them at a moment’s notice.

Open one up and do it live – without a net, but WITH your client, their contractor, that building official and see the magic happen. 

Be ready to be nervous. 

Be ready to “undo” a few things. 

Be ready to have others jump in and want to be part of the conversation because they can’t help it. 

Everyone wants to be part of something magical. 

Be confident. 


You’ll be amazed where this can take you.

The age of canned presentations is done – you can quote me on that. 

Consumption is good,

Creation is great,

But Conversations rule. 

When was the last time you had a meaningful conversation with a client? Without a net?