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Why we love the un-presentation

We Love the Un-Presentation | Edgar Allan

The Un-Presentation is a nontraditional, non-deck-centric way of not just showing work to clients but collaborating with them to make decisions at key milestones.

At some point in the course of a creative project, you’re going to have to show progress. And the presentation deck — keynote, PowerPoint, carefully curated PDF — was the pro way to do that. Voice over some slides, take ‘em on a journey, dog and pony until the “Thank You.” But recently, fast-moving startup clients, a heavy emphasis on prototyping rather than shoving flat comps at people, and our increasingly collaborative working process has pushed us at EA to sometimes ditch the deck and invite clients directly into the work. Figma, Webflow and Mural (among others) make this really easy. Sometimes we do it live, screen-sharing over Zoom, and sometimes it means we send over a short screen-recording of us walking through a prototype or design direction. But whether it’s live or pre-recorded, we’ve loved the way that presenting work in this way has changed our daily workflow.

We’ve found that this in-situ presentation goes over really well with clients — the process actually started at the request of a client who didn’t set formal meetings and responded better to a pre-recorded snippet than a formal production. 

Now, in many cases, we prefer it to the traditional deck presentation altogether. Here are a few reasons why.

It’s much more interactive.

Instead of clients feeling like they’re being pushed a static, final-feeling product (which they almost never are), the un-presentation brings them into the living document, whether it’s wireframes, designs, or a web page. 

By walking them through the actual work, rather than just presenting a screenshot of it, the client feels like a collaborator. They’re given a seat at the making table, which empowers them to not only give better feedback, but also to see what deliverables look like in context, rather than the strange, context-free world of a deck.

A word of warning, though: make sure to create some boundaries while you’re in the file with the client. Use it as a working session if you’d like; our content designers like to test ideas and take the client’s temperature on various hypotheses in their un-presentations. But if it’s not a working session, don’t treat it like one — show off the work, but don’t make edits in the moment. The goal is to minimize the amount of time that’s spent on presentations, not add to it. 

It’s more casual.

The world has changed — we’re not Mad Men, and every presentation doesn’t need to (and probably shouldn’t) feel 100% buttoned up. We’re all largely still working from home, and the disconnect of pulling off an uber-professional presentation while your dog is barking in the background is very real. 

The un-presentation throws away these office-driven norms, eliminating a lot of the high-stakes, anxious energy that can come with a formal deck. Plus, the casual, flexible environment of the un-presentation also means that it isn’t time-constrained — we can decide at a moment’s notice to take 20 minutes to lead a client through a work in progress, rather than setting aside an hour-long Zoom presentation. 

Alternatively, we can also send a short video of us giving the client a walk-though of the work with a voiceover. An even more casual approach, videos introduce additional flexibility, since both parties don’t have to find a time to meet. Videos also come with the added benefit of being sharable, which is perfect for clients with lots of stakeholders who would like to see the work, but who may not be able to coordinate schedules to make it to the same meeting. Rather than having to scroll their way through a deck, they get to hear in our words what we were thinking about the work, and why we made the decisions that we did.

It’s cost-effective.

Decks can be a lot of work — and they’re not the kind of work that anyone wants to pay for (and most of us don’t want to burn hours laboring over). Rather than sinking time into creating a formal deck, the un-presentation allows us to focus on the work that really matters: the deliverables. 

We’re busy, and our clients are busy, too, but the added efficiency from an in-situ run-through doesn’t stop at time saved. We find that we have shorter but better conversations when we’re presenting in the context of the work, which can mean fewer rounds of revisions and happier clients.

When do un-presentations not work?

We find that the un-presentation is best implemented when we’re showing off more concrete work — they’re not great for the conceptual stuff, like brand work (taking a client on a tour-de-Word just doesn’t excite them the way that Figma does).

This kind of informal presentation also just might not work for some clients — and that’s okay! If you've got a client that's exceptionally formal, or has an expectation to be presented to...maybe save this for another project. But honestly, we think you'll be surprised by who loves this methodology, and by the collaboration and buy-in that comes out of it.

The bottom line: Everyone works differently, and right now, decks are still the norm. Just have flexibility and know that you don’t necessarily have to be married to them. 

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