5 Parts to Make your First-Round Design Presentation Compelling

Emma Linh
10 min readMay 30, 2020
Hero image of a diagram of 5 steps in the center. The top and bottom show sample slides.

Design school taught me how to ideate like a badass, but it never taught me how to sell my ideas. Starting my graphic design career at Bluewolf, I had to learn this first-hand when trying to articulate my design decisions to my team and colleagues beyond our creative group — marketing, sales, recruiting, you name it. Like every other tech startup, we were a scrappy team that had to move fast. Our approach to presenting our design work was simple: a short verbal description of the project, then ta-da! The design! It sufficed since we only had a few stakeholders on any single project. At that time, my impression of presentations was that, plus PowerPoints we’d make for the sales team. For a designer, those sales PowerPoints weren’t sexy work, that’s for sure.

After Bluewolf, I spent a brief stint designing presentations for Facebook’s F8 conference. That experience opened my mind to a world of possibilities with presentation design. It was capable of dynamic animation! It can be editorial with visual storytelling! It’s a magazine that moves!

It all came together when I attended First Round, a one-day conference where agencies and studios shared their original presentations of initial design explorations made for clients. It sparked a fire in me to deliver compelling creative presentations. Since then, I’ve been actively finessing my presentation prowess by connecting the dots from all my previous experiences. This is a culmination of what I’ve gathered from First Round, research across how design and sales teams pitch ideas, and personal experience. I hope this provides a foundational framework for you to better communicate your creative ideas to win your clients’ hearts and minds.

Before I get to the presentation structure, it’s important to start with the right mindset: the presentation is not about you or your amazing idea. It’s about your audience and their creative challenges. Your presentation should say, “I hear you. I get you. And this is what we can do together.” Hopefully, you will have gotten to know your client and learned what they care about and what resonates with them. Injecting comments from previous conversations or speaking in their language (especially if they’re not a designer) will allow you to build rapport with them and make your ideas sound…

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Emma Linh

Branding & Design — Portfolio: emmalinh.com — Blog: thedesignloupe.com — Social: @emmalinhstark