When first pursuing a career in UX or UI design, most people think of hard skills like design, problem solving, analytics, research, prototyping, or even UX writing.
While these are certainly foundational requirements to be successful as a working UX designer, it’s important not to underestimate the importance of also developing presentation and communication skills. Presentation skills are used to effectively bring ideas, concepts, and design information to life.
From slide decks to portfolio presentations, here are a few ways that presentation skills can support your career as a UX/UI designer.
Why Presentation Skills Are Important To UX / UI Roles
Design process might be at the core of your career work, but with every project and initiative, you also have to collaborate with and persuade those you work with. Here are a few scenarios where skillful presentation will help you out:
After pouring many hours of time and energy into creating a design portfolio that stands out, you should be able to rely on it to help you stand out from the competition during the job application process. Still, the collection of your designs and process is only a small portion of what interviewers look for. It’s important to also be able to articulate your own work clearly and confidently.
Sharing Design Iterations
How did you come up with a certain design or mockup based on the research and data you had to work with? Knowing how to present a holistic view of your work in a concise way can help your team arrive at a good solution much more quickly.
Presenting Final Designs
Confident, articulate presentation is a powerful tool when you’re presenting polished work for a final approval. Stilted communication can lead to tension, lack of trust, and a lack of appreciation for your work. But a strong, well-reasoned presentation can help persuade your audience to see your design solution in a new, more positive light.
10 Tips For Improving Your UX / UI presentation skills
From setting strategic goals and inviting audience participation, to preparation and planning for a positive mindset, there are several tactics that can help you to improve your presentation skills. Here are our favorite tips:
1. Determine a clear goal for the presentation
Take time to figure out what you want to achieve with your presentation. Are you showcasing your portfolio to a potential employer? Are you trying to persuade a senior manager or a prospective client to try a new design idea? Are you updating stakeholders on your latest research findings?
Take your primary goal and work backwards to plot out the presentation structure and the most salient points you want to convey.
2. Keep it short and have one clear theme
It’s difficult to absorb and retain large amounts of information at a time, so try to keep your presentation short and focused on one key theme. Look for opportunities throughout your presentation to make the content more concise, like using bullet points to summarize long text paragraphs, or creating visual graphs to give a holistic view of stats and research. Not only will this make it easier for your audience to retain the information, but they’ll also feel more engaged with the content.
3. Weave humor into your presentation
Humor can be a great tool to help your audience relax and build rapport during your presentation.
Everyone’s sense of humor is a little different, so dark humor or direct jokes are unlikely to break the ice. Instead, try weaving in light-hearted examples to expand on various aspects in your presentation. If you feel comfortable, you could also include a funny anecdotal story about yourself to illustrate a point. Again, this should be audience appropriate, so you may want to try any humor out on a trusted colleague or friend before delivering it to a large group.
4. Invite audience participation
For all but the very briefest of presentations, you might want to spend time finding creative ways to involve your audience. Use direct questions to ask for opinions, and educated guesses to encourage your audience to really think about what you’re saying. If nothing else, asking for a show of hands (“how many of you have wondered if there’s an easier way to use X app?”) can help your listeners to feel as if their opinion is valuable to you, which in turn makes them more active listeners.
5. Use trigger words
You’ve stayed up all night, practiced, and you know your presentation by heart. But what happens if your mind goes blank when the time comes to deliver it?
Instead of reading directly from notecards or trying to memorize the exact words, consider adding trigger words to your presentation. If you know the subject matter well, using bold or italic key words on the slides which are related to what you had planned to say can be enough to bring it all back to you. For example, you might bold “information architecture” if you wanted to expand on this as part of a wider slide on UX / UI strategy.
6. Include a summary at the end
If your presentation is more than a few minutes long, you will likely need a ‘wrap up’ slide at the end of your presentation. This is an opportunity for you to recap (at a macro level) the key arguments in the presentation. Remember to revisit your aim for the presentation here and think about 1-3 main points you want your audience to take away when they leave.
7. Share your enthusiasm
They say that people rarely remember what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
Passion is contagious and people who talk with real enthusiasm about their subject area are naturally better at engaging with their audience. If you’re passionate on some level about the material you’re presenting, awesome. However, to maximize this you may want to think about what your audience cares about beforehand.
Find ways to connect with your audience within the presentation. You could do this by using theoretical examples, anecdotes, or case studies which link back to your main area of interest. You may also want to think about multimedia, such as inspiring imagery or a video. The more passionate you are about the subject, the more that will come across in your delivery.
8. Familiarize yourself with the content
It may sound like common sense, but take time to reflect on the subject matter of your presentation before you deliver it to an audience. A lack of knowledge can lead to nervousness and awkwardness when presenting. It can also hurt the impression you leave when you aren’t able to answer follow-up questions.
A caveat: no one is an expert in everything. If you get questions that you can’t answer, be transparent. An honest “I’m not sure, but I will get back to you on that answer!” can help build respect and trust with your audience.
9. Practice, practice, practice
Reciting your presentation a few times before you deliver it to a large group can be particularly important if you tend to feel nervous speaking in front of people. You may want to do this in the mirror at home, or in front of a few trusted colleagues or friends. Oftentimes, information can feel and sound different when it’s spoken out loud compared to how it’s read in your mind. Practice will also help you to fine-tune your presentation so that it looks and sounds perfect.
10. Maintain a positive mindset
At this point, you should have prepared a strong, engaging presentation. You’ve practiced it multiple times, and are confident that you’ve internalized the information. Now it’s time to combat the nerves and focus on establishing a calm, positive mindset.
If you can, get a good night’s sleep before your presentation. Eat breakfast. You may also want to do things that help you feel more positive, such as meditation, breathing exercises, going for a run that morning, or even chatting with friends or colleagues. If you’re struggling with fear or anxiety about presenting in general, you might try reciting specific mantras like:
- I am well prepared; I am ready to present
- I enjoy connecting with people
- I am excited to share this information
Your design work and process are extremely important when you’re establishing a career as a UX designer. To amplify their effectiveness—and ensure that interviewers, stakeholders, and team members fully understand the power behind your work—it’s equally important to keep your communication and presentation skills sharp. This is a skill that comes with practice and experience, and can be amplified when you seek out feedback from experienced professionals in your field.
Are you looking for more career tips and insights for UX designers? Check out our post How to Become a Designer in 5 Steps, or sign up for the next cohort of UX Academy Foundations to learn the fundamentals of UX/UI design and get paired up with a mentor who can give you powerful feedback on your work.